Southern African Society for Plant Pathology
Advancing Agriculture in Southern Africa

UFS hosts the 53rd Congress of the SASPP

The University of the Free State hosted the 53rd Congress of the Southern African Society for Plant Pathology (SASPP) at the Golden Gate National Park, Eastern Free State from 22 – 25 January 2024. The organising committee was chaired by Dr Cornel Bender and included Profs Willem Boshoff and Botma Visser, and Drs Gert Marais and Lisa Rothmann. With eight international keynotes, three invited speakers, 84 delegates, and 78 students a total of 71 talks and 75 posters were presented covering a wide range of plant pathology subjects.

Keynotes: The successful event was attended by eight international plant health professionals namely Prof Emerson del Ponte (Federal University of Viḉosa, Viḉosa, Brazil) who presented the JE Vanderplank Memorial Address “Managing plant health emergencies through epidemiology: Brazilian cases with global relevance”, Prof Diane Saunders (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK) who presented the Ethyl M. Doidge Memorial Address “How to outsmart a cereal killer”, Prof Lindsey du Toit (Washington State University, Washington), Prof Clive Bock (USDA-ARS-SEFTNRL, Byron, USA), Dr Juliana Freitas-Astúa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa Cassava and Fruits, Cruz das Almas, Brazil), Prof André Fleissner (Institute of Genetics, Braunschweig, Germany), Dr Theo Smits (Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology, Zürich University of Applied Sciences, Wädenswil, Switzerland), and Prof Dan Bebber (Department of Biosciences, University of Exeter, UK).

From left, Prof Emerson del Ponte, Prof André Fleissner , Dr Juliana Freitas-Astúa, Prof Dan Bebber, Prof Diane Saunders, Prof Clive Bock, Prof Lindsey du Toit, Dr Theo Smits & Dr Cheryl Lennox

Invited speakers: The three invited speakers were Dr Molapo Qhobela (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Institutional Change, Strategic Partnerships and Societal Impact, UFS), Dr Christopher Rothmann (Entrepreneurial Project Manager, Office of the Dean, UFS) and Dr Minette Havenga (previous winner of the John and Petakin Mildenhall Best PhD Award). These speakers contributed an opening address, an entrepreneurial scientific perspective and a view into the life of a young professional scientist. Dr Minette Havenga (pictured left) was also the winner of the beer-drinking stunt known as the “Mildenhall Stakes”.

2024 SASPP conference awards

The Inqaba biotec Award for best student presentation in Molecular Biology was awarded to Cheyenne Theron (University of Pretoria) for her talk “Pseudocercospora spp. identified as potential causal agents of fruit spot and rot on kiwifruit in South Africa”.

From left, Prof Willem Boshoff, Dr Gert Marais & Cheyenne Theron

The Corteva Agriscience Plant Health Products Floating Trophy for Best Oral presentation on Biological Control was awarded to Alec Edwards (University of the Free State) for his talk “Harnessing native microbes for sustainable agriculture: assessing indigenous bacteria of the soybean microbiome as biofertilizers and biocontrol agents for the management of Sclerotinia stem rot”.

From left, Christin Hunter (Marketing Manager at Pannar Seed), Alec Edwards, Prof Willem Boshoff & Dr Gert Marais

The PANNAR Award for Best Poster Presentation by a Student was awarded to Samkelisiwe Thango (University of Pretoria) for her poster “In vitro and in planta phenotyping of Exserohilum turcicum strains in South Africa”.

From left, Christin Hunter, Samkelisiwe Thango, Prof Willem Boshoff & Dr Gert Marais

The PANNAR Floating Trophy for Best Oral Presentation by a Student was awarded to Kara Janse van Rensburg (University of Stellenbosch) for her talk “Re-examining the epidemiology of Erysiphe necator causing grapevine powdery mildew in South Africa”.

From left, Christin Hunter, Kara Janse van Rensburg, Prof Willem Boshoff & Dr Gert Marais

Plennegy – Starke Ayres Quiz Evening

Wilmarié Kriel (pictured right) hosted a much fun and successful quiz evening with almost all delegates competing in the “Defeat Lindsey Du Toit” contest. Although not victorious in beating Lindsey the team consisting of Fahimeh Jami, Rene Sutherland, Elsie Cruywagen and Julia Malabisane outsmarted all the other contestants.

First place: Multiple Starke Ayres Quiz winner Lindsey du Toit receiving her reward from Wilmarié.
Runners-up left to right: Fahimeh Jami, Rene Sutherland, Elsie Cruywagen and Julia Malabisane receiving their Stark Ayres goody bags from Wilmarié.

The COC would also like to acknowledge and thank the sponsorship of the following companies and organisations: University of the Free State, PANNAR seed (Corteva Agriscience), Inqaba Biotec, Starke Ayres, ZZ2, SAWCIT, Du Toit, Laastedrif, JW Seeds, KORKOM, SAPPA, CRI, FABI, University of Pretoria, University of Exeter and Natuurboerdery.