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Collaboration between the Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology (CTHB), based at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at UP, represents a long-term industry-government-university partnership that uses biotechnology to promote the health and sustainability of trees.
In order to promote and achieve the vision of ‘keeping trees healthy’, the TPCP-CTHB undertakes research across a broad suite of disciplines, including genetics, microbiology, entomology, genomics, plant pathology, ecology, biostatistics, biochemistry and chemistry. TPCP- CTHB projects typically span diverse topics, ranging from tree health surveillance, through to the control or containment of microbial diseases and insect pests, by using biotechnological approaches and biological control. To inform management and policy decisions at national, regional and international levels, the TPCP-CTHB also investigates the effect of factors such as climate change, fire, drought and human activity on our woody resources and ecosystems.
In 2016 alone, the TPCP-CTHB showcased its research output in 94 articles in international peer-review journals, and continued to use
the knowledge generated to develop and implement practical disease and pest control applications that save the forestry industry millions annually. The group also continued to assist the South African government in developing and implementing national strategies and legislation concerning the health of trees and woody ecosystems.
The primary catalyst for the success of the TPCP-CTHB is its strong human resource base. The 2016 team included 115 postgraduate students whose research activities and training were guided and facilitated by a team of 33 scientists and 18 highly talented postdoctoral researchers from a variety of academic backgrounds and nationalities. The TPCP-CTHB thus draws on large multidisciplinary research teams to tackle difficult tree health problems with the ultimate goal of safeguarding South Africa’s woody resources.
    Emma Steenkamp
(right), Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, and Deputy Director of the CTHB, with six talented postdoctoral fellows.
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