Programme Manager: Variety Improvement
Tel: 031 508 7400 (Switchboard)
Tel: 031 508 7460 (Direct)
Email: sandy.snyman@sugar.org.za


  • To co-ordinate and facilitate research within the Variety Improvement Programme towards the attainment of established strategic objectives.
  • To serve as a mentor to post-graduate students based at SASRI and on the Westville Campus of UKZN.
  • To initiate, manage and drive tissue culture, micropropagation and transformation research projects that will contribute to the production of improved sugarcane varieties.
  • To liaise with Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Directorate: Plant Genetic Resources on GM related issues.


  • In vitro culture of sugarcane via embryogenesis and organogenesis, using semi-solid media and RITA® temporary immersion bioreactors.
  • Molecular characterisation of transgenic plants and agronomic assessment of transgenic sugarcane in the field.
  • Regulatory framework for GM crops within SA.
  • Conducting risk assessments of GM crops for field release.

Research Interests

  • Deployment of NovaCane® plants to the South African sugarcane industry.
  • Improving water and nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane via transgenesis.
  • Germplasm conservation via slow growth and cryopreservation.
  • The use of chemical mutagenesis to improve selected characteristics of South African sugarcane germplasm.

Key Outcomes

  • Proof of Concept of transgenic sugarcane expressing herbicide tolerance.
  • Applied use of tissue culture for rapid bulking of sugarcane cultivars. The process has been registered as a trademark, NovaCane®.

Key Publications

Mahlanza T, Rutherford RS, Snyman SJ and Watt MP (2015). Potential of Fusarium sacchari-tolerant mutants in controlling Eldana saccharina and borer-associated Fusarium stem rot in sugarcane. European Journal of Plant Pathology (accepted) DOI 10.1007/s10658-014-0582-7.

Mahlanza T, Rutherford RS, Snyman SJ and Watt MP (2014). Eldana saccharina (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) resistance in sugarcane (Saccharum sp.): Effects of Fusarium spp., stalk rind, fibre and nitrogen content. African Entomology 22(3): 810-822.

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

Rutherford RS, Snyman SJ and Watt MP (2014). In vitro studies on somaclonal variation and induced mutagenesis: progress and prospects in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) – a review. The Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology 89:1-16.

Munsamy A, Rutherford RS, Snyman SJ and Watt MP (2013). 5-Azacydiine as a tool to induce somaclonal variants with useful traits in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.). Plant Biotechnology Reports 7:489-502.

Mahlanza T, Snyman SJ, Rutherford RS and Watt MP (2013). In vitro generation of somaclonal variant plants of sugarcane for tolerance to Fusarium sacchari. Plant Cell Reports 32:249-262.

Meyer GM and Snyman SJ (2013). Progress in research on genetically modified sugarcane in South Africa and associated regulatory requirements. Acta Horticulturae 974:43-50.

Snyman SJ, van Antwerpen, Ramgareeb S and McFarlane SA (2012). Sugarcane pathogens: detection and elimination through in vitro culture. Functional Plant Science and Biotechnology 6: 12-18.

Koch AC, Ramagreeb S, Rutherford RS, Snyman SJ and Watt MP (2012). An in vitro mutagenesis protocol for the production of sugarcane tolerant to the herbicide imazapyr. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology-Plant 48:417-427.

Snyman SJ, Meyer GM, Koch AC, Banasiak M and Watt MP (2011) Applications of in vitro culture systems for commercial sugarcane production and improvement. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology – Plant 47:234-249. DOI 10.1007/s11627-011-9354-7I.

Snyman SJ, Nkwanyana PD and Watt MP (2011) Alleviation of hyperhydricity of sugarcane plantlets produced in RITA vessels and genotype and phenotypic characterisation of acclimated plants. South African Journal of Botany 77:685-692.

Ramgareeb S, Snyman SJ, van Antwerpen T and Rutherford RS (2010) Elimination of virus and rapid propagation of disease-free sugarcane (Saccharum spp. cultivar NCo376) using apical meristem culture. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 96:263-271. DOI 10.1007/s11240-009-9634-7.

Watt MP, Banasiak M, Reddy D, Albertse E and Snyman SJ (2009) In vitro minimal growth storage of Saccharum spp. hybrid (genotype 88H0019) at two stage of direct somatic embryogenic regeneration. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 96:263-271. DOI 10.1007/s11240-008-9483-9.

Brumbley SM, Snyman SJ, Gnanasambandam A, Joyce P, Hermann SR, da Silva JAG, McQualter RB, Wang M-L, Egan B, Patterson AH, Albert HH and Moore PH (2008) Sugarcane. In: A Compendium of Transgenic Crop Plants. Volume 7: Sugar, Tuber and Fiber Crops. Eds: C Kole and TC Hall. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK, pp 1-58. ISBN: 978-1-405-16710-9.

Snyman SJ, Meyer GM, Richards JM, Haricharan N, Ramgareeb S and Huckett BI (2006) Refining the application of direct embryogenesis in sugarcane: effect of the developmental phase of leaf disc explants and the timing of DNA transfer on transformation efficiency. Plant Cell Reports 25:1016-1023.

Snyman SJ (2004) Transformation of sugarcane. In: Transgenic Crops of the World – Essential protocols. Ed: IS Curtis. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp 103-114.

Leibbrandt NB and Snyman SJ (2003) Stability of gene expression and agronomic performance of a transgenic herbicide-resistant sugarcane line in South Africa. Crop Science 43:671-677.


BSc Hons (Witwatersrand), MSc (Natal), PhD (Stellenbosch).