College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Department of Plant Pathology

January in the News

Dr. Lee Hadwiger’s Research Featured in WSU Today and On Solid Ground

Dr. Lee Hadwiger, professor of the Department of Plant Pathology, Washington State University (WSU) at Pullman, was recently featured in WSU TodayThe Daily Evergreen, and On Solid Ground:
For 47 years, Hadwiger has focused his research on plant-pathogen interactions, especially molecular mechanisms of non-host resistance (NHR).  In a paper published in the January issue of Phytopathology, Hadwiger and his colleague, James Polashock, USDA-ARS plant pathologist, offer new insight into the mechanism triggering NHR in plants.  They show that fungal DNase enzymes trigger NHR in a variety of plant species. They further theorize that these fungal DNase genes appear to provide an unlimited source of components for developing transgenic resistance in all transformable plants. DNases from fungal mitochondria have a small peptide molecule that enables them to move through plant cell membranes and thus induce expression of NHR in the plant. Hadwiger and Polashock demonstrated that when a plant encounters a fungal DNase, which has been purified in the lab, the NHR response is triggered.  Hadwiger and Polashock used yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) to trigger the NHR response in pea. Hadwiger and students in his laboratory had previously induced this defense response by transferring a fungal DNase gene to tobacco. The tobacco plants then expressed the NHR response to a tobacco pathogen.  He and his associates have cloned numerous plant defense genes and studied the regulation of these genes. They have successfully developed treatments to induce immunity in plants and engineered plants to suppress invasion by plant pathogens.

New Plant Pathology Web Site Launched

Dr. R. James Cook, professor emeritus, Department of Plant Pathology, and former interim dean, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, and retired research plant pathologist with USDA-ARS has recently set up a Plant Health International Website,  The website focuses on root health and root health management.  The website is presently organized around six broad topics that reflect the particular interest and experience of Cook whose career was devoted primarily to research on root diseases in cereal-intensive, no-till (direct-seed) cropping systems in the U.S. Pacific Northwest: 1) Plant Health Management, 2) Root Diseases, 3) Biological Control, 4) Biotechnology, 5) No-Till Farming, and 6) Communicating Science.  The mission of Plant Health International is to inform farmers, scientists, policy makers and society of the foundational role of plant health management, with a particular focus on root health and root health management in achieving global food security; and to provide farmers with the information needed to attain profitable and sustainable crop production.

Killer Volcanoes, Deadly Astroids and Fearsome Fungi—When Will the Next Catastrophic Event Occur?

Bacteria and viruses may be the stuff of horror films, but in the January 10, 2013, issue of Nature, author Nicola Jones ( describes how fungi are among the planet’s most terrifying killers.  Fungi have caused more than 70% of the recorded extinctions and are currently posing threats to amphibians, bats and bees.  Fungal pathogens also have the potential to devastate plants, and if our five major staple crops—rice, corn, potatoes, soybeans and wheat– were hit by outbreaks of fungal pathogens at the same time, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population could starve.  The deliberate introduction of a devastating fungal pathogen by bioterrorists into some parts of the world could cause a “chain reaction of economic and political effects” that could destabilize the world.  Unlikely, perhaps, but terrifying to contemplate.

Dr. Gary Chastagner, Professor in the Department, Featured in LA Times, Wall Street Journal, and on CBC Radio, NPR, and Radio New Zealand

Los Angeles Times

The Wall Street Journal

  • December 21, 2012 – Everybody Pines for That Christmas Tree Smell, but It Can Be a Tall Order

Radio Talk Shows

This Way Up – Slices of life for curious minds
December 15, 2012
Host – Richard Scott


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