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College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
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Department of Plant Pathology

Aurora Sporealis 2014

 Aurora Sporealis CoverThe 2014 edition of the Aurora Sporealis alumni newsletter is now available online!  Read it HERE. We recommend right clicking on the link, choosing "Save Link As", and opening in a .pdf reader for the best viewing experience. 

The 2014 edition of the Aurora Sporealis was edited by Brian Steffenson, designed by Renoir Gaither and contributed to by many members of the department.  Thanks to all involved!

We'd like to get your updated information for the next Aurora mailing as well as personal or professional updates to include in future issues. Please submit updates via the "Register for Updates" form on the Stay Connected page of our site.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Matthew Rouse Receives ARS Award

Matthew Rouse recently received the 2014 ARS MWA Early Career Research Scientist of the Year award for his "steadfast dedication and significant contributions in combating wheat stem rust, a major threat to global agriculture and food security."

Visiting Professor from Iraq

Assistant Professor Oadi Matny from the University of Baghdad, Iraq will be spending 6 months in our department. Dr. Matny is a plant pathologist who is interested in studying Fusarium sp, the causal agent of Crown Rot. He will be employing molecular techniques to assess the genetic diversity of this pathogen's population in Iraq where it represents a significant challenge to agriculture. Please join us in welcoming Oadi!

Josh Kielsmeier-Cook Receives the Jerry Nelson International Fellowship Award

Congratulations to Josh Kielsmeier-Cook who has received the 2014 Jerry Nelson International Fellowship Award. This award is given to a full-time graduate student at the University of Minnesota enrolled in the Department of Plant Pathology or the Department of Agronomy & Plant Genetics working toward a graduate degree, with excellent academic standing and with exceptional potential in their field. The award is to be used for an international experience that contributes to scholarship. Josh's international research experience will take place in the Amazon rain forest in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador, where he will be investigating the biodiversity of wood decay fungi and mechanisms of wood decomposition.

Jaret Streich Visits Department of Plant Pathology

CFANS-PlPa-StreichThe Department of Plant Pathology and especially the Figueroa Laboratory would like to thank PhD student Jared Streich for visiting and sharing with us his research. Jared works under the supervision of Dr. Justin Borevitz at the Australian National University, where he studies invasiveness and environmental adaptability of grasses using Brachypodium spp. a model to understand these traits. We truly enjoyed interacting with Jared and look forward to hearing more about his findings in the future.

Research Trip to Ethiopia

Jordan Briggs, Ph.D. student in Plant Pathology, recently traveled to Ethiopia as part of his research in screening wheat lines for stem rust resistance.

Plant Pathology Graduate Students Organize Outreach Event with St. Paul Schools

On Friday May 30th, members of the Plant Pathology Student Organization (PPSO) visited Pilot Knob STEM Magnet School to engage 4th graders in fun activities related to plant sciences and microbiology. Members of PPSO who contributed their time were Anna Yang, Sara Bratsch, Kyle Haralson, Laura Felice, Zane Grabau, Garrett Beier, and Blake Webster.

Following an introduction lecture to ~70 students, students were split into three groups to rotate through the laboratory modules. The "Microbes Around School" module had demonstrations of the type of fungi that can be obtained from the environment. Examples included fungi obtained from different types of wood and fungi obtained from exposed agar plates in various environments (lab, office, hallway, etc). Then kids got the opportunity to pick a location around their school to swab and plate out so that they could return and see what types of microbes they cultured.

The next module, "Microbes on our Food," had a number of short activities related to food and plant health. Students were able to plate pasta and flour as well as look at some common contaminants on grains under microscopes. We also did a short test of the "5 second rule" where kids dropped raspberries on the ground for different time increments and made a hypothesis about what times would result in the most growth on the agar plate. This module also gave students the chance to look at Goss's Wilt on corn; they learned to distinguish healthy corn from diseased corn and the importance of keeping plants healthy.

The third module was titled "Soil Bugs" where kids were able to look at various species of nematodes under microscopes. They looked at a series of prepared soil dilutions and agar plates containing various soil inhabiting bacteria. As a group, students made a dilution of the school's garden soil to do some plating of their own.

Working together to alleviate hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

Dr. Melania Figueroa has been selected by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be one of the four professors at UMN who will participate in the 2014 Agricultural Research Connections (ARC) workshop in Kenya. The ARC workshop will take place in Nairobi and Naivasha and it is part of the Program for Emerging Agricultural Research Leaders (PEARLs) which seeks to create collaborative opportunities to advance agricultural research and increase sustainable productivity of smallholder farmers. Dr. Figueroa’s scientific interests and potential to promote research in developing countries aligns very well with the goals of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As part of her efforts, Dr. Figueroa will also visit Kisii University to explore new collaborations to connect UMN with African institutions. It is great honor for our department to continue the work and legacy of Dr. Norman Borlaug.

2014 Department of Plant Pathology & E.C. Stakman Awards

The annual E.C. Stakman & Department of Plant Pathology awards were held on May 22nd, 2014 to recognize and celebrate the contributions to the science of plant pathology made by members and friends of the department.

The recipient of the 2014 E.C. Stakman award was Alan Collmer, Andrew J. and Grace B. Nichols Professor, Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Collmer gave the annual E.C. Stakman Lecture following the awards ceremony, "Pseudomonas syringae-plant interactions: learning the rules of the game with fewer pieces." Click here to access a recording of his seminar.

Dr. Mohammed Boulif, recipient of the Department of Plant Pathology's 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award, gave a special presentation titled "The Green Morocco Plan: Morocco's Green Revolution" at the University on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. A recording of the presentation can be accessed here. Dr. Boulif is a professor at the National Institute of Agriculture of Meknes (Morocco).

Congratulations to our 2014 Award Winners:
E.C. Stakman Award.................................................... Alan Collmer, Ph.D.
Distinguished Alumnus Award....................................... Mohammed Boulif, Ph.D.
Distinguished Friend Award........................................... Eugene Hayden, Ph.D.
Outstanding Mentor Award............................................ Brian Steffenson, Ph.D.
Norman E. Borlaug Fellow in International Agriculture
with support from the Vaala-Henry Endowment................ Anil Adhikari
Fred I. Frosheiser Scholarship....................................... Adil Essarioui
Kernkamp Scholarship.................................................. Jordan Briggs
John Dueck Plant Pathology Fellowship......................... Sara Bratsch
C. Jerry Nelson International Fellowship......................... Joshua Kielsmeier-Cook
Elwin Stewart Graduate Student Travel Awards...... Joshua Kielsmeier-Cook/Matthew Haas
Steinstra & Meronuck Graduate Student Travel Awards.... Laura Felice/Jordan Briggs
Civil Service Award of Excellence................................... Roxanne Denny

Alumna Visits Department of Plant Pathology

cfans-plpa-debauerOld timer Maria de Lourdes de la Isla de Bauer (known to many as Lulu) professor from the Colegio de Postgraduados in Montecillo, Mexico visited the department on May 19th. She graduated from the department in 1957 getting her MS degree with Dr. Kernkamp. Professor DeBauer is an active researcher on the damaging effects of air pollution to plants and had worked with Sagar Krupa on many projects over the past years. She was in the Twin Cities to attend Sagar's memorial service and presented a memorial tribute at the service.

UMN Plant Pathologists visit Tel Aviv University to foster research and teaching collaborations

CFANS-PLPA-ICCI IsraelFor more than 50 years the Department of Plant Pathology has had formal ties to the Institute for Cereal Crops Improvement (ICCI) at the Tel Aviv University, Israel. This relationship has been generously supported and fostered by the Lieberman and Okinow families. Support has included the Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair held by Professor Brian Steffenson and facilities and personnel support at ICCI. Professor Steffenson, Professor Nevin Young, and Professor Jim Bradeen visited ICCI April 27-May 1 to discussion collaborative research and teaching opportunities. The contingent toured the ICCI facilities, talked with Tel Aviv University administrators about possible collaborations, and surveyed wild wheat and barley relatives during a pair of field trips. The ICCI visit also included Dan Lieberman, Dan’s wife Suzanne Fenton, and Dave Hansen (Communications/Photography for the UMN Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station). The visit was productive and new joint research and teaching ventures are likely to result. While in Israel, the Plant Pathology group also hosted a UMN Friends and Alumni dinner and visited scientists at Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

Feng Li Awarded International Scholarship

CFANS-PLPAThe Department of Plant Pathology congratulates Ms. Feng Li, who has been accepted to join the Figueroa Lab as a graduate student assistant. Ms. Li will be arriving in August, 2014. In preparation for her future research endeavors, Ms. Li competed for a scholarship to participate in a Summer Training Program July 6-31, 2014 by The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Division for International Studies in Agriculture, Food and Environment at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. With great honor, we are happy to share the news that Ms. Li has been offered this scholarship. Well done Feng!

PlPa Graduate Student Awarded Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

Congratulations to Plant Pathology graduate student, Laura Felice, who has been awarded one of the prestigious UMN Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships for 2014-15.  The fellowship allows Ph.D. candidates to focus their efforts on research and dissertation writing by providing a nine month stipend plus tuition. The award also includes funds for the Ph.D. candidate to present their research at an national or international conference. 

News Archive

Upcoming Events

Event: PlPa Seminar
Julie Grossman, Assistant Professor, Horticulture, UMN
"Putting legumes to work to improve soil biological processes on organic farms"
Monday, February 2, 2015
2:30 pm
365 Borlaug Hall

Past Seminars

Our Department in the News

University of Minnesota's Plant Disease Clinic Tests for Oak Wilt. "Ham Lake's tree inspections stir up strong feelings."
Star Tribune | September 10, 2014 | Shannon Prather

Breeding and disease resistance in soybeans. "Nevin Young, Distinguished McKnight Professor with the department of plant pathology at UMN, uses genomics to understand the genetic organization of legumes, especially soybeans."
Minnesota Farm Guide | August 29, 2014 | Ann Marie Edwards

Dean Malvick, University of Minnesota plant pathologist, has been studying fusarium in soybeans with support from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council."
Minnesota Farm Guide | July 20, 2014 | Ann Marie Edwards

Flooded soil increases corn, soybean seedling diseases.
Minnesota Extension Plant Pathologist Dean Malvick says now is a “good time to check fields for seedling disease problems and efficacy of seed treatments.”
Corn and Soybean Digest | June 26, 2014

Identifying pythium species in Minnesota soybeans | Ann Marie Edwards |Minnesota Farm Guide
"Jim Kurle, University of Minnesota plant pathologist, has been working to identify Pythium species across the state."

Putting Up Resistance:  Will the public swallow science's best solution to one of the most dangerous wheat pathogens on the planet?
The Scientist Vol. 28, No 6 June 2014 | by Kerry Grens

Hole Notes Vol.48, No 1 January/February 2014
PlPa Assistant Professor, Angela Orshinsky and Brett Arenz, Assistant Teaching Professor and Director of the Plant Disease Clinic each contributed articles to Hole Notes: The Official publication of the MGSA (Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association).

Fungal Plant 205 - 26 November 2013 | Description Sheets: 276-277 | Persoonia 31, 2013: 188-296.
Custingophora blanchettei "Etymology. Named for Prof. Robert A. Blanchette, recognizing his important contributions to the study of wood inhabiting fungi."

Survivors on Elm Street
| by Sara Specht | CFANS Solutions
"It does look like there is resistance out there," says Department of Plant Pathology professor Robert Blanchette. "We don't have too many trees to study, but there are a few and we'll find more with this project. These trees are selected for testing because they survive where most elms die. Not all of them survive inoculation but a few of them are looking very good."

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