College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Department of Plant Pathology

July in the News

Western Governors University Awards Honorary Degree to WSU President Emeritus and Professor of Plant Pathology, Dr. Sam Smith

Dr. Samuel H. Smith, President Emeritus of Washington State University and a founding member of the board of Western Governors University was awarded an honorary doctoral degree at WGU’s summer commencement on July 11 in Salt lake City, Utah. The keynote speaker for the online university’s 17th semi-annual graduation ceremony, Dr. Smith addressed more than 1,300 graduates, family, and friends who attended in person or participated online via streaming video. See the full story in WSU Today.

News about Dr. Smith’s honorary degree was displayed in Times Square.

Congratulations to Dr. Smith!

On Solid Ground and WSU Today Feature

Research on the nutritional value of baby potatoes conducted by Dr. Roy Navarre was featured in the July 22 edition of On Solid Ground and the July 24 edition of WSU Today.

Faculty Featured in AWIS Newsletter

Dr. Lindsey du Toit and Dr. Debbie Inglis, Associate Professors of Plant Pathology and located at the NW Washington Research and Extension Center in Mt. Vernon were featured in the Spring 2009 Newsletter of the Seattle chapter of the American Women in Science (AWIS) (the article begins on the page 26).

Jessica Gigot, who received her MS with Dr. Inglis and is now working for her PhD in the WSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, wrote the article.

Plant Pathology Faculty Recognized at the Mt. Vernon Field Day

Dr. Lindsey du Toit (shown with Dr. Steve Jones, Director of NWREC) was presented with the 2009 Kenneth Morrison Extension Award at the Annual WSU-Northwestern Washington R&E Center Field Day near Mt. Vernon on July 9, 2009.  This award, established in 1987, recognizes annually those individuals who have made significant contributions to agriculture in the State of Washington, especially in agronomic crop production and/or soil management. Congratulations Dr. du Toit!

Student Research Showcased at the Annual Mount Vernon Field Day, July 9, 2009

All three plant pathology graduate students located at the WSU-Northwestern Washington R&E Center (NWREC) were featured speakers at the 2009 annual field day near Mount Vernon.This annual event showcases to growers and industry respresentatives the ongoing research by scientists at the NWREC, including the latest information from the two plant pathology programs at the NWREC on disease management topics . The tour started at 4 pm and stopped at various research plots where our students explained their ongoing research.

Avi Alcala (Dr. Lindsey du Toit)  is studying  how to manage seedling blight in organic vegetable crops, under the diversity of production environments (semi-arid vs. mild maritime) and cropping systems of Washington State. Avi has been interviewing growers in these diverse environments to gather information on how production practices, cropping systems, and environmental conditions affect the primary seedling blight pathogens of vegetable crops grown using certified organic standards.
Emily Gatch (Dr. Lindsey du Toit) is investigating the management of Fusarium wilt in spinach seed crops in western Washington and Oregon, where up to 50% of the US supply and up to 25% of the world supply of spinach seed is produced. The severity of this disease and long-term survival of the pathogen in acid soils typical of western Washington necessitate rotation intervals of 8 to 15 years between spinach seed crops. Emily is assessing how to optimize the use of limestone amendments to reduce the conduvicenss of soils to Fusarium wilt, mechanisms of suppression of Fusarium wilt, and development of a soil bioassay to help growers select appropriate fields to plant spinach seed crops that minimizes the risk of losses to Fusarium wilt.
Jennifer Niem (Dr. Debbie Inglis) has field experiments on both NWREC farm and commercial fields.  She is looking at the effects of flooding on the survival of soilborne potato pathogens, common to the Skagit Valley of western Washington.  Her project is funded by The Nature Conservancy as part of Washington’s Farming for Wildlife project which is testing the concept that various types of farm management practices can address ecological as well as agronomic goals–in this case, the creation of shorebird habitat through temporary wetlands on working potato farms.
Katie Reed (first from right), an undergraduate at WSU and a summer intern with Dr. Lindsey du Toit explained how she received a ‘Translational Internship’ from WSU Academic Programs via Dr. Kim Kidwell, Associate Dean, CAHNRS Academic Programs, to provide her with experience in research labs during her undergraduate program at WSU. During her senior year at Burlington High School in western Washington, Katie did a one-day ‘Job Shadow’ in Dr. Lindsey du Toit’s Vegetable Seed Pathology program at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, where she was introduced to the field of plant pathology. Katie then followed her interest in plants to WSU, where she is pursuing a BS in Crop Science. Katie plans to follow this with an MS in plant pathology. During her freshman year at WSU, Katie worked alongside Dr. Pat Okubara, USDA ARS and adjunct professor in the department, extracting DNA from soil samples, and Dr. Lori Carris, Associate Professor and mycologist in the department, identifying fungi isolated from spinach plants. Katie’s internship also has enabled her to work in Dr. Lindsey du Toit’s lab in the summer of 2009, where she is evaluating the pathogenicity of isolates of Fusarium oxysporum on spinach plants with different levels of resistance to Fusarium wilt.

Welcome New Faculty

Dr. Axel Elling joined  our department on July 1, 2009 as assistant professor (molecular nematology). He obtained his Ph.D. (Genetics) from Iowa State University. Prior to joining WSU, he was a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University.

Located on Pullman campus, Dr. Elling’s research interests include molecular interactions between nematodes and their host plants and the processes that lead to successful parasitism and he is currently interested in the molecular aspects of two different pathosystems: (1) Columbia root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne chitwoodi) infection of potato and (2) Root-lesion nematode (Pratylenchus spp.) infection of wheat.

Welcome, Dr. Elling!

Student Receives Award at Ascochyta 2009

Congratulations to Ph.D. student Jane Stewart who won the Bob Henson Student Poster Competition at the recent Ascochyta 2009 Workshop held June 28 to July 2, 2009 in Pullman, WA! Jane’s presentation was entitled “Cloning and characterization of anonymous regions of Ascochyta lentis and A. fabae genomes and suitability of these regions for phylogenetic analysis of Ascochyta species”. The abstract was co-authored by fellow Plant Pathology graduate students Renuka Attanayake and Evans Njambere, Crops and Soils graduate student Tom Drader, and faculty member Tobin Peever. The abstract described research that was initiated as a laboratory project by the co-authors when they took Peever’s graduate-level fungal genetics class in 2007. The award was presented by Ascochyta 2009 organizing committee member Kevin McPhee, North Dakota State University representing Northern Pulse Growers Association which sponsored the Bob Henson Awards program.

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