Several research leaders carry out plant biotechnology research in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. The focus is on crop biotechnology and plant stress physiology, carried out mainly in the well-equipped plant biotechnology laboratories in the Plant Sciences Complex. Several of the research groups are affiliated with the internationally acclaimed Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), as well as the Genomics Research Institute at the University of Pretoria.
The Molecular Plant-Pathogen Interactions research group targets grey leaf spot disease of maize and the invasive pest fall armyworm. The Molecular Plant Physiology research group hosts a Soybean Research Program and the South African Herbicide Resistance Initiative. A major focus is the effect of abiotic stress tolerance on plant development and biological nitrogen fixation in soybean. The Crop Floral Biology team investigates the effect of extreme weather events on sunflower and its pollinators.
Plant Biotechnology research in the Department combines plant precision phenotyping in glasshouse and field experiments, recombinant DNA technologies, and “big data” generated through crop genomics to seek innovative solutions to food security. Students entering the programme are exposed to a range of research skills from the real-life crop production to plant molecular biology experiments in the laboratory.
Students enter the postgraduate programmes in Plant Science with a Biotechnology focus either at Honours, Masters or PhD levels from a range of undergraduate backgrounds as long as they have sufficient molecular biology knowledge and experience. The main feeder degrees are (i) BSc (Biotechnology); (ii) dual majors in BSc (Plant Science) with a molecular subject (Biochemistry, Genetics or Microbiology); (iii) the BSc (Honours) Biotechnology; or (iv) BSc (Honours) Plant Science (Plant physiology and biotechnology stream). In addition, we collaborate strongly with the Centre for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in the Faculty, and therefore our research programmes include postgraduates in Bioinformatics.
For more information, please contact the research leaders at the links in this article.