College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Department of Plant Pathology

April in the News

Faculty Invited to Contribute to the APS Education Center

The on-line reference source on fungi,  “Introduction to Fungi” by Dr. Lori Carris, associate professor in the department (co-authored by C.R. Little and WSU Plant Pathology alumna C.M. Stiles), The Plant Health Instructor. DOI:10.1094/PHI-I-2012-0426-01 is now available at the APS Education Center:  The Introduction is a comprehensive, illustrated treatment of the Fungi and fungal-like organisms and their roles as biotrophs, saprotrophs and pathogens.

Plant Pathology Graduate Students to receive ARCS Fellowships

Christian Aguilar (pictured left, PhD student with Drs. Mark Mazzola and Chang-Lin Xiao) and Katie McKeever (pictured right,PhD student with Dr. Gary Chastagner) have been selected to receive the highly prestigious and competitive Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Scholarship from the ARCS-Seattle Chapter ( Christian’s and Katie’s strong academic and research performance and their leadership skills were recognized and complimented by the ARCS Foundation.

Other Plant Pathology ARCS Fellows include Dr. Jane Stewart (PhD, WSU, with Dr. Tobin Peever), and Mr. Aaron Agostini (PhD student with Dr. Dennis Johnson).

Plant Pathology is one of only four departments in WSU to have earned this recognition by the ARCS Foundation.

From the ARCS web site:  The ARCS Foundation-Seattle Chapter (, a group of 121 dedicated women, has given over $11.5 million in fellowships to the University of Washington and Washington State University since 1978.  Their goal is to provide our state’s two premier research institutions with a competitive edge in recruiting the nation’s finest doctoral students in the fields of science, engineering and medical research. Fellowships are a grant of $17,500 over three years that the Seattle Chapter funds for graduate students at UW and WSU.  The UW and WSU use these grants to attract graduate students with outstanding scholastic records who receive multiple offers to study at the best universities in the country. 

Congratulations to Christian and Katie!

Faculty Webinar

Dr. Tim Murray, professor of plant pathology, presented a webinar as part of the Great Plains Diagnostic Network spring webinar series on Wednesday April 11, 2012 entitled “Role of alternate hosts in development and control of rust diseases of field crops.”  Webinars are posted at


Wheat Researchers Travel to Mexico

Drs. Scot Hulbert and Tim Murray, professors in the department, were part of a delegation including other members of the wheat research team, and members of the Washington Grain Commission (WGC) invited to attend the Global Wheat Week at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) research station in Ciudad Obregon, Mexico on March 26-28.   Activities included visiting the local irrigation district, area farms, a flour mill, cookie bakery and brewery, attending field day at the research station, presentations by CIMMYT researchers located at other research stations around the world, meeting with individual CIMMYT scientists and a carne asada barbecue.

Pictured at the research center (l to r):  Chad Weigand, US Wheat Associates, Mexico City; Mary Palmer Sullivan, WGC; Tim Murray, WSU; Jianli Chen, University of Idaho; Jim White, WGC; Kim Garland-Campbell, USDA-ARS; Dana Heron, WGC; Randy Seuss, WGC; Arron Carter, WSU; and Scot Hulbert, WSU. Not pictured: Mike Pumphrey and Gary Shelton, WSU.

Diagnostic Clinic

Karen Ward, Plant Diagnostician for the WSU Pullman Plant Pest Diagnostic Clinic (PPDC), was featured in the April 2012 issue of Wheat Life. The article highlights the services the PPDC can provide to wheat growers and stakeholders, including potentially significant economic savings, and encourages wheat growers to utilize the PPDC. Karen can be contacted at the PPDC at (509) 335-3292 or For more details, visit the PPDC website

2012 Sam Smith Lecture

Debrorah Atwood, Executive Director of Meridian Institute – AGree, Washington, DC, presented a seminar entitled “Global Challenges in the 21st Century: Transforming Food and Ag Policy” as part of the President Samuel Smith Lecture Series in the department on April 12, 2012. The Samuel Smith Lecture has been established in the department to recognize Dr. Smith, Professor Emeritus in the department. Dr. Smith served as WSU’s president from 1985-2000. He earned two plant pathology degrees from the University of California Berkley, a bachelor’s in 1961 and a Ph. D. in 1964, and was Dean of College of Agriculture at Penn State before moving to WSU as President. 

AGree seeks to improve agricultural productivity and environmental performance, enhance availability of and access to nutritious food, and promote opportunities for rural communities to succeed economically.

Deb Atwood has more than 30 years of experience in policy and legislative matters regarding food, agriculture, the environment, research, and risk management, including extensive experience working with executives in the private sector, federal government, and nonprofit organizations.

Prior to joining Meridian, Atwood was an Associate for Corporate Affairs and Public Policy at Mars, Incorporated. In this role, she worked closely with lawmakers in Congress and senior officials in the White House, and federal agencies. Previously, she was a Senior Policy Advisor with Crowell & Moring, on behalf of clients in the agricultural, food, environmental, mining, and chemical industries. She served from 2001 to 2003 as a Special Assistant to U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jim Moseley. From 1995 until 1999 she was Assistant Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for the National Pork Producers Council. Atwood served from 1989 to 1992 as Deputy Associate Administrator for Congressional and Legislative Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She served as head of the Congressional Affairs Office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prior to taking the EPA position. She serves on the board of ACDI-VOCA, an agriculture development nonprofit organization with many years of experience working in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Atwood’s visit included a lunch meeting with graduate students in the department.

The visit was co-sponsored by WSU Office of Research. Big thanks to Dr. Howard Grimes, Vice President for Research and Dean, Graduate School for his support.

Faculty’s Feature Article on Tospoviruses Highlighted in APS Newscapsule

A review article, co-authored by Dr. Hanu Pappu and published in Plant Disease, was featured in the April issue of APS News Capsule.
Excerpt from the News Capsule:

“Plant Disease Feature Article: Emerging Problems of Tospoviruses. In this month’s feature article, B. Mandal and colleagues discuss emerging diseases caused by tospoviruses and their distribution in the Indian subcontinent. The authors discuss virus relationships, vectors, and epidemiology of the five tospoviruses known to occur there. Of the five, Groundnut bud necrosis virus and Watermelon bud necrosis virus are becoming increasingly important in vegetables. Interestingly, Tomato spot wilted virus and Impatiens necrotic spot virus, two widely established tospoviruses on vegetables throughout much of the world, are not known to occur in India.”

Student-Invited Distinguished Lecture Series: Dr. Eric Davis from NC State Visited the Department on April 2, 2012.

The Plant Pathology Graduate Student Organization successfully hosted Dr. Eric Davis, Professor in the North Carolina State University’s Department of Plant Pathology as part of their annual Student-Invited Distinguished Lecture Series. Davis’s seminar, “Molecular Plant-Nematode Interactions”, delivered on April 2nd covered is ongoing research on the molecular mechanisms of host plant parasitism by nematodes.

Katie McKeever, PhD student and President of the Plant Pathology Graduate Student Organization which is overseeing the event, said “Dr. Davis is an accomplished nematologist with a strong plant pathology and biotechnology background. As an instructor of courses such as Phytonematology, he integrates classical techniques with modern molecular approaches. We eagerly anticipate Dr. Davis’s visit and are honored by his acceptance of our invitation.”

This annual event is organized by our graduate student association and from choosing the speaker to arranging his/her itinerary was entirely taken care by graduate students’ said Dr. Hanu Pappu, chair of the Department of Plant Pathology.  ‘This gives our students an opportunity to develop the important skill set of organizing, hosting and engaging a scientist well-known in their field of research and to develop professional contacts and networking’ said Pappu.

Davis’s research has emphasized the physical and molecular interactions between parasitic nematodes and their plant hosts. Recent publications have focused on characterization and localization of nematode parasitism proteins, the expression levels of host and parasite genes during pathogenesis, and host molecular defense responses and cellular changes in host roots. Davis’s lab works extensively with systems involving the soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines), the tobacco cyst nematode (Globodera tabacum), and the root-knot nematodes in the genus Meloidogyne. The research performed by Davis’s lab aims to improve management methods for control of plant parasitic nematodes and further the development of host plant resistance.

In addition to his seminar, Davis met with graduate students and faculty throughout the day and joined the department personnel for a potluck dinner and social hour in the evening.

Congratulations to Mr. Segun Akinbade for successfully defending his MS thesis on April 2nd.  Segun’s supervisory committee included Drs. Ken Eastwell (chair), Lindsey du Toit, Dennis Johnson, and Richard Larsen.

Apple green crinkle disease (AGCD) is widespread in apple orchards worldwide, causing symptoms such as deformation and cracking of fruit. However, these clearly visible symptoms of the disease are only apparent in years with cooler spring temperatures (< 9.2oC). The mode of spread of AGCD suggests that a viral pathogen might be involved in the etiology. In previous studies, Apple stem pitting virus (ASPV), Apple stem grooving virus (ASGV) and Apple chlorotic leaf spot virus (ACLSV) were detected in diseased trees.

(pictured left to right: R. Larsen, K. Eastwell, S. Akinbade, L. du Toit, D. Johnson)

Segun’s research evaluated the genetic diversity of viruses associated with this disease. Shoots from AGCD-symptomatic and asymptomatic trees were obtained during the summer of 2010 and 2011 from North Carolina (NC) and Washington State (WA), and all samples were indexed for the presence of Apple mosaic virus (ApMV), ACLSV, ASGV, ASPV, viroids (in the genus Apscaviroid) and phytoplasmas. Results from these analyses demonstrated that ACLSV, ApMV, viroids (entire genus Apscavirod) and phytoplasmas were not associated with AGCD. Genetic diversity analysis of the coat protein (CP) and replicase genes and triple gene block (TGBs) sequences of ASPV and ASGV were studied. Genetic diversity analysis of virus populations revealed that whereas ASGV populations were genetically conserved in both AGCD-symptomatic and asymptomatic trees, populations of ASPV were highly variable. Phylogenic analysis of CP sequences of ASPV revealed six major groups of sequence variants with two of six phylogroups comprised only of sequences from AGCD-symptomatic trees. These results point to the possible involvement of one or more of the ASPV variants, with or without ASGV, in the etiology of AGCD, and will direct future efforts to identify and characterize putative causal agent(s) of AGCD in symptomatic apple fruits.

Segun is a native of Nigeria and grew up in Ibadan, Nigeria. His love for science while in high school prompted him to register for a National Diploma in Science Laboratory Technology at the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Nigeria. While studying at Ede, he visited the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria on an excursion tour and was amazed with the level of research in this institute. After his program, he joined IITA in 1995. While at IITA, he obtained Final Diploma (equivalent of baccalaureate degree) in Microbiology/Virology option from University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria and a Postgraduate Diploma in Crop Protection from University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria.

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