A group of interested HBS members attended a workshop this week on plant pathogen threats to fynbos.
Joey Hulbert, a PhD student at The University of Pretoria, is currently investigating Phytophthora, and in particular Phytopthera cinnamomi which is known to be responsible for the decline of Silver Trees , root rot in many other Proteaceae, and many agricultural diseases affecting avocados, grape vines and forestry nursery stock.
These micro-organisms (minute relatives of the fungi) are found in many places around the world. Widespread in South Africa, it was previously suggested that they may have originated here. However DNA testing points to possible origins in Sumatra. Should the finger be pointed at the Dutch East India Company?
Joey presented the workshop at Fernkloof hoping that members of the Hermanus Botanical Society might be encouraged to act as extra eyes while walking in the Reserve. We were shown examples of signs and symptoms of disease, such as a dead branch on an otherwise apparently healthy plant, leaf wilting, dark bruise marks or pit-like cankers on branches.
This is an ideal citizen science project. Anybody at all can recommend sampling areas if dying plants are suspected. Photos of the plants and their locations would be welcome.
The dissecting and plating techniques needed to grow possible pathogen-bearing tissues at home are straightforward, so HBS members can take their interest to the next level with Joey’s help.
More information is available at http://citsci.co.za