The Molecular Virology and Entomology Research group undertakes strategic and applied research for controlling pests and diseases of tropical food crops especially those caused by viruses and insect vectors on cassava, sweet potato, yams and vegetables in many African and Asian countries. We particularly aim to develop and disseminate improved diagnostic tools for the rapid and efficient detection of plant pests and pathogens, understand complex plant-virus-vector interactions that will allow answering important epidemiological questions and undertake research to identify sustainable control measures. In our research, we employ both traditional and advanced technologies including identifying transgenic sources of resistance to crop pests, discovering novel insecticide targets or virus and insect resistance genes using state of the art technologies such as real-time PCR or next generation sequencing. The current focus of our research includes:
- Research to generate an improved understanding of the factors contributing to the spread of cassava, yam and sweet potato virus disease epidemics in Africa and their control.
- Developing robust, low-cost diagnostic technologies for plant viruses and their vectors, focussing on root and tuber crop viruses (cassava, sweet potato and yam).
- Using high throughput sequencing on cassava land races, elite clones and wild relatives to identify, characterise, map and understand the mechanism of resistance genes with a view to developing durable resistance to cassava viruses.
- Gaining insights into virus-host-vector interactions involving cassava mosaic viruses (Family Geminiviridae) and cassava brown streak viruses (Family Potyviridae) with their host cassava and common insect vector, Bemisia tabaci, using qPCR and other state-of-the-art molecular technologies.
- Research to elucidate the natural mechanisms of disease resistance such as reversion and recovery in cassava and sweet potato, and use of tissue culture, chemo- and thermo-therapy techniques to regenerate elite germplasm.
In support of our research activities, the Group is proactive in building public and private partnerships to promote the practical application of biotechnologies in Sub-Saharan Africa and their potential contribution to food security and sustainable agricultural production.