Professor Paula Watt
Prof Watt is an elected member of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa, NRF-rated scientist (C2), member of Council of the South African Association of Botanists, graduated 45 postgraduate students (MSc, MTech, PhD), and served in various National, University, Faculty and School committees

Position:   Professor
Qualifications:   PhD (Wits)
Discipline:   Plant Sciences
Campus:   Westville
Telephone:   031 260 1199
 Research Areas:   The main focus of the research is on macro- and micro-propagation, genetic manipulation and in vitro germplasm storage of forest species and sugarcane. The main focus of my research has been the collaborative programmes with the Forest and Sugarcane Industries. By its very nature, it is directed research to serve the needs of the local industries (large and small-scale farmers), but it has also successfully served to train many postgraduate students. The priority at Mondi has been to increase productivity for deployment through rooted cuttings and we responded by establishing required protocols and by fundamental research investigating the rooting processes. The collaboration with the SASRI has centred on improving genotype selection, propagation and genetic modification (genetic engineering and mutagenesis). In both cases, the results, developed methodology and insights, have been transferred to the local and international industries where they have been incorporated into their research and propagation programmes.

Although some of the research questions have been identified through the needs of the industries, I have led most of the research. Its outcomes are the result of the work of postgraduate students and collaborators in the industries, all of whom have co-authorship in the appropriate publications. In the case of the research on eucalyptus, the publications illustrate the evolution from applied research, that focused on improving regeneration protocols, to the evaluation of plantlets in the field, and the consequent ongoing fundamental-type of research dealing with root quality. In turn, the latter has already provided us with useful information to improve nursery practices. The work on germplasm storage follows a similar trend, from protocol establishment to using cryo-preparative treatments to investigate programme cell death. In the case of sugarcane, the focus has been entirely directed applied research to improve storage and propagation of elite germplasm to meet the unique SA conditions, and the production of genotypes with traits of interest via in vitro induced mutagenesis.
 Recent Publications:  

Rutherford, S., Snyman, S., and M.P. Watt (2014) In vitro studies on somaclonal variation and induced mutagenesis in sugarcane: a review. Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology 89: 1-16.

Watt, M.P. (2014) Genotypic-unspecific protocols for the commercial micropropagation of E. grandis x nitens and E. grandis x urophylla. Turk Journal of Agricultural Science and Forestry 38: 125-133.

Nakhooda, M., Rambaran, N., Mokotedi, M.O., and M.P. Watt (2014) The sensitivity and response of Eucalyptus grandis x nitens cuttings to auxin application for rooting is consistent with, and can be predicted by, in vitro morphogenesis. Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology 89: 215-220.

Hajari, E., Snyman, S.J., and M.P. Watt (2014) Inorganic nitrogen uptake kinetics of sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) varieties under in vitro conditions and varying N supply. Plant Cell Organ and Tissue Culture 117: 361-371.

Mahlanza, T., Rutherford, S., Snyman, S.J. and M.P. Watt (2014) Eldana saccharina (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) resistance in sugarcane (Saccharum sp.): Effects of Fusarium spp., stalk rind, fibre and nitrogen content. African Entomology 22: 810-822.

Mahlanza, T., Rutherford, S., Snyman, S.J. and M.P. Watt. (2015) Potential of Fusarium sacchari-tolerant mutants in controlling Eldana saccharina and borer-associated Fusarium stem rot in sugarcane. European Journal of Plant Pathology 141: 825-837.

Snyman, S.J., Hajari, E., Watt, M.P., Lu, Y. and Kridl, J.C. (2015) Improved nitrogen use efficiency in transgenic sugarcane: phenotypic assessment in a pot trial under low nitrogen conditions. Plant Cell Reports 34: 667-669.

Hajari, E., Snyman, S.J., and M.P. Watt (2015) Nitrogen Use Efficiency of sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) varieties under in vitro conditions with varied N supply. Plant Cell Organ and Tissue Culture 122: 21-29.

Snyman, S.J., P. Mhlanga and M.P. Watt (2016) Rapid screening of sugarcane plantlets for in vitro mannitol-induced stress. Sugar Tech 18: 437-440

Rutherford, S., Maphalala, K., Koch, A., Snyman, S. and M.P. Watt (2017) Field and laboratory assessments of sugarcane mutants selected in vitro for resistance to the imidazolinone herbicide imazapyr. Crop Breeding and Applied Biotechnology 17: 107-114.

Hajari, E., Snyman, S.J., and M.P. Watt. The effect of form and level of inorganic N on nitrogen use efficiency of sugarcane grown in pots. Journal of Plant Nutrition

Postgraduate Candidates:    PG Candidates

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