College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Department of Plant Pathology

June in the News

Dr. Dennis Johnson –Recipient of the 2012 Kenneth J. Morrison Extension Award in Crop and Soil Sciences

Congratulations to Dr. Dennis Johnson, professor in the department, recipient of the 2012 Kenneth J. Morrison Extension Award in Crop and Soil Sciences. The award was established in 1987 for the purpose of recognizing annually an Extension faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to Washington state’s agriculture, especially in agronomic crop production improvement and/or soil management.

Dr. Johnson has made key contributions to understanding the epidemiology and management of late blight, black dot, white mold, and silver scurf of potato and of Verticillium wilt.  Important scientific contributions have been made in the areas of disease forecasting, quantitative characterization of spatial patterns of disease plants, characterization of partial resistance, and in the etiology of Phytophthora infestans of latently-infected potato seed tubers. He has also contributed to understanding and managing plant diseases of other irrigated crops including downy mildew on hop, Verticillium wilt in mint, Kluyveromyces marxianus (a yeast) in onion, and rusts of asparagus and mint. Dr.  Johnson is recognized for his unique ability to conduct translational research and seamlessly integrate his research and extension programs with outcomes that directly benefit the growers by increasing the profitability and ensuring the sustainability of crop production.

Dr. Johnson is highly successful in integrating his plant pathology research and extension programs: practical disease management strategies and tactics have been developed for a variety of crops and diseases. His disease management recommendations are highly respected, and importantly, followed and adopted by growers. Dr. Johnson recently edited the second edition of the APS publication, Potato Health Management, and raised significant contributions for the publication expenses. The second edition of the Potato Health Management book is widely used by growers and crop advisors in the potato industry. The second edition grew under Dr. Johnson’s stewardship (46% more information) and Dr. Johnson orchestrated a group of more than 50 authors to contribute to the resource. He has authored or co-authored 106 peer reviewed research journal articles and several sections in the APS Disease Compendia on potato, hop and onion. He has also authored over 250 disease control bulletins and articles for growers.

Dr. Johnson is most proud of his role in mentoring graduate students. Fifteen advanced degrees have been awarded and past students are now productive in science careers. He is currently advising two Ph.D. students and one MS student, besides serving on several student committees.

Dr. Johnson is a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society, an Honorary Life Member of the Potato Association of America, a recipient of the Friend of the Washington Mint Industry Award, and Past President of the American Phytopathological Society – Pacific Division.

Dr. Xianming Chen Elected Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society

Congratulations to Dr. Xianming Chen, Research Plant Pathologist in the USDA-ARS and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, for his election as Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS). The Fellow Award is APS’ highest honor and is annually given to less than 0.1% of the membership. Dr. Chen will be recognized during a special ceremony at this year’s annual meeting of the APS in August in Providence, RI.

Dr. Chen is a world authority on stripe rust of wheat and barley.  He leads a highly productive program combining both fundamental and applied research focused on developing and implementing strategies for the control of stripe rust, one of the most important diseases of wheat worldwide and of barley in many countries including the US. He has made significant contributions to understanding the epidemiology of the disease; the biology, virulence, evolution, and genomics of the stripe rust pathogens; and on host resistance, from development of genetic resources and techniques to identification of effective fungicides for integrated control of the diseases.

Scientists from countries throughout the world have consulted him for advice on stripe rust research and control, and his program serves as a magnet for those who want to study this disease.  His fundamental research is aimed at generating new scientific knowledge that can then be translated into more effective control practices. He also works closely with growers, helping them to implement the best available control measures each year, often through results generated from his research program. His group plants rust-monitoring and germplasm-screening nurseries at four locations in the State of Washington and send collaborators nurseries to plant in more than 30 locations throughout the US and some other countries. He spends countless hours inspecting commercial and experimental fields throughout the Pacific Northwest and often in other states.  He sends growers and cereal scientists regular disease updates and recommendations through e-mails and grower-orientated magazines for implementing appropriate control measures.  Following his recommendations, yield losses across the PNW have been reduced from 15 to 40% to less than 3% in a low to moderate epidemic year, and from 40 to 70% to less than 5% of the total wheat production of more than 300 million bushels in a severe epidemic year, which saves growers from 200 to more than 1000 million dollars annually in the region, at the cost of 20 to 80 million dollars used for fungicide applications. For example, his integrated control program, which combines growing resistant cultivars and fungicide application, saved growers in the PNW more than 900 and  1200 million dollars in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Dr. Chen trained two M.S. and three Ph.D. students, eight post-doctoral associates, and 30 visiting scientists and students. He also has served on 19 graduate student committees.  Dr. Chen has an impressive list of 129 peer-reviewed publications, 5 book chapters, and 77 technical publications.  His dedication to plant pathology and to APS is evident in his service on multiple APS subject matter committees, and service as Associate Editor of Phytopathology and Senior Editor of Plant Disease. Currently he is Editor-in-Chief of Crop Protection.


Dr. Axel Elling, assistant professor in the department, was invited to meet with nematologists in Europe, May 12-25. He exchanged ideas for joint projects with colleagues at The James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland, where he gave an invited talk. He then met with nematologists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, England. Dr. Elling also gave an invited talk about variability in Meloidogyne chitwoodi and the use of effector genes as control targets at the 64th International Symposium on Crop Protection in Gent, Belgium. Following the symposium, he participated in the International Secretory Proteins in Tylenchids (SPIT) Meeting, which also took place in Gent. The SPIT Meeting is a working group focusing on nematode effectors and was attended by nematologists from Iowa State University, NC State University, University of Missouri, Washington State University, Gent University (Belgium), INRA (France), The James Hutton Institute (UK), and Wageningen University (Netherlands) (see picture).

Leave a Comment

Department of Plant Pathology, PO Box 646430, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6430, 509-335-9541, Contact Us
© 2017 Washington State University | Accessibility | Policies | Copyright | Log in