UP researchers seek to apply Biotechnology in the Agricultural Production Sector and Food Safety

The ACGT hosted a webinar on the 28th of May 2021 presented by Dr Godfrey Kgatle and Ms Thabang Msimango from the University of Pretoria (UP). The webinar focused on how biotechnology can be used to curb the detrimental effects of micro-organisms in the Agricultural production sector.


Dr Kgatle, a plant pathologist based at UP’s Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, is currently looking at creating baseline knowledge that is needed in order to address and refine management strategies for crop diseases. Dr Kgatle detailed how his work focuses on determining the distribution of crop diseases as well as surveilling potential emerging diseases. Dr Kgatle has been on 12 field trips so far in 2021. These field trips were aimed at building a collection of isolates associated with grain crops as well as building a catalogue of photographs of maize diseases. Dr Kgatle highlighted the need for a transdisciplinary research approach in combating plant diseases.


Ms Msimango’s presentation focused on how biotechnology can contribute to food safety. She presented her previous work that investigated the prevalence and characteristics of foodborne pathogens that were isolated from food that was supplied through school feeding programmes in South Africa. After analyzing samples from the water, fresh produce, soil, surfaces and hand swabs at the schools, Ms Msimango found the presence of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus that exceeded normal levels. She also found that most of the E. coliisolates, detected mostly on fresh produce, were multi-drug resistant. Ms Msimango’s work indicated the need for improved food safety and sanitation strategies were food is prepared at the schools.


Following the discussions from the Q&A session after the presentations, Dr Kgatle emphasized the need for better non-invasive seed screening methods that would insure that the planted seeds are not diseased. The ACGT and Dr Kgatle will be looking at phenomics tools that could be utilized to screen seeds in order to give farmers a better yield.


Please see the following links for the webinar recording as well as the pdf of the presentations.
Webinar recording: Click here
Presentation PDF: Click here 

Story by: ACGT