Prof Michael J Wingfield

Prof Michael J Wingfield

South Africa

University of Pretoria

Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute

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Work and Research

My research interests are focused in the broad area of forest biotechnology. More specifically, my research group studies various aspects of insect pests and pathogens, particularly those that are important to the forestry industries of South Africa and other countries of the world. We are particularly interested in those insects and pathogens that cause damage and diseases of trees, degrade timber, or that are potentially valuable in various aspects of the pulping process and in the production of industrially valuable compounds. My research programme falls under the umbrella of two major programmes that are linked to defined stakeholders and bases of financial support.

Fields Of Expertise

Forest Health Biotechnology
Insect Pests and Pathogens

Research Profiles

Study Systems and Research Involvement

Some of the fungi of particular interest to our group and that are the subject of intensive study, both at the ecological and molecular level, are the notorious tree pathogens Chrysoporthe austroafricana (previously known as Cryphonectria cubensis) that causes a serious stem canker disease of Eucalyptus, Diplodia sapinea (Sphaeropsis sapinea) that devastates pine plantations after hail, and species of Ceratocystis that cause serious wilt diseases of trees, the pitch canker fungus Fusarium circinatum, Mycosphaerella spp. and Teratosphaeria spp. which infect leaves and needles, Botryosphaeria spp. that cause stem cankers, Cylindrocladium spp. that cause leaf blight, Armillaria root rot, Eucalyptus rust and others. Species of Ophiostoma sensu lato (a group that includes the Dutch elm disease agent) have also been the subject of investigation for numerous years and are of special interest, not only for their role as tree pathogens but also for their potential value in biotechnology applications. Amongst the insects of greatest interest to me are the Sirex wood wasp (Sirex noctilio ), the Eucalyptus gall wasp (Leptocybe invasa), the winter Bronze Bug (Thaumastocoris peregrinus), the Eucalyptus snout beetle (Gonipterus scutellatus) and a wide range of bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) that infest conifers. For all these insect pests, our research team has intensive projects, mainly linked to biological control, aimed at reducing their impact.

I am involved in a wide range of research projects both in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. These include those linked to the TPCP and CTHB and funded by the South African Forestry Industry together with various associated Government grants, international projects including those for example with the Chinese, Norwegian, Australian and Swedish Governments, and projects with forestry companies in Latin America and South East Asia. I have been and remain deeply involved in the management and leadership of various scientific bodies and institutions in Africa and globally. Of these activities, my long-standing role in the activities of the International Union of Forestry Research Organisations (IUFRO) is dominant and for which I began a five-year term as President in 2014. IUFRO is one of the oldest and largest Scientific Unions in the world, representing between 15 and 20 000 forestry researchers linked to approximately 650 member organisations in 120 countries.