Biosecurity Scientist at South African Sugar Association

  • Permanent Intermediate position

  • Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

  • Market Related salary

  • Job 2221938 | Ref 1374

  • Posted 04 Jun 2018 by South African Sugar Association

About the Position

The South African sugar industry recognises that the maintenance of biosecurity is central to industry sustainability and to this end, conducts extensive research into the development of integrated management practices for several sugarcane pests and diseases. This need is particularly acute in the SA industry due to the contiguous eastern border of the sugarcane growing regions with other countries and associated biosecurity challenges.

A number of new pests and diseases have emerged recently: sugarcane thrips; maize streak virus and a new species of Saccharum streak virus in 2007; a new species of rust, (tawny rust) in 2009; yellow sugarcane aphid in 2013; and an indigenous longhorn beetle, in 2015. Two further potential biosecurity threats are of major concern to the Industry: Chilo sacchariphagus (spotted stem borer), which is present in neighbouring regions, and orange rust that has been reported internationally. In addition, a number of indigenous and exotic crop spoilers known to attack sugarcane in other African countries occur in the South African sugarcane agro-ecosystem, but are not presently considered as sugarcane pests.

The SA Sugarcane Research Institute, which is a Division of the SA Sugar Association, is ideally suited to a Biosecurity Scientist who aspires to making a positive contribution to this prominent sector of SA agriculture, while establishing a science career based on research excellence.

Within this context, the industry is seeking an entomologist or plant pathologist who has experience and expertise in quantitative ecology and population level data analysis to:

  • join a team of entomologists and plant pathologists conducting research and development of integrated management approaches for multiple sugarcane insect pests and diseases;

  • lend particular expertise in the gathering, analysis and modelling of extensive industry pest and disease prevalence data and critically review, optimise and update the methods used in collection and analysis of such data, in order that the industry can derive maximum value from them in the form of an improved understanding of the population dynamics of the pest organisms and the conditions that favour their distribution and abundance within the sugar industry; and

  • conduct field work where necessary, communicate with and provide support and training to the SASRI Biosecurity Inspectorate and to growers through the SASRI Extension Service, in order to develop and maintain industry-wide consistency in and optimisation of biosecurity-related data collection and database management.

In addition, the publication of research findings in reputable journals, supervision of post-graduate students and establishment of local and international research collaborations are actively supported.

The ideal candidate should have:

  • a PhD or MSc in entomology or plant pathology, with a focus on quantitative population ecology and/or biosecurity;

  • a publication record indicative of an individual at the early- or mid-stage of their science career;

  • willingness to work within a commodity crop industry environment;

  • proven experience and expertise in handling large data sets and in statistical analysis of same, as well as experience in or skills necessary to engage in population modelling;

  • experience in field-level data collection and willingness to work in the field and supervise or train technicians and biosecurity field workers; and

  • good insect and/or plant pathogen identification skills, with experience in the management of insect collections being particularly advantageous.

The SA Sugar Industry is committed to the sustainability of small-scale and land reform grower communities and a passion for working with these grower sectors will be viewed as a further advantage.

Closing date for applications is Monday, 18 June 2018. SASRI reserves the right to consider applications received after this date but will not be obliged to do so.

The ideal candidate will have the following competencies:


  • enjoy in-field and lab based work
  • able to communicate technical information with a non-technical audience
  • experience of both entomological and plant pathologen identification
  • experience of managing an extensive data base
  • knowledge and experience of project and budget management principles
  • creating a strong link between field collection and research outcomes
  • conducting research into data collection methodologies and uses thereof
  • have experience of co-ordinating extensive data collection, analysis and interpretation

About The Employer

The South African Sugar Association (SASA) provides a diverse range of highly specialised services to the South African sugar industry and our activities are funded in the main by the sugarcane growers and sugar milling companies. Our mission is to provide specialist services that enhance the profitability, global competitiveness and sustainability of the South African sugar industry.

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