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Plant Pathologists announced as finalists in prestigious awards

The National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)  has announced that a virtual Awards Gala Event will be live-streamed on Thursday, 30 July 2020 at 19:00-20:30 to honour the finalists and announce the winners in their 22nd annual award ceremony. In recognition of the 2020 International Year of Plant Health, as declared by the United Nations, the theme for the 2019/2020 NSTF-South32 Awards is Plant Health. The NSTF Awards were establishment in 1998 as a collaborative effort with members and stakeholders to recognise outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation by SET-related professionals, teams and organisations in South Africa (SA).

Professors Michael (Mike) Wingfield and Zacharias (Zakkie) Pretorius has been short-listed as finalists by the NSTF in the categories Lifetime Award and Special Annual Theme Award: Plant Health. On behalf of all SASPP members, the SASPP Council would like to congratulate both Mike and Zakkie with this marvellous achievement. We are delighted on their behalf and acknowledge that this recognition by the NSTF would not have been possible without their passionate commitment to plant pathology.

Professor Mike Wingfield

Mike is a Professor at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute and Adviser to the Executive, University of Pretoria. He is globally recognised for his research on plant diseases and although not exclusively so, his core focus has been on tree health, including trees important to forestry & food security. He has published more than 1000 scientific articles on the identification, global spread & the management of agents affecting plant health. Mike is one of South Africa’s most highly cited researchers and was responsible for establishing the Forestry & Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the University of Pretoria where he served as its Director for 20 years. The impact of FABI, now with a substantial global footprint, for South Africa & internationally has been huge with more than 80 M.Sc. & 100 Ph.D. degrees relating to plant health awarded under Mike’s supervision. The commercial impact of Mike’s work has also been substantial and he has collaborated with industries, in South Africa & globally, to resolve numerous important plant disease problems.

Zakkie is currently affiliated as a Research Fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of the Free State. In his career of more than 40 years he has been highly influential in generating the current momentum in cereal rust research in South Africa and has excelled in becoming a world authority on rust diseases and measures to combat them. He was appointed as a plant pathologist in 1978 at the Small Grain Centre of the former Department of Agricultural Technical Services, Bethlehem, SA. Here he contributed to revitalise wheat rust research in SA through a training visit to the University of Minnesota, greenhouse and infrastructure development, and active research projects. When Zakkie joined the University of the Free State in 1989, resources had to be established once more, eventually leading to an influential unit studying stem, leaf and stripe rust of wheat, barley leaf and stem rust, oat leaf and stem rust, Asian soybean rust, common rust of maize, lentil rust, bean rust, and sunflower rust. Through his initiatives many productive local and international collaborations have been formed over the years, including leading seed companies, research institutions and universities. Recently, the Southern African Plant Breeders’ Association (SAPBA) ( bestowed Honorary Membership upon Zakkie during their biennial meeting for his lifetime commitment and exceptional contribution to genetic resistance of field crops to rust diseases.

Professor Zakkie Pretorius
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