Programme Manager: Crop Protection
Tel: 031 508 7400 (Switchboard)
Tel: 031 508 7529 (Direct)


As a programme leader, I am responsible for coordinating and managing research within the Crop Protection Research Programme at SASRI. In this role I am involved in the development of the annual programme of work through encouraging focus, innovation and collaboration in research. As a scientist, my role is to initiate, conduct and supervise research leading to best management practices for sugarcane crop protection in South Africa. I am also currently a National Research Foundation (NRF)-rated scientist.


Plant Pathology, Entomology, Integrated Pest Management, Soil Science, Physiology & Biochemistry, Molecular Biology.

Research Interests

  • Genomics of pest and disease resistance.
  • Mechanisms of resistance to biotic and abiotic stress.
  • Rapid prediction of pest and disease resistance ratings in sugarcane e.g. using Near Infrared.
  • Primed epigenetic in-vitro mutation breeding for resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors.
  • Plant physiological and priming effects of modern crop protection chemistries.
  • Insect pest, host-plant and microbial interactions. Endophytic Beauveria  and Bacillus for pest control.
  • Application of Chemical Ecology in Integrated Pest Management Systems.

Key Outcomes

  • The development of NIR as a means of phenotyping pest and disease resistance in sugarcane.
  • Herbicide tolerant sugarcane produced by mutagenesis.
  • Fusarium resistant sugarcane produced by mutagenesis having improved resistance to Eldana saccharina.
  • The production of an IPM book on eldana control.

Key Publications

Rutherford, R.S., Smith, G.S. and van Staden, J. (1994) Development of a meridic diet for the sugarcane borer, Eldana saccharinaWalker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Principles, problems and possible in vivo plant resistance mechanisms. Afr. Entomol. 2: 163-174.

Rutherford, R.S. and van Staden J. (1996) Towards a rapid near infra-red technique for the prediction of resistance to the sugarcane borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) using stalk surface wax. J. Chem. Ecol. 22: 681-693.

Rutherford, R.S. (1998) Prediction of resistance in sugarcane to the stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker by near infrared spectroscopy on crude bud scale extracts. The involvement of chlorogenates and flavonoids. J. Chem. Ecol. 24: 1447-1463

Thokoane, L.N. and Rutherford, R.S. (2001) cDNA-AFLP differential display of sugarcane (Saccharum spp, hybrids) genes induced by challenge with the fungal pathogen Ustilago scitaminea (sugarcane smut). Proc S Afr Sug Technol Ass 75: 104-107.

Heinze, B.S., Thokoane, L.N., Williams, N.J., Barnes, J.M. and Rutherford, R.S. (2001) The smut-sugarcane interaction as a model system for the integration of marker discovery and gene isolation. Proc. S. Afr. Sug. Technol. Ass 75: 88-93.

Butterfield, M., Rutherford, R., Carson, D. and Huckett, B. (2004) Application of gene discovery to varietal improvement in sugarcane. SA J. Bot. 70: 167-172.

Rutherford R.S. (2007) Sugarcane Diseases, ecology, and control. In D. Pimentel (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Pest Management Vol 2.pp 643-646. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis. ISBN 13: 978-1-4200-5361-6

Keeping, M.G., Rutherford, R.S. and Conlong, D.E. (2007) Bt maize as a potential trap crop for management of Eldana saccharina Walker (Lep., Pyralidae) in sugarcane. J. Appl. Entomol. 131: 241-250.

Conlong, D.E. and Rutherford, R.S. (2009) Conventional and New Biological and Habitat Interventions for Integrated Pest Management Systems: Review and Case Studies using Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). In R. Peshin & A.K. Dhawan (Eds.), Integrated Pest Management Vol. 1: Innovation-Development Process, Springer, ISBN 978-1-4020-8991-6.

McFarlane, S.A., Govender, P. and Rutherford, R.S. (2009) Interactions between Fusarium species from sugarcane and the stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Ann. Appl. Biol. 155: 349-359

Ramgareeb , S., Snyman, S.J., van Antwerpen, T. and Rutherford, R.S. (2010) Elimination of virus and rapid propagation of disease-free sugarcane (Saccharum spp. cultivar NCo376) using apical meristem culture. Plant Cell, Tissue Organ Cult. 100: 175-181.

Way, M.J., Conlong, D.E. and Rutherford, R.S. (2012) Biosecurity against invasive alien insect pests: A case study of Chilo sacchariphagus (Lepidoptera: Crambidae) in the southern African region. Int. Sugar J. 114: 359-363.

Koch, A.C., Ramgareeb, S., Rutherford, R.S., Snyman, S.J. & Watt, M.P. (2012) An in vitro mutagenesis protocol for the production of sugarcane tolerant to the herbicide imazapyr. In Vitro Cellular Devel.Biol. – Plant 48: 417-427.

Goble, T.A., Costet, L., Robene, I., Nibouche, S., Rutherford, R.S., Conlong, D. and Hill, M. (2012) Beauveria brongniartii epizootics on white grubs attacking sugarcane in South Africa. J. Invert. Pathol. 111: 225-236.

Mahlanza, T., Rutherford, R.S., Snyman, S.J. and Watt, M.P. (2013) In vitro generation of somaclonal variant plants of sugarcane for tolerance to Fusarium sacchari. Plant Cell Rep. 32: 249-262.

Munsamy, A., Rutherford, R.S., Snyman, S.J. and Watt, M.P. (2013). 5-Azacytidine as a tool to induce somaclonal variants with useful traits in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.). Plant Biotech. Rep. 7: 489-502.

Rutherford, R.S. (2014) Mechanisms of Resistance to Pests and Pathogens in Sugarcane and Related Species. In F.C. Botha & P.H. Moore (Eds.), Sugarcane Physiology, Biochemistry, and Functional Biology. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-0-8138-2121-4.

Rutherford, R.S., Snyman, S.J. and Watt, M.P. (2014) In vitro studies on somaclonal variation and induced mutagenesis: Progress and prospects in sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) – a review. J.Hort. Sci. & Biotech. 89: 1-16.

Rhodes, R., Berry, S.D., Ramouthar, P.V. and Rutherford, R.S. (2014) Evaluation of Desmodium uncinatum, Fagopyrum esculentumand Brachiaria humidicola as potential green manure crops for nematode management in sugarcane. S Afr. J. Plant Soil. 31: 25–33.

Sabatier, D.R., Moon, C.M., Mhora, T.T., Rutherford, R.S. and Laing, M.D. (2014) Near-infrared reflectance (NIR) spectroscopy as a high-throughput screening tool for pest and disease resistance in a sugarcane breeding programme. Int. Sugar J. 116: 580-583.

Ghai, M., Singh, V., Martin, L.A., McFarlane, S.A., van Antwerpen, T. and Rutherford, R.S. (2014) A rapid and visual loop-mediated isothermal amplification assay to detect Leifsonia xyli subsp. xyli targeting a transposase gene. Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 59: 648-657.

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

Keeping, M.G., Rutherford, R.S., Sewpersad, C. and Miles, N. (2015) Provision of nitrogen as ammonium rather than nitrate increases silicon uptake in sugarcane. AoB PLANTS 7: plu080; doi:10.1093/aobpla/plu080

Way, M.J., Conlong, D.E., Martin, L.A., McFarlane, S.A., Stranack, R., Keeping, M.G. and Rutherford, R.S. (2015). First record of yellow sugarcane aphid, Sipha flava (Homoptera: Aphididae), in the South African sugarcane industry. International Sugar Journal, 117: 654-656.

Mahlanza, T., Rutherford, R.S., Snyman, S.J. and Watt, M.P. (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: online.

Keeping, M.G., Miles, N. and Rutherford, R.S. (2017). Liming an acid soil treated with diverse silicon sources: effects on silicon uptake by sugarcane (Saccharum spp. hybrids). Journal of Plant Nutrition. 40: 1417-1436.

Martin, L.A., Evans, D.L., Castlebury, L.A., Sifundza, J.T., Comstock, J.C., Rutherford, R.S. and McFarlane, S.A. (2017). Macruropyxis fulva sp. nov., an undescribed rust (Pucciniales) infecting sugarcane in southern Africa. Australasian Plant Pathology 46: 63-74 DOI 10.1007/s13313-016-0460-1

Martin, L.A., Rutherford, R.S. and McFarlane, S.A. (2017). Touchdown PCR assay for the rapid diagnosis of tawny rust caused by Macruropyxis fulva on sugarcane. Australasian Plant Pathology 46: 103-105 DOI 10.1007/s13313-016-0464-x

Rutherford, R.S., Maphalala, K.Z., Koch, A.C., Snyman, S.J. and Watt, M.P. (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.


  • Honorary Lecturer – University of KwaZulu-Natal (2012 – Present).
  • BSc Hons (Reading), MBA (Cardiff) PhD (Natal).