Dave Berger is one of our ’40 Faces of Plant Pathology’
BSPP members can be found in 51 different countries, with 30% of members based in countries outside of the UK. As part of the BSPPs 40th anniversary, we asked our membership to describe some things about themselves, what plant pathology challenges they would most like to see solved, and what could improve the world of plant pathology in terms of inclusivity. Click here to return to 40 Faces Home Page.
Institution and country of residence
Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria, South Africa
Area of expertise/study
I am based in South Africa, so my research is focused on foliar diseases of a staple crop, maize. My “model” pathosystem is grey leaf spot disease of maize, caused by the fungus Cercospora zeina. GLS is widespread globally but a particular threat to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. My research group aims to understand both Cercospora pathogenicity and maize host resistance at the molecular level. We collaborate widely and use genomics and data science to integrate and interpret field and laboratory data from maize and the pathogen. Our goal is to develop sustainable management strategies for long-term food security.
About your early experiences in education
I grew up in a family of nature enthusiasts surrounded by Africa’s biodiversity. As a PhD student, I was inspired by excellent mentors and the precision of molecular biology. Plant pathology is the link to real-world problems.
If you could solve one problem in plant pathology, what would it be?
Quicker and more effective response to disease epidemics
If you could solve one issue relating to inclusivity and diversity within the field of plant pathology what would it be?
The challenges of establishing a quality plant pathology research career on return to an under-resourced home country after a study abroad programme.
If you weren’t a plant pathologist, what would you be?