Blanchette Lab Update

August 28, 2019

Ben Held inoculating in the field

Bob in tropical Ganoderma

Cristina in her field study area at Yasuni National Park Ecuador

Cristina inoculating tropical seedlings at Yasuni

Davy DeKrey and Annie Klodd in MN vineyard

Davy DeKrey working on fungi isolated from grape vines in Minnesota

Nick Rajtar with his field experiment on ash canker fungi

Sofia and David Showalter with biocontrol of EAB experiment

Visiting grad student Nazaret Ramirez with MN polypores

There has been a whirlwind of activity for the forest pathology group this spring and summer. Cristina
Toapanta led an expedition to the far reaches of Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorean Amazon to
study fungi producing aerial rhizomorphs. You are likely familiar with the underground rhizomorphs of
Armillaria found here in Minnesota but in the tropics, some fungi produce these structures above
ground. Cristina is studying the biology, ecology, and pathogenicity of these fungi. With funds from the
Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center, we are also studying the fungi associated with
the emerald ash borer (EAB). This insect pest is moving through Minnesota killing large numbers of ash
trees. Graduate students Nick Rajtar and Sofia Simeto as well as Ben Held (research scientist), Kathryn
Bushley (coinvestigator, Dept. of Plant and Microbial Biology) and David Showalter (post-doc) are
working to identify canker and decay-causing fungi in galleries of EAB as well as entomopathogens that
could be used for biocontrol. We are continuing our studies on subterranean fungi in mines and caves of
Minnesota. These investigations are now focusing on native microorganisms that are inhibitory to the
fungus causing white-nose syndrome of bats. Graduate student Liam Genter has mapped the location of
the white-nose pathogen using qPCR in Mystery Cave and the Soudan Mine and collaborator Christine
Salomon from the Center of Drug Design is identifying new compounds from the fungi isolated that
inhibit the pathogen. A few new projects have also begun. Grapevine trunk diseases have been taking a
toll in vineyards of Minnesota as they have in all grape-growing areas of the world. This collaborative
project with Matt Clark in Horticulture and Annie Klodd, Extension Educator along with new plant
pathology graduate student Davy DeKrey is identifying the fungi attacking grapevines in Minnesota and
working to find successful control procedures. We also have studies underway on the fungi and
degradation occurring in archaeological wood at 11 sites in Greenland. You may have heard that the
changing climate has resulted in a massive loss of glacier ice in Greenland this year. This has also resulted
in the defrosting of soils and the acceleration of decay in wooden artifacts at several archaeological
sites. This study with the National Museum of Denmark is identifying fungi and the decay they cause in
wood from ancient cultures (2500 BC) up to Norse settlements ( 985-1450 AD). Investigations on
Ganoderma also continue with studies on the Ganoderma applanatum complex in the US, the
Ganoderma of Puerto Rico and a graduate student of old-timer Carlos Perez from Uruguay, Nazaret
Ramirez spent the summer with us on an internship studying the Ganoderma and other wood decay
fungi from native forests of Uruguay. Lastly, graduate student Eric Otto is finishing his dissertation on
Heterobasidion Root Disease in Minnesota. He recently accepted a position as Forest Health Specialist
for the MN DNR.