SARChI Chair in Disease Resistance and Quality in Field Crops


Main Supervisor

Prof Maryke Labuschagne
Department of Plant Sciences (Plant Breeding)
University of the Free State

T: +27 51 401 2715


      Participating Researcher

      Dr Ntombi Mbuma
      Department of Plant Sciences (Plant Breeding)
      University of the Free State

      T: +27 51 401 3217


      Participating Researcher

      Prof Botma Visser
      Department of Plant Sciences (Botany)
      University of the Free State

      T: +27 51 401 3278


      Participating Researcher

      Prof Willem Boshoff
      Department of Plant Sciences (Plant Pathology)
      University of the Free State

      T: +27 51 401 2466

different colour cobs

Focused Research

Headlines regarding hunger and food security, despite recent advances, remain alarming: One in every nine people on earth goes to bed hungry each night; 800 million people do not eat enough to be healthy. Sub-Saharan Africa has the second most number of undernourished people in the world; a third of all deaths in children under five in developing countries is linked to undernourishment. Food production in most of sub-Saharan Africa has not kept pace with the population increase.

The UFS was allocated a South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Disease Resistance and Quality in Field Crops by the National Research Foundation, managed by Prof Maryke Labuschagne, which is now in its second five-year cycle. The chair has a strong focus on advancing food security and nutrition in South Africa and the rest of Africa, contributing to poverty reduction and achieving sustainability goals. The chair focuses on plant breeding for disease resistance and quality in field crops.

Projects done under the auspices of the chair by a team of MSc and PhD students, as well as three postdoctoral fellows include:
  • Monitoring the rust disease causing fungal populations of important crops in South Africa
  • Survey and genotypic characterisation of rust species of South African grasses
  • Genetic reconstruction of South African cereal rust populations using herbarium specimens
  • Sequence analysis of specific genes in the South African wheat stem rust population
  • Genetic and functional analysis of tolerance against fungicide application in the South African wheat stem, stripe and leaf rust populations
  • Inhibition of wheat stem, stripe and leaf rust urediniospore germination and growth from smoke derived compounds
  • Molecular survey of Berberis species in South Africa
  • Molecular and biochemical characterisation of adult plant disease resistance response of wheat varieties against stem rust infection
  • Investigating fitness factors other than virulence that may result in the dominant occurrence of wheat rust races in South Africa
  • The molecular basis of all stage resistance of selected South African wheat cultivars and potential new germplasm sources
  • Improving combined rust and Fusarium head blight resistance in pre-breeding wheat lines
  • Comparison of pre-breeding wheat lines with different levels of Fusarium head blight resistance to the accumulation of Fusarium mycotoxins
  • The influence of heat and drought stress on gluten protein and quality in durum and bread wheat
  • The expression and influence of the wheat breadmaking gene in South African commercial bread wheat cultivars, and its influence on gluten protein and quality
  • Quality and gluten protein characteristics of a world-wide collection of durum wheat cultivars
  • Resistant starch in South African wheat cultivars as a source of dietary fibre
  • Proteomics as a tool for gluten protein analysis under biotic and abiotic stress
  • Maize, cassava and sorghum biofortification for zinc, iron, provitamin A, and essential amino acids
  • Nutritional value of soybean, cowpea and bambara, and genetic improvement of nutritional value

Recent Publications

Boshoff, WHP, B Visser, CM Lewis, TM Adams, DGO. Saunders, T Terefe, T Soko, N Chiuraise and ZA Pretorius. 2020. First Report of Puccinia striiformis on wheat in Zimbabwe. Plant Disease 104: 290.

Boshoff, WHP, ZA Pretorius, T Terefe and B Visser. 2020. Occurrence and pathogenicity of Puccinia coronata avenae f. sp. avenae on oat in South Africa. Crop Protection 133: 105144

Maree, GJ, HD Castelyn, CM Bender, WHP Boshoff and ZA Pretorius. 2020. Comparing infection and colonisation of Puccinia graminis in barley and wheat. Australasian Journal of Plant Pathology 49: 431-445.

Pretorius, ZA, E Wessels, R Prins, CM Bender, B Visser and WHP Boshoff. 2020. Accomplishments in wheat rust research in South Africa. South African Journal of Science 116(11/12), Art. #7688.

Maré, A, WHP Boshoff, L Herselman 2020. Molecular breeding of wheat lines for multiple rust and Fusarium head blight resistance. Euphytica 216, 163.

Prins, R, BJ Steffenson, AJ Case, WHP. Boshoff, GM Agenbag, ZA Pretorius 2020. Assessments and perspectives on stem rust resistance in South African malting barley. Australasian Plant Pathology 49:679–690.

Kolmer, JA, A Herman, ME Ordoñez, S German, A Morgounov, ZA Pretorius, B Visser, Y Anikster and M Acevedo, 2020. Endemic and panglobal genetic groups, and divergence of host-associated forms in worldwide collections of the wheat leaf rust fungus Puccinia triticina as determined by genotyping by sequencing. Heredity 124: 397-409.

Mafa, MS, HD Castelyn, G Kemp and B Visser, 2020. Delineating induced defense responses in wheat seedlings exposed to volatiles emitted by Puccinia triticina infected wheat. Physiological and Molecular Plant Pathology 112: 101538.

Meyer, WB, WHP Boshoff, A Minnaar-Ontong, A Young, G Kong, S Thompson, ZA Pretorius and B Visser 2021. Phenotypic and genotypic variation of Puccinia helianthi in South Africa. Plant Disease.

Terefe, TG, B Visser, W Botha, A Kozana, R Roberts, GD Thompson, G Prinsloo and DA Read, 2021. Detection and molecular characterization of wheat stripe mosaic virus on wheat in South Africa. Crop Protection 143: 105464.

Labuschagne, M, Masci, S, Tundo, S, Muccilli, V, Saletti, R, van Biljon, A, 2020. Proteomic analysis of proteins responsive to drought and low temperature stress in a hard red spring wheat cultivar. Molecules 25: 1366. doi:10.3390/molecules25061366.

Labuschagne, MT., Igrejas, G, 2020. Proteomics as a tool in gluten protein research. In: Igrejas, G; Ikeda, T, Guzman, C (eds.). Wheat quality for improving processing and human health. Springer, pp. 145-169. ISBN 978-3-030-34162-6.

Tóth, B, van Biljon, A and Labuschagne, MT, 2020. Influence of low soil nitrogen and phosphorus on gluten polymeric and monomeric protein distribution in two high-quality spring wheat cultivars. Journal of Cereal Science 91: 102867.

Peprah, BB, Parkes, E, Manu-Aduening, J, Kulakow, P, van Biljon, A, Labuschagne, MT, 2020.  Genetic variability, stability and heritability for quality and yield characteristics in provitamin A cassava varieties. Euphytica 216: 31.

Wessels, R, Wentzel, B, Labuschagne, MT, 2020.  Solvent retention capacity and swelling index of glutenin in hard red wheat flour as possible indicator of rheological and baking quality characteristics. Journal of Cereal Science 93: 102983.

Miles, C, Booyse, M, van Biljon, A, Labuschagne, M. 2020. The effect of different milling procedures on dough mixing parameters of hard red bread wheat. Cereal Research Communications 48: 477-483. Doi: 10.1007/s42976-020-00065-6

Peprah, BB, Parkes, EY, Harrison, OA, van Biljon, A, Steiner-Asiedu, M and Labuschagne, MT, 2020. Provitamin A - rich cassava proximate composition, cyanide content, and carotenoid retention after boiling. Foods 9: 1800. doi:10.3390/foods9121800

Goredema-Matongera, N, Tarekegne, A, Ndhlela, T, Van Biljon, A, Labuschagne, MT, 2020. Multi-nutrient biofortification of maize (Zea mays L): current status, opportunities and limitations. Nutrients 13: 1039.

Mbuma, NW, Gerrano, AS, Lebaka, N, Amoo, S, Mofokeng, A and Labuschagne, MT, 2021. Variability in the nutritional value of cowpea genotypes for crop improvement. Acta Scandinavica 71: 132-144.

Cassava Uganda
                   A recent trip to Uganda


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

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

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