Dr Norman Muzhinji
Senior Lecturer
Plant Sciences
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
Department of Plant Sciences

Short CV

Norman Muzhinji obtained a BSc (hons) degree in Applied Biology in 2004, from the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe with a specialization in molecular biology, genetics, biotechnology, virology and mycology. In 2007, he obtained a MSc degree in Biotechnology from the University of Zimbabwe with a focus on molecular biology, microbiology, and plant biotechnology. Immediately after finishing his MSc in Biotechnology, he was involved in tobacco research at Tobacco Research Board as a Molecular Biologist focusing on plant molecular pathology, breeding, diagnostics, tissue culture, plant-pathogen interaction. In 2016, he obtained his PhD in Plant Pathology from the University of Pretoria focusing on Rhizoctonia- Potato pathosystem, including various aspects such as occurrence and distribution of Rhizoctonia (https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-02-15-0236-RE), symptomatology (https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-08-13-0815-PDN), population genetics and evolution (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.funbio.2016.02.009), method of spread (https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-03-17-0329-RE), fungicide resistance monitoring (https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-09-17-1470-RE) and control. The research provided knowledge in the understanding of the distribution and biology of Rhizoctonia in South Africa and the knowledge is being used to optimize Rhizoctonia disease control management strategies.

After completing his PhD, he remained with the potato pathology group at University of Pretoria where his research focus was occurrence, epidemiology, understanding pathogen population genetics, plant-pathogen interaction, and molecular diagnostics. In one project ( https://doi.org/10.1094/PHYTO-12-18-0467-R ), he investigated the population biology and genetic variation of Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea, the causal pathogen of powdery scab and root galls on potatoes in South Africa. Despite being one of the most important potato pathogens in South Africa, little information was available on the genetic structure and diversity of Sss, which could provide insight into the factors shaping its evolution and the role of inoculum sources in disease development. In another work ( https://doi.org/10.1111/ppa.13029 ), we used used RNA-seq to identify differentially expressed genes in tolerant and susceptible potato cultivars in response to Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea infection. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of resistance has the potential for development of molecular markers for selection of powdery scab tolerant potato lines in marker assisted breeding programs. In another work, he developed a TaqMan qPCR technique for identification of Pectobacterium brasiliense (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10658-020-02097-4), the causal agent of soft rot and blackleg diseases on potato. The developed assay is useful for routine diagnostics, surveillance, and epidemiological studies.

From 2022, Norman held a position of a Senior Lecturer and programme coordinator for the BSc Horticulture programme at the Namibia University of Science and Technology.   Currently he is  employed as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences, Division of Plant Pathology, of the University of Free State, South Africa. 


  1. Tjimune, R., Mangwende, M., Lekota, N., Muzhinji, N (2022). First Report of Rhizoctonia solani AG 3-PT causing black scurf on potato tubers in Namibia. New Disease Report. 1 e12066 2
  2. Adhikari,T. B., Muzhinji, N., Meadows, I., Halterman, D., and Louws, F. J. (2021) Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of Alternaria Species Infecting Tomato and Potato in North Carolina and Wisconsin Determined by DNA Sequence-Based Microsatellite Genotyping. Scientific Reports: 11:17024
  3. Kimunye, J., Muzhinji. N., Mostert, D., Viljoen, A., van der Merwe A. E and Mahuku G. (2021) Genetic Diversity and Mating Type Distribution of Pseudocercospora fijiensis on Banana in Uganda and Tanzania, Phytopathology: 111: 741-750
  4. Muzhinji, N. and Ntuli V. (2021) Genetically modified organisms and food security in Southern Africa: conundrum and discourse, GM Crops & Food, 12:1, 25-35
  5. Muzhinji, N., Dube, J.P., de Haan, E.G., Woodhall, J and van der Waals, J. (2020) Development of a TaqMan PCR assay for specific detection and quantification of Pectobacterium brasiliense in potato tubers and soil. Eur J Plant Pathol 158, 521– 532
  6. Lekota, M., Muzhinji, N., and J. van der Waals (2019). Identification of differentially expressed genes in tolerant and susceptible potato cultivars in response to Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea tuber infection. Plant Pathology, https://doi.org/10.1111/ppa.13029
  7. Gush, S-L., Muzhinji, N., Truter, M. and van der Waals, J. (2019). First Report of Rhizoctonia solani AG 2-2IIIB Causing Elephant Hide on Potato Tubers in South Africa. Plant Disease https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-10-18-1850-PDN
  8. Muzhinji, N., and van der Waals, J. E (2019). Population Biology and Genetic Variation of Spongospora subterranea f. sp. subterranea, the Causal Pathogen of Powdery Scab and Root Galls on Potatoes in South Africa. Phytopathology 109 (11), 1957-1965
  9. Muzhinji, N., Woodhall,J. W., Truter, M., van der Waals, J. E. (2018). Variation in fungicide sensitivity among anastomosis groups of Rhizoctonia solani and binucleate Rhizoctonia recovered from potatoes in South Africa. Plant Disease, 15:60-67
  10. Jimu, L.;Muzhinji, N., Magogo, C.,and Mureva, A. 2018. Chrysoporthe zambiensis on native Syzygium in Zimbabwe. Australasian Plant Disease Notes, 13:1
  11. Muzhinji, N., Woodhall, J.W., Truter, M. and van der Waals, J. E. 2018. Relative contribution of seed tuber- and soil-borne inoculum to potato disease development and changes in the population genetic structure of Rhizoctonia solani AG 3-PT under field conditions in South Africa. Plant Disease, 102:60-66
  12. Mufunda, F., Muzhinji, N., Sigobhodhla, T., Marunda, M., Chinheya, C. C. 2017. Characterization of Pythium spp. associated with root rot of tobacco seedlings produced using the float tray system in Zimbabwe. Journal of Phytopathology,165: 737–745
  13. Muzhinji, N., Woodhall, J. W., Truter, M. and van Der Waals. 2016. Population structure of R. solani AG 3-PT associated with potato diseases in South Africa. Fungal Biology, 12: 701 -710
  14. Muzhinji, N., Woodhall, J. W., Truter, M. and van Der Waals. 2015. Anastomosis groups of Rhizoctonia solani and Binucleates associated with potato diseases in South Africa. Plant Disease 99:1790-1802
  15. Muzhinji, N., JW Woodhall, M Truter, JE Van der Waals (2014). First Report of Rhizoctonia solani AG 4HG-III Causing Potato Stem Canker in South Africa Plant disease 98 (6), 853-853 1
  16. Muzhinji, N., Woodhall, J. W., Truter, M., , Van der Waals J. E (2014). Elephant Hide and Growth Cracking on Potato Tubers Caused by Rhizoctonia solani AG3-PT in South Africa. Plant disease 98 (4), 570-570


Area(s) of Interest

My current research interests include the biology and ecology of soil borne pathogens, identification of plant growth promoting microbes, plant-pathogen interactions, development of diagnostic tools for pathogen identification, surveillance and monitoring, plant disease epidemiology, soil and plant health.



Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531

Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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