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Department of Microbiology & Plant Pathology

Food Safety Research Programme

Ensuring a supply of safe quality fresh produce for the export market is essential for sustained economic growth and global competitiveness. The research programme of Prof Korsten and her team has focused the past ten years on developing a food safety framework for the South African fruit and vegetable industries. A country profile study of food safety challenges provided the base for an effective regulatory model. In addition, the research portfolio of Prof Korsten was focused on determining the critical control points along the supply chain and to develop rapid accurate diagnostic methods for identification and ultimate eradication of foodborne pathogens. By establishing a preventative risk assessment approach for the industry and by providing critical research information that addresses risks associated with fresh produce production, the supply chain from the farm to the plate could be improved to ensure market access and international compliance to food safety standards.

For additional information, contact Prof Lise Korsten,, 012 420 4097.


Postharvest Technology Research Programme

The postharvest research programme of Prof Korsten is focussed on reducing postharvest losses encountered during the production, harvesting and processing stages in the supply chain. The research focus of the Postharvest Technology group is to determine the point of contamination, major reasons for losses, its impact on food prices and control mechanisms. Innovative new technologies are being developed to not only rapidly identify the pathogens along the supply chain, but also to establish alternative postharvest disease control strategies such as biocontrol, innovation packaging, modified atmosphere storage,integrated treatments that include a combination of hot water treatments, disinfectants, natural oils, fungicides, plant extracts and effective cold chain management systems. Monitoring the presence of Penicillium spp along the supply chain provided a new insight into contamination points and possible intervention options. Rapid identification methods of these pathogens were further developed for the fruit industries and provide effective tools for mitigation in export rejections.

For additional information, contact Prof Lise Korsten,, 012 420 4097.


Potato Pathology Programme

The Potato Pathology Programme, under the leadership of Dr van der Waals, is the flagship programme for research on bacterial and fungal diseases of potatoes in South Africa. The most important diseases in the South African potato industry are soft rot and blackleg (caused by Pectobacterium and Dickeya spp.), powdery scab (Spongospora subterranea), Rhizoctoniasis (Rhizoctonia solani) and an emerging disease, brown spot, caused by Alternaria alternata. Thus, the primary research projects in this programme investigate various aspects of these diseases. Research is focussed on sustainable, integrated management of disease, pre-plant risk assessment of soil-borne diseases, molecular characterisation and correct diagnosis of the causal agents of each disease complex in South Africa as well as aspects such as epidemiology, dissemination and introduction of new pathogens.
For additional information, contact Dr Jacquie van der Waals,, 012     420 4065.