Malcolm Keeping

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Malcolm Keeping

Senior Entomologist
(Crop Biology Resource Centre)

Honorary Researcher (University of the Witwatersrand)

BSc Hons, PhD (Witwatersrand)
E-mail: malcolm.keeping AT
Tel: +27-(0)31-508-7483 

                     View profile on ResearchGate
Role To initiate and carry out research into novel, inter-disciplinary approaches for the integrated management of the sugar industry's key insect pests, with emphasis on host plant resistance and chemical ecology.

To mentor post-graduate students or post-doctoral fellows pursuing IPM studies of sugarcane pests in South Africa, and to forge collaborative links with other researchers and institutions, local and international, within this field.

To manage the routine potted-cane screening programme for susceptibility of unreleased sugarcane germplasm to stalk borer (Eldana saccharina) and to provide expertise for assessment of other novel sources of resistance to key sugarcane pests.
Expertise Quantitative study of insect behaviour and communication.

Integrated pest management of sugarcane pests.

Mechanisms of host plant resistance and methodology of assessing plant resistance to insects.

The role of silicon in plant defence against insects.

Insect chemical ecology.

Behavioural ecology of social insects.
Research Interests Integrated pest management (IPM, especially via host plant resistance (conventional, induced and engineered).

Insect behaviour and communication, including chemical communication.

Silicon-mediated resistance of plants to insect herbivores, and the interaction between crop nutrition, plant stress, soil health and insect performance.

Chemical ecology of insect-plant interactions and the use of chemical-ecological approaches in IPM.
Key Outcomes Identification, via sugarcane screening programme, of six sugarcane genotypes resistant to Eldana saccharina borer that have subsequently been released to the South African sugar industry.

Numerous enhancements introduced to the germplasm screening methodology for borer resistance (technical and statistical).

Demonstrated importance of silicon as a plant nutrient that enhances resistance of sugarcane to stalk borer in silicon-deficient soils, especially under conditions of water stress and in cultivars that are susceptible to the borer.

Elucidated mechanisms of silicon-mediated resistance to stalk borer and their likely positive interaction with other IPM tactics.

Demonstrated that silicon can reduce impact of higher nitrogen applications in promoting borer infestations.

Demonstration of potential of ammoniacal fertilizers to improve silicon uptake of sugarcane from applied calcium silicate.

Identification of most effective sources of silicon for use in sugarcane grown in acid soils out of a total of 17 sources tested.

Identification of Bt-maize as a potential dead-end trap crop (pull plant) for Eldana saccharina in sugarcane.

Demonstrated that young cane is especially susceptible to sugarcane thrips Fulmekiola serrata and that adjustments to planting and/or ratooning dates (temporal resistance) can assist in avoiding damaging infestations in young cane.

Demonstration that increased plant nitrogen levels can increase sugarcane thrips infestations.

Identification of commercial cultivars that are susceptible and relatively resistant to sugarcane thrips and to yellow sugarcane aphid (Sipha flava).
Key Publications

Keeping, M.G. & Meyer, J.H. 2002. Calcium silicate enhances resistance of sugarcane to the African stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Agricultural and Forest Entomology 4: 265-274.

Keeping, M.G. 2006. Screening of South African sugarcane cultivars for resistance to the stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). African Entomology 14: 277-288.

Keeping, M.G. & Meyer, J.H. 2006. Silicon-mediated resistance of sugarcane to Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae): effects of silicon source and cultivar. Journal of Applied Entomology 130: 410-420.

Keeping, M.G., Rutherford, R.S. & Conlong, D.E. 2007. Bt-maize as a potential trap crop for management of Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in sugarcane. Journal of Applied Entomology 131: 241-250.

Kvedaras, O.L., Keeping, M.G., Goebel, F-R. & Byrne, M.J. 2007. Water stress augments silicon-mediated resistance of susceptible sugarcane cultivars to the stalk borer, Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 97: 175-183.

Kvedaras, O.L., Keeping, M.G., Goebel, F-R. & Byrne, M.J. 2007. Larval performance of the pyralid borer Eldana saccharina Walker and stalk damage in sugarcane: influence of plant silicon, cultivar and feeding site. International Journal of Pest Management 53: 183-194.

Kvedaras, O.L. & Keeping, M.G. 2007. Silicon impedes stalk penetration by the borer Eldana saccharina in sugarcane. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 125: 103-110.

Butterfield, M.K., Keeping, M.G. & Sewpersad, C. 2007. Estimating genetic parameters and the efficacy of molecular breeding for resistance to the stalk borer Eldana saccharina. Proceedings of the International Society of Sugarcane Technologists 26: 691-696.

Keeping, M.G. & Kvedaras, O.L. 2008. Silicon as a plant defence against insect herbivory: response to Massey, Ennos and Hartley. Journal of Animal Ecology 77: 631-633.

Keeping, M.G., Kvedaras, O.L. & Bruton, A.G. 2009. Epidermal silicon in sugarcane: cultivar differences and role in resistance to sugarcane borer Eldana saccharina. Environmental and Experimental Botany 66: 54-60.

Kvedaras, O.L., Byrne, M.J., Coombes N.E. & Keeping, M.G. 2009. Influence of plant silicon and sugarcane cultivar on mandibular wear in the stalk borer Eldana saccharina. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 11: 301-306.

Reynolds, O.L., Keeping, M.G. & Meyer, J.H. 2009. Silicon-augmented resistance of plants to insect herbivores: a review. Annals of Applied Biology 155: 171-186.

Keeping, M.G. & Reynolds, O.L. 2009. Silicon in agriculture: new insights, new significance and growing application. Annals of Applied Biology 155: 153-154.

Joshi, S.V., Zhou, M. & Keeping, M.G. 2012. Comparison of natural versus artificial inoculation methods for Eldana resistance screening in sugarcane. Proceedings of the South African Sugar Technologists’ Association 85: 246-255.

Keeping, M.G., Meyer, J.H. & Sewpersad, C. 2013. Soil silicon amendments increase resistance of sugarcane to stalk borer Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) under field conditions. Plant and Soil 363:297–318.

Rhodes, R., Miles, N. & Keeping, M.G. 2013. Crop nutrition and soil textural effects on eldana damage in sugarcane. Proceedings of the South African Sugar Technologists’ Association 86: 121-136.

Keeping M.G., Miles, N. & Sewpersad, C. 2014. Silicon reduces impact of plant nitrogen in promoting stalk borer (Eldana saccharina) but not sugarcane thrips (Fulmekiola serrata) infestations in sugarcane. Frontiers in Plant Science 5: 289, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00289.

Keeping, M.G., Rutherford, R.S., Sewpersad, C. & Miles, N. 2014. Provision of nitrogen as ammonium rather than nitrate increases silicon uptake in sugarcane. AoB PLANTS 6, DOI: 10.1093/aobpla/plu080.

Keeping, M.G., Miles, N. & 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 doi:

Keeping, M.G. (2017). Uptake of silicon by sugarcane from applied sources may not deflect plant-available soil silicon and total silicon content of sources. Frontiers in Plant Science 8: 760, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00760