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Member blog: Boosting my skills thanks to CONNECTED Training Voucher funding

This blog has been provided by Mathias Tembo, a Senior Agricultural Research Officer at The Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, and a CONNECTED network member.

Mathias successfully applied for funding for a CONNECTED Training Voucher to visit The Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich, UK, for two weeks in July 2019, under the supervision of Professor Susan Seal.

Mathias Tembo

I was delighted to learn my application for a CONNECTED Training Voucher visit has been successful, and when it came to the logistical arrangements for the visit, everything worked very well. For example, the information required for travel and accommodation was provided in good time, and transport to and from the airports and the accommodation itself was of a good standard.

During my visit, the energy and commitment of the trainers, Dr. Sophie Bouvaine and Dr. Gonҫalo Silva, under the leadership of Prof. Susan Seal, to have planned activities accomplished within the programmed period of training was superb.

There is no doubt that the training I received has provided a huge boost to me in my research work, significantly enhancing my plant disease diagnostics skills.

I have acquired skills to be able to design primers (diagnostic tools such as Loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) that can be used to identify and detect plant diseases, especially those caused by vector-borne plant viruses.

I also learned techniques to enable me to analyse sequences, to and determine whether there is distinctness about the sequences when compared with those of sequences that are already available and described in the genebanks. The other method of rolling circle amplification and restriction digestion will enable me to understand the differences between any of the viruses.

The promptness to have sequence results and the ordering of designed and already known primers and reagents for the training within record times was exemplary, and the agility to have the results on point was exceptional.

L to R: Mathias Tembo, Professor Susan Seal (Leader of the lab at NRI), Dr. Adedapo Adediji (training voucher recipient from Nigeria), Dr. Sophie Bouvaine and Dr. Gonҫalo Silva (Training Supervisors)

L to R: Mathias Tembo (training voucher recipient from Zambia), Professor Susan Seal (Leader of the lab at NRI), Dr. Adedapo Adediji (training voucher recipient from Nigeria), Dr. Sophie Bouvaine and Dr. Gonҫalo Silva (Training supervisors, respectively)

Sharing the new skills and knowledge further still

My work involves undertaking relevant research in plant pathology in order to generate appropriate fungal, viral and bacterial diseases management technologies for increased crop production and productivity. I am involved in carrying out timely identification of plant pathogens (isolation, culturing and identification of plant pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, viruses) in order to facilitate generation of control measures for reducing crop yields.

I occasionally receive students on attachment from universities and colleges for short term internship, and so the knowledge gained from the training will be shared with students requiring special extra information on molecular plant and insect diagnostics methods and their application in biotechnology.

Having benefited professionally from a CONNECTED Training Voucher, I recommend the scheme without hesitation to others.

Mathias Tembo picking whiteflies under stereomicroscope for mtCO1 amplification

Mathias Tembo picking whiteflies under stereomicroscope for mtCO1 amplification

The training activities undertaken by Mathias included:

  • Maize, cassava, tomato, papaya and pepper plant nucleic acid extractions using Cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (ctab) buffer
  • DNA synthesis for the cassava brown streak virus (CBSV) and the Ugandan brown streak virus (UCBSV)
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) for detecting CBSVs
  • PCR for detecting cassava mosaic begomoviruses (CMBs) and for detecting Maize Streak Virus in a single reaction
  • Agarose gel preparation
  • Detection of CBSV and UCBSV by real time PCR (taqman)
  • DNA/RNA extraction from whiteflies using Chelex method
  • CO1 amplification of B. tabaci
  • PCR Purification for sequencing
  • Rolling Circle Amplification (RCA)
  • Restriction Digestion of RCA products with restriction enzymes
  • Primer designing for the LAMP
  • Real-Time LAMP amplification