Southern African Society for Plant Pathology
Advancing Agriculture in Southern Africa




Developing and evaluating novel disease interventions against Sclerotinia sclerotiorum

University of the Free State: Plant Science | Plant Pathology

I am seeking a dynamic and passionate researcher to join our team as a collaborative research partner. The ideal candidate is a skilled scientist who is eager to grow with our group, contributing to and shaping our research programme. I envision this role as a partnership, where curiosity drives us forward, and we challenge and support each other to advance shared goals.


Sunflower is considered the most important oilseed crop, however, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum constrains production, through sporadic yet devastating epidemics of sunflower head rot. The limited strategies to manage sclerotinia head rot places immense pressure on sunflower producers, where some have stated: “The only way to avoid sclerotinia is not to plant sunflower”. Industry cannot afford fewer or demotivated sunflower producers by the challenges posed by sclerotinia head rot epidemics. Drawing on the basic understanding of pathogen survival and applying innovative and interdisciplinary thinking, our research proposes to novel intervention approaches to disrupt disease caused by S. sclerotiorum. Preliminary results indicate promise in targeting sclerotia and reducing the persistence of the pathogen in field. We aim to evaluate the effect of novel chemistry, neither fungicide or biocontrol substances, on S. sclerotiorum in vitro and in vivo, through seed and sclerotia coating, inhibition assays, glasshouse, and field trials. The purpose of the study is to investigate the ability of these agents to prevent seedling wilt, and disrupt the pathogen life cycle, reducing inoculum pressure in seasons to follow.

The post-doctoral fellow will also play a key role in the related Sclerotinia Research Network projects at the University of the Free State, for example assisting with soybean and sunflower disease surveillance. Additionally, facilitating the coordination between collaborators on the research project and related research projects. The opportunity will provide the fellow with a leadership position within the McLab Research Group, requiring postgraduate supervision, fostering networks between the UFS, industry and producers, as well as, building their own profile in the disease intervention landscape.


The ideal candidate must hold a PhD degree in Plant Pathology or closely related fields, with strong training in diagnostics and extension, plant disease epidemiology, and/or disease management. Candidates who view plant pathology as a ‘service to society’ are encouraged to apply, as this project aims to serve producers. Our research group is founded on teamwork, academic integrity, and curiosity. Fellows are expected to publish peer reviewed manuscripts aligned with relevant research.


Two-year contract, with a R240 000 annual fellowship and R30 000 additional research expenses fund.


  • A letter of motivation, including the earliest possible starting date.
  • A full up-to-date CV.
  • Reachable contact details of two academic referees.
  • Record of academic transcripts.
  • An example of your academic writing, either providing an article or chapter of your PhD thesis.
  • Applicants must hold a valid South African driver’s license or an international driver’s licence accepted in South Africa.
  • Must be based at the Bloemfontein campus of the UFS for the duration of the fellowship.

Applications must be sent to Dr Lisa A Rothmann at before the 8th of July 2024. Late applications will not be considered. An online interview will take place. Should you not be contacted within six weeks of the closing date for applications, you may assume that your application was unsuccessful.

For more information please see:

Senior Scientist (Forest Protection)

The Institute for Commercial Forestry Research (ICFR) is a non-profit organisation, providing innovative research solutions and related services in support of tree growers in southern Africa.

ICFR’s Forest Protection research programme comprises a suite of projects, aimed at minimising the risk to tree plantations from biotic and abiotic factors.

The ICFR is seeking a highly motivated and experienced Senior Scientist specialising in Forest Protection to lead the forest protection research portfolio. This is a key position within the ICFR with the following main responsibilities:

  • Collaboration with local, national, and international research partners to advance forest protection initiatives. The role involves close collaborative work with industry and researchers internally and at other research and academic institutions, particularly the Forest and Agriculture Biotechnology Institute (FABI).
  • Supervision and mentorship of post-graduate students and interns.
  • Project management, including planning, budgeting, implementation and reporting according to stakeholder expectations.
  • Communication of research findings through reports, presentations, and scientific publications.
  • Contribution to the Institute’s research strategy, development of new project proposals, and pursuit of new research opportunities in the field of forest protection.

Minimum requirements:

  • A PhD (preferred) or MSc in Entomology, Plant Pathology, Forestry, Ecology, or related field.
  • Minimum of 5 years post-degree research experience in forest protection or related areas. Background in forestry an advantage.
  • Knowledge and experience in project management, project proposal development, stakeholder engagement; supervision and mentorship of students and interns.
  • Proven track record of publishing research in scientific journals.
  • Good statistical and data analysis skills; proficiency in statistical packages including R.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Valid, unendorsed driver’s license (code 08 or 10).

Application process:

Applications and enquiries to be emailed to Karin Nagel (, by the closing date: 20 June 2024. The proposed appointment date is 1 August 2024.

Applicants are required to submit the following documents:

  • A completed ‘ICFR Application for Employment Form’.
  • A detailed Curriculum Vitae (CV) with publications list, contact details for referees, and certified copies of key supporting documentation (i.e., highest relevant qualification and identity document).

In applying for this position, applicants agree that the ICFR may verify all details recorded in the application and contact referees. ICFR confirms that information received is processed according to its POPI policy and privacy statement, which is available on the ICFR website. By applying, the applicant consents to the ICFR processing personal information. Late applications will not be considered and ICFR reserves the right not to make an appointment to this advert. If a reply is not received by the proposed start date, the application may be considered unsuccessful.