Career Profile

Present

  • 20 May 2003 – current: Founder and Director of CenGen (Pty) Ltd
  • 1 July 2018 – 30 June 2021: Associate Professor Extraordinary, Department of Genetics, Stellenbosch University

Professional Experience

RP’s fields of expertise are molecular genetics, plant breeding and cytogenetics. She also has knowledge of the fields of tissue culture and plant pathology. Her research focus over the years gradually shifted from traditional wheat breeding to molecular genetics. She concentrates on identifying and mapping DNA markers for useful wheat genes, and on facilitating the implementation of DNA technology in plant breeding programmes. Whilst her initial focus was on mapping adult plant (durable) rust resistance genes (APR) in wheat and use marker-assisted selection to transfer these useful genes/ QTL to breeding lines, it has evolved to now include other traits and crops.

To continue practicing science after relocating to a rural town, RP founded a company, CenGen (Pty) Ltd (2003/012305/07), which offers various molecular genetics research and diagnostic services to plant breeders, producers and agricultural related industries or research funding bodies. In her capacity as director of CenGen, she focuses on the implementation of DNA technology in agriculture and is at present working on a variety of crop plants, whilst also being involved in various research projects.

Summary of Impact

RP developed an STS marker forwheat leaf rust resistance gene Lr19 (Prins et al 2001) that still is the preferred marker for this gene on the MASwheat website.

She was the first SA scientist to propose and perform a QTL analysis approach to dissect a complex trait in wheat. This included the development of the first wheat DH mapping population in SA, a partial linkage map and the successful dissection of the APR resistance components to stripe rust in a commercial SA wheat cultivar.

She developed Cappelle Desprez (CD)-derived spring wheat material adapted in SA which contained most of the CD’s stripe rust APR, resulting in the first comprehensive report on the genetics of the resistance in this French cultivar.

RP established a Molecular marker Service Lab (2011) with support from the SA Winter Cereal Trust that assisted competing SA wheat breeding programmes with MAS implementation and now routinely screen wheat breeding lines with molecular markers associated with target traits.

In collaboration with Dr Anke Martin (University of Southern Queensland, Aus), RP dissected the genetic components of the Net form of Net Blotch Resistance in a SA malting barley line (UVC8) (also a first) and implemented MAS for various disease resistance traits in malting barley.

RP initiated a Next-Generation Sequencing project (2013) on SA stripe rust isolates resulting in a very productive collaborative effort in the field of pathogenomics with Dr DGO Saunders (John Innes Centre (JIC), UK), Dr C Uauy (JIC), Prof ZA Pretorius (UFS) and Dr LA Boyd (NIAB, UK).

She led the molecular team that developed the first genetic linkage map in table grapes in South Africa, validated resistance QTL and assisted the table grape breeder (P Burger) with the implementation of MAS in the local table grape breeding programme.

She identified a DNA marker (CenGen6) for a powdery mildew resistance gene in the grapevine cultivar ‘Regent’ (Ren9) that is published on the Vitis database resource (www.vivc.de).

Following a nomination by AgBiz Grain, the CenGen Team was selected as a finalist for a 2016/2017 NSTF-South32 Award in the category Research for innovation – Small, Medium or Micro Organisation (SMME). They eventually won the category.

RP initiated the first wheat gene cloning attempt in SA through the establishment of a collaboration with Prof Simon Krattinger (previously from University of Zürich, Switzerland; now King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi-Arabia) to clone a slow rusting QTL, QYr.sgi-4A.1 for stripe rust resistance in wheat. This work was recognised as of interest by The Open Innovation call of Du Pont-Pioneer (TRAC#27600). It also resulted in CenGen being invited to participate in an internal grant call at KAUST (CRG7-3768) which was successful and expanded the current collaboration to more cloning targets that were previously identified in research projects of RP. Through these projects, CenGen has also been recognised by international funding bodies as a trusted research partner.

She was an invited member of Mariana Purnell’s (Agbiz Grain) team of wheat and barley scientists who visited a host of leading UK research institutes, universities and governmental departments upon invitation of the British High Commission in February 2018. The trip was organised by Dr Xolelwa Zulu (Science and Innovation Attaché at the British High Commission in Pretoria). The aim was to create a platform to foster future collaborative projects between UK and SA cereal researchers.

RP also actively pursues the development of bioinformatics skills among African scientists and secured a British Council Newton Fund Researchers Links Workshop Grant in collaboration with a UK bioinformatician (Dr Diane Saunders; then Earlham Institute, UK; now JIC) to host a fully-funded workshop on “Bioinformatics and Wheat Genomics” for early-career researchers from the UK and SA in 2017 (June 26-28) in Worcester, South Africa. This was the first bioinformatics workshop targeted at wheat researchers in SA and training was received from Dr Burkhard Steuernagel (JIC) and Dr Robert Davey (Earlham Institute).

Following the 2018 UK visit, the UK Science and Innovation Network, through Dr Xolelwa Zulu, encouraged and funded CenGen and Dr Saunders to organise a follow-up Bioinformatics and Wheat Genomics Workshop in Worcester, South Africa (Feb 4-8, 2019). This was again done in collaboration Dr Burkhard Steuernagel and Dr Robert Davey.

National Research Foundation Rating

RP applied for NRF rating for the first time in 2012. From 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2018 se was rated as a C3 scientist, which she achieved without being in a full-time paid academic position. She received Grant #85943: Incentive Funding For Rated Researchers (IPRR). She has not submitted a re-evaluation application yet.

Scientific Publications (peer-reviewed)

Although in a more applied scientific environment, the aim is always to do work that is accepted by a peer-review process.

  1. R. Prins, G.F. Marais, B.J.H. Janse, Z.A. Pretorius and A.S. Marais. 1996. A physical map of the Thinopyrum-derived Lr19 translocation. Genome 39:1013-1019.
  2. R. Prins, G.F. Marais, Z.A. Pretorius, B.J.H. Janse and A.S. Marais. 1997. A study of modified forms of the Lr19 translocation of common wheat. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 95:424-430.
  3. R. Prins and G.F. Marais. 1998. An extended deletion map of the Lr19 translocation and modified forms. Euphytica 103:95-102.
  4. R. Prins and G.F. Marais. 1999. A genetic study of the gametocidal effect of the Lr19 translocation of common wheat. South African Journal of Plant and Soil 16:10-14.
  5. R. Prins, J.Z. Groenewald, G.F. Marais, J.W. Snape and R.M.D. Koebner. 2001. AFLP and STS tagging of Lr19, a gene conferring resistance to leaf rust in wheat. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 103:618-624.
  6. V.P. Ramburan, Z.A. Pretorius, J.H. Louw, L.A. Boyd, P.A. Smith, W.H.P. Boshoff and R. Prins. 2004. A genetic analysis of adult plant resistance to stripe rust in the wheat cultivar Kariega. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 108:1426-1433.
  7. R. Prins, V.P. Ramburan, Z.A. Pretorius, L.A. Boyd, W.H.P. Boshoff, P.H. Smith and J.H. Louw. 2005. Development of a doubled haploid mapping population and linkage map for the bread wheat cross Kariega X Avocet S. South African Journal of Plant and Soil 22:1-8.
  8. Z.A. Pretorius, K.W. Pakendorf, G.F. Marais, R. Prins and J.S. Komen. 2007. Challenges for sustainable cereal rust control in South Africa. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 58:593-601.
  9. Z.A. Pretorius, L. Pienaar and R. Prins. 2007. Greenhouse and field assessment of adult plant resistance in wheat to Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici. Australasian Plant Pathology 36:552-559.
  10. J. Moldenhauer, Z.A. Pretorius, B.M. Moerschbacher, R. Prins and A.J. Van der Westhuizen. 2008. Histopathology and PR-protein markers provide insight into adult plant resistance to stripe rust of wheat. Molecular Plant Pathology 9:137-145.
  11. R. Prins, C.J. Van Heerden, A.L. Burger, P. Burger and W.A. Smit. 31 May 2009. DNA fingerprinting of table grape cultivars. 9th International Conference on Grape Genetics and Breeding (Udine, Italy, 2-6 July 2006). In: ISHS Acta Horticulturae 827:269-273. Ed. E. Peterlunger, G. Di Gaspero, G. Cipriani.
  12. A. Lehmensiek, A.E. Bester-Van der Merwe, M.W. Sutherland, G. Platz, W.M. Kriel, G.F. Potgieter and R. Prins. 2010. Population structure of South African and Australian Pyrenophora teres isolates. Plant Pathology 59:504-515. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3059.2009.02231.x
  13. R. Prins, Z.A. Pretorius, C.M. Bender and A. Lehmensiek. 2011. QTL mapping of stripe, stem and leaf rust resistance genes in a Kariega x Avocet S doubled haploid wheat population. Molecular Breeding 27:259-270. DOI: 10.1007/S11032-010-9428-y
  14. Z.A. Pretorius, Y. Jin, C.M. Bender, L. Herselman and R . Prins. 2012. Seedling resistance to stem rust race Ug99 and marker analysis for Sr2, Sr24 and Sr31 in South African wheat cultivars and lines. Euphytica 186:15-23. DOI: 10.1007/s10681-011-0476-0
  15. G.M. Agenbag, Z.A. Pretorius, L.A. Boyd, C.M. Bender and R. Prins. 2012. Identification of adult plant resistance to stripe rust in the wheat cultivar Cappelle-Desprez. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 125:109-120. DOI: 10.1007/s00122-012-1819-5
  16. T.G. Terefe, B. Visser, L. Herselman, R. Prins, T. Negussie, J.A. Kolmer and Z.A. Pretorius. 2014. Diversity in Puccinia triticina detected on wheat from 2008 to 2010 and the impact of new races on SA Wheat Germplasm. European Journal of Plant Pathology 139:95-105. DOI:10.1007/s10658-013-0368-3
  17. C.J. Van Heerden, P. Burger, A. Vermeulen and R. Prins. 2014 Detection of downy and powdery mildew resistance QTL in a ‘Regent’ X ‘RedGlobe’ population. Euphytica 200:281-295. DOI: 10.1007/s10681-014-1167-4 (Open Access)
  18. G.M. Agenbag, Z.A. Pretorius, L.A. Boyd, C.M. Bender, R. MacCormack and R. Prins. 2014. High-resolution mapping and new marker development for adult plant stripe rust resistance QTL in the wheat cultivar Kariega. Molecular Breeding 34:2004-2020. DOI: 10.1007/s11032-014-0158-4
  19. Z.A. Pretorius, B. Visser, T. Terefe, L. Herselman, R. Prins, T. Soko, J. Siwale, B. Mutari,  T.I. Selinga and D.P. Hodson. 2015. Races of Puccinia triticina detected on wheat in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi and regional germplasm responses. Australasian Plant Pathology 44:217-224. DOI: 10.1007/s13313-014-0339-y
  20. P. Burger, A. Vermeulen, F. Halleen, T. Koopman, C.J. Van Heerden and R. Prins. 2014. Table grape breeding at the ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, South Africa; Its impact on the SA industry and latest developments. Proceedings of the Xth Conference on Grapevine Breeding and Genetics. In: ISHS 2014 Acta Horticulturae 1046:245-249. DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2014.1046.31
  21. Z.A. Pretorius, R. Prins, P.K. Malaker, N.C.D. Barma, M.A. Hakim, D. Thapa, U. Bansal, G.L. Cisar and R.F. Park. 2015. Assessing the vulnerability of wheat germplasm from Bangladesh and Nepal to Ug99 stem rust. Phytoparasitica 43:637-645. DOI: 10.1007/s12600-015-0487-9
  22. C.M. Bender, R. Prins and Z.A. Pretorius. 2016. Development of a Greenhouse Screening Method for Adult Plant Response in Wheat to Stem Rust. Plant Disease 100:1627-1633.
  23. E. Wessels and R. Prins. 2016. Development of a low-resolution genome scan marker set for the acceleration of major gene or QTL mapping in wheat. South African Journal of Plant and Soil 34:155-158.
  24. R. Prins, S. Dreisigacker, Z.A. Pretorius, H.J. Van Schalkwyk, E. Wessels, C. Smit, C.M. Bender, D. Singh and L.A. Boyd. 2016. Stem rust resistance in a geographically diverse collection of spring wheat lines collected from across Africa. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:973. DOI:10.3389/fpls/2016.00973 (Open Access)
  25. Z.A. Pretorius, C.X. Lan, R. Prins, V. Knight, N.W. McLaren, R.P. Singh, C.M. Bender and F.J. Kloppers. 2017. Application of remote sensing of wheat stripe rust infection detects known resistance loci in two mapping populations. Precision Agriculture 18:411-428. DOI: 10.1007/s11119-016-9461
  26. E. Millet, B. J. Steffenson, R. Prins, H. Sela, A. M. Przewieslik-Allen and Z. A. Pretorius. 2017. Genome targeted introgression of resistance to African stem rust from Aegilops sharonensis into bread wheat. Plant Genome 10: 1-11. DOI: 10.3835/plantgenome2017.07.0061
  27. C.J. Van Heerden, P. Burger and R. Prins. 2018. Microsatellite-based DNA fingerprinting of selected grapevine cultivars. South African Journal of Enology and Viticulture 39:58-66. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21548/39-1-2053
  28. A. Martin, G.J. Platz, D. De Klerk, R.A. Fowler, F. Smit, G.F. Potgieter and R. Prins. 2018. Identification and mapping of net form of net blotch resistance in South African barley. Molecular breeding 38:53. DOI: 10.1007/s11032-018-0814-1
  29. T. Soko, C.M. Bender, R. Prins and Z.A. Pretorius. 2018. Yield loss associated with different levels of stem rust resistance in bread wheat. Plant Disease 102: 2531-2538. DOI: 10.1094/pdis-02-18-0307-RE
  30. R. Veikondis, P. Burger, A. Vermeulen, C.J. Van Heerden, R. Prins. 2018. Confirmation of the effectiveness and genetic positions of disease resistance loci in ‘Kishmish Vatkana’ (Ren1) and ‘Villard Blanc’ (Ren3 and Rpv3). South African Journal of Enology and Viticulture 39: 185-195. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.21548/39-2-2685
  31. W.H.P. Boshoff, R. Prins, C. De Klerk, S.G. Krattinger, C.M. Bender, G.J. Maree, L. Rothmann and Z.A. Pretorius. 2018. Point inoculation method for measuring adult plant response of wheat to stripe rust infection. Plant Disease 103:1228-1233. DOI:10.1094/PDIS-08-18-1312-RE
  32. G.J. Maree, R. Prins, C.M. Bender, W.H.P. Boshoff, T.G. Negussie and Z. A. Pretorius. 2019. Phenotyping Kariega x Avocet S doubled haploid lines containing individual and combined adult plant stripe rust resistance loci. Plant Pathology 68: 659-668. DOI: 10.1111/ppa.12985
  33. G.J. Maree, R. Prins, L.A. Boyd, H.D. Castelyn, C.M. Bender, W.H.P. Boshoff and Z.A. Pretorius. 2019. Assessing the individual and combined effects of QTL for adult plant stripe rust resistance derived from Cappelle-Desprez. Agronomy 9: 154. DOI:  10.3390/agronomy9030154
  34. E. Wessels, R. Prins, W.H.P. Boshoff, J.D. Zurn, M. Acevedo and Z.A. Pretorius. 2019. Mapping a resistance gene to Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici in the bread wheat cultivar Matlabas. Plant Disease 103:2337-2344. DOI: 10.1094/PDIS-10-18-1731-RE

International or National Conference Contributions (main/co-author)

  • 50 Oral presentations
  • 42 Poster presentations

Post graduate student supervision

Promoter

  • Mr VP Ramburan (PhD Agric, SU, 2000-2003). Genetic mapping of adult plant stripe rust resistance in the wheat cultivar ‘Kariega’. Organised a 3-month visit for him to the John Innes Centre (UK).
  • Ms GM Agenbag (PhD Agric, UFS, 2008-2012). Genetic characterisation and fine mapping of sources of durable resistance to stripe rust in selected wheat genotypes. Organised a 6-month visit for her to the John Innes Centre (UK).
  • Ms R Veikondis (Part-time MSc, SU, 2009-2014). Genetic characterisation of fungal disease resistance genes in grapevine using molecular marker technology.
  • Ms HJ Van Schalkwyk (PhD, UFS, 2013-2017). Genomic approaches towards understanding rust fungi and their interactions with wheat.Organised a 12-month visit for her to the John Innes Centre and Earlham Institute (previously TCAG, UK), which she then extended with 7 months with an additional fellowship. She was awarded one of the prestigious Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program fellowships/scholarships for her PhD programme in 2015. Ms Van Schalkwyk is the first South African since the inception of this programme to receive this award.
  • Mr CJ Van Heerden (Part-time PhD, SU, 2006-current). Mapping of the quantitative trait loci for downy mildew resistance in table grapes.

Co-promoter

  • Ms M Craven (MSc Agric, UFS, 2002). The improvement of leaf rust resistance in selected bread wheat lines.
  • Mr OA Philippou (MSc Agric, UFS, 2008). Targeting quantitative trait loci for adult plant stripe rust resistance in wheat.
  • Mr T Soko (PhD, UFS, 2014-2018). Stem rust resistance and yield performance of irrigated Zimbabwean spring wheat.
  • Ms G Maree (MSc, UFS, 2015-2018). Histopathology of rust infection in wheat and barley.