FABI celebrates 20 years of research excellence
Prof Mike Wingfield has been the founder and director of the Forestry
and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at UP
The Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) at the
University of Pretoria (UP) turns 20 in 2018. Vice-Chancellor and
Principal, Prof Cheryl de la Rey welcomed the audience of FABI staff,
students, alumni and a host of international researchers and academics
who accepted the invitation to celebrate FABI's milestone. Former UP
Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Johan van Zyl, explained his role and
vision in ensuring that FABI found a home at UP.
Prof Mike Wingfield, founder and former Director of FABI, spoke on the
challenges and achievements of FABI over the course of its history and
how it had contributed to research excellence, diversity, and its
FABI is a unique research institute that is a collaborative space which
began with a broad mandate to be a stand-alone post-graduate structure
that focussed on forestry and agricultural biotechnology. FABI's
research output touches on facets that affect many aspects of daily
life, for example, paper, food security, tree health and tree life
(which consequently has a direct impact on the air that we breathe and
the environment). Many industries relating to these topics employ
thousands of people around South Africa and the world.
FABI's initial research programme focusses specifically on tree health,
and the forestry industry was a major stakeholder in establishing FABI.
Interdisciplinary research has been at the core of FABI's success. The
research conducted by FABI has been crucial in finding integrated
solutions to pest and disease management to ensure tree health. The
Sirex Woodwasp problem affecting pine trees in South Africa is one such
example of FABI's research rescuing an industry and the jobs forestry
FABI is home one of the first six DST-NRF Centres of Excellence for Tree
Health Biotechnology. In 2017, FABI's long term research and
achievements saw UP awarded a spot in the top two universities in the
world for the study fungi (mycology). "FABI has achieved a very obvious
national and international footprint as well as recognition for research
and educational excellence," says Prof Mike Wingfield.
The two-day commemoration of FABI's anniversary saw 39 speakers from
around the world gather to celebrate FABI's work and science. Research
papers presented by students and researchers in the field.
A tree planting ceremony was held as a symbolic gesture of FABI's
contribution to research and the environment. In addition to this, an
exhibition of some 80 works of tree and wood artworks was assembled for
the occasion. This was an initiative, led by Prof. Wilhelm de Beer in
partnership with the University of Pretoria's Department of Arts. The
works are from the permanent collection of the University that depict
trees, are made of wood or where wood has been used in the creation of
the pieces. Works by FABIans, Dr Alistair McTaggart, Dr Trudy Paap and
Nam Pham are also included.