Healthy plants are vital to human and animal health but are often overlooked in One Health literature. Almost 80% of the food consumed by humans are plant sourced and are also the main source of nutrition for livestock. However, the availability and safety of plants for consumption is threatened by plant diseases and pests. Significant financial loss can be linked to global yield losses of important crops - up to 30%. Further to this, plant pathogens affect plant mortality and yield, therefore impacting food availability, consequently impacting food security through a reduction in yield.
In our research, we investigate the protection of fresh produce and crops from diseases and pests, plant-based vectors of human pathogens, both of which are intimately tied to food safety and security, with input from an interdisciplinary team to solve complex plant health problems.
Through national and international collaborations in academia and industry, we have developed advances in surveillance technology and functional and streamlined workflow, data collection and analyses, risk assessment, reporting, and information sharing to improve the South African response to the rise and spread of plant-related pathogens and pests. Our group welcomes challenges and opportunities that allow us to progressively enhance plant and public health issues by highlighting the value of the One Health approach to food safety and security for the population.
The Plant Health and Safety research group is a dynamic team of researchers led by Prof Lise Korsten.