CenGen is privileged to have collaborated with the well-known rust team of the University of Free State for many years. Without the expertise of a pathologist our rust screening would not be possible. Our longstanding collaborator, Prof Willem Boshoff (UFS) (and his predecessor, Prof Zak Pretorius), has years of experience that we can’t do without and we are grateful that he performs our rust evaluations every year.
Another major advantage is that these two teams have access to the excellent field trial facility of Corteva AgriscienceTM at Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal. Under their skilful supervision and with meticulous precision our wheat and barley research lines get planted annually at this site which, due to its location and humid weather, is the perfect incubator for rust diseases. This is ideal when the aim of a study is to evaluate the host plant response to disease infection – in our case to identify and describe new genes for resistance.
Through the course of the rust season the CenGen team always joins Willem and his colleagues in the field to assist with the evaluation and this year was no exception. Numerous trips were undertaken from Worcester to Greytown, and a whole spectrum of weather conditions were braved, but we are pleased that it was a “good” year for rust infections and thousands of valuable readings were taken. These will now all be analysed in the respective wheat and barley research programmes at CenGen.
Since Greytown is not an area conducive to culturing cereals, the trials planted there are never harvested. Consequently, any important plants that are identified there and of which we would like to harvest seed from first have to be protected from birds feasting on the maturing seeds, and then have to be brought back to Worcester for embryo culturing on media.
We cherish our relationships with Corteva AgriscienceTM and Willem and we hope that we can continue to produce thorough, phenotypically validated research outputs with their indispensable support.