Molecular training - Nice, France
A student again: an extraordinary opportunity made possible by the Nematology Education in Sub-Sahara Africa (NEMEDUSSA), EU funded project
It is rare for a mid-50 year-old university Professor to formally become a student again, but I was so lucky and got the opportunity to experience this for two weeks (11-22 October 2021). This was an intense and enjoyable two-week journey packed with lectures and practical sessions all related to the use of molecular tools in Nematology. The useful course was presented by Prof Paul Abad and his Team at National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) of the Université Côte d’Azur University: situated in the scenic surroundings of Nice, France. I will never forget this experience from which I learned so much as I concisely elaborated on below.
Myself, Raymond Collett and Rinus Knoetze represented South Africa, while Julius Bulus represented Nigeria. The lectures presented by the experts at Pierre’s laboratory was very insightful and informative, while the practical sessions allowed us to experience doing PCR-related techniques ourselves. The Real-time PCR that we used to identify different Xiphinema spp. especially was something that we all did for the first time. We also did phenotyping of root-knot nematode species using a relatively old, but powerful technique namely esterase isozyme electrophoresis. This method is particularly useful since the apparatus is cost-effective for less developed countries where expensive infrastructure for advanced molecular techniques is not an option.
We also did in situ hybridization of exspressed genes that were stained in the structures within the oesophagus of Meloidogyne J2. This way the compounds that are secreted during feeding could be traced. The research focusing on molecular aspects of plant-pathogen interactions done by Pierre and his Team is world class and very interesting! They do research on both the pathogen (effectors) and the host plant (response) involved and this way unravel novel information at a very specialized level.
The information furthermore shared with us by experts related to Meloidogyne genomes, as well as strategies aimed to protect various crops from economically important nematode pests, focused on the most recent findings by the UCA Nematology Group and have potential to change future management strategies substantially in terms of what is now known and used.
What added value to the course was that we definitely took the opportunities that became available during our free time (rest assure, it was outside of office hours). We were treated by Pierre and his wife Sylvie with a tour through Nice, where we had food that typically are eaten in that area. Also, this French couple did not hesitate to take us to Monaco and Monte Carlo! And off course Antibes we visited a few time – I can assure you that you will miss out if you do not join the 7th ICN at the Palais des Congrès in Antibes Juan-Les-Pins that will be held from1-6 May 2022. This area is according to me the French Riviera at its best!
By Driekie Fourie
North-West University, Nematology (Integrated Pest Management Sub-Program)
Some more info about the training course:
Driekie Fourie, Rinus Knoetze and Raymond Collett participated in the training: “Molecular tools in Nematology” which took place from 11th to 22nd October 2021 at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) of Université Côte d'Azur (UCA). This training was organised in the framework of the Erasmus+ NEMEDUSSA capacity building project "Nematology Education in Sub-Sahara Africa". Specifically, NEMEDUSSA aims to increase awareness of nematodes and expand educational and research capacities in higher education and other institutions in Sub-Sahara Africa in this field.
In this course, several molecular techniques were presented on workshops with theoretical and practical points of view to better identify and understand the biology of plant-parasitic nematodes. Topics covered were (amongst others):
- Principles of molecular techniques for nematode identification
- Meloidogyne genomes
- Strategies for resistance to nematodes in grapevines and stone fruit
- Molecular aspects of plant-pathogen interactions
- The effectors
- The plant response
- In situ hybridization of exspressed genes in Meloidogyne J2
Although the course was intense, it was also very interesting, which made for an overall satisfying experience. Hard work was interspersed with several excursions to some of the local tourist attractions, including places like Antibes (where the next ICN will be held), Nice, Monaco and Cannes.
By Dr. Rinus Knoetze
Senior Researcher, ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij
NEMEDUSSA CONSORTIUM ADVANCING NEMATOLOGY EDUCATION IN SUB-SAHARA AFRICA
To develop the research and educational capacity in Sub-Sahara Africa in the field of nematology, or the study of roundworms, a joint Erasmus+ KA2 project was recently launched. The Erasmus+ project, Capacity Building in Higher Education (CBHE): Nematology Education in Sub-Sahara Africa (NEMEDUSSA), is a joint effort by a consortium of Universities from Sub-Sahara Africa and Europe.
This three-year project (2021-2023) is co-funded by the European Union (Erasmus+ KA2 CBHE) and VLIR-UOS, and is linked to the objectives of the Erasmus+ Programme. The aims are to encourage cooperation between the EU and Partner Countries and support eligible Partner Countries in addressing challenges in the management and governance of their higher education institutions.
Specifically, NEMEDUSSA aims to increase awareness of nematodes and expand educational and research capacities in higher education and other institutions in Sub-Sahara Africa in this field. Nematodes or roundworms cause significant damage and yield loss to a wide variety of crops often together with other pathogens. Unfortunately, nematodes are often overlooked or misdiagnosed, resulting in the unnecessary use of unhealthy agro-chemicals. Nematodes can also be used as bio-control agents against insect pests and/or as bio-control agents for environmental health and biodiversity.
Despite the profound adverse impact plant-parasitic nematodes have on productivity worldwide, it is striking how concealed the discipline of nematology has remained, particularly in Sub-Sahara Africa. This project aims to address the need for increased capacity and specialised training in handling these pathogens, so that plant-parasitic nematodes are managed correctly and beneficial nematodes can be implemented as biocontrol organisms.
To achieve this, the project focuses on 6 core activities:
- Developing Curricula. Develop curricula in nematology on BSc and MSc level for the integration into existing educational programmes in English and French, for both lecturers and students.
- Training Staff. Improve the nematological expertise of academic and technical staff to enhance teaching capacity.
- Upgrading lab facilities. Increase the number of student microscopes, lab and demonstration equipment to augment hands-on training.
- Nematology digital learning platform. Develop an open-access platform to share and disseminate nematological knowledge, develop curricular modules, knowledge clips, etc.
- Nematology Network. Enhance cooperation between nematologists in Sub-Sahara Africa by providing networking tools, workshops on relevant topics in nematology and sharing good practices in education, promoting collaboration with a focus on young nematologists.
- Creating awareness. Facilitate dissemination activities and involve a range of different stakeholders such as farmers, extension service workers, policy makers, students and private and public sector.
Ghent University (Belgium) coordinates NEMEDUSSA, in cooperation with:
- University Abomey-Calavi, Benin
- University of Parakou, Benin
- Haramaya University, Ethiopia
- Jimma University, Ethiopia
- Kenyatta University, Kenya
- Moi University, Kenya
- Ahmadu-Bello University, Nigeria
- University of Ibadan, Nigeria
- North West University, South Africa
- Stellenbosch University, South Africa
- Makerere University, Uganda
- Muni University, Uganda
- University Côte d’Azur, France
The work of this project is further supported by 36 associated partners from the private and public sectors in Sub-Sahara Africa.