2017 Faculty Update: Linda Kinkel

December 18, 2017

Plant Pathology Faculty Update Linda Kinkel 2017We have had a busy year! We continue to focus on the ecology and evolutionary biology of plant microbiomes, and the development of novel strategies for enhancing plant health and productivity in cropping systems. Project highlights:  

We completed a 2-year potato fumigation trial that represented a collaborative MN-ND effort (with Carl Rosen, Andy Robinson, and funding from MDA and Tri-Est). Dr. JP Dundore-Arias (NSF Post-Doctoral Fellow) and Lindsey Hanson have led our work in this project, with superb undergraduates Sara Boneske and Georgie Holms. Our results show that microbial inoculants and amendments significantly alter soil microbiome composition and function post-fumigation, supporting more healthy and higher-yielding potato crops. We are building on this research to develop inoculants and amendments that enhance potato yields, reduce disease, and prolong the period between fumigation events. I am also leading the development of a research plan for work on soil microbiomes as part of a potato CAP proposal. 

In NSF-funded collaborative research (with Georgiana May, Elizabeth Borer, Eric Seabloom), we have been studying endophytes in temperate grasslands around the world. Fungal, but not bacterial, endophytic communities are significantly different in NPK-amended vs. non-amended Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem). In the absence of NPK amendments, fungal communities are significantly better competitors for nutrients than the bacteria, but this fungal advantage is lost in NPK-amended plants. Major contributors to this project included Dr. Zewei Song, Lindsey Otto-Hanson, and an amazing quartet of recent college grads (Mitch Johnson, Zoe Hansen, Seth Spawn, and Haley Melampy). Recently, Zewei moved to a permanent position with the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen, China; Zoe and Seth started graduate school in Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively; Haley is now a permanent employment with Bailey Nurseries, and Mitch works in Horticulture.

We recently received USDA-NIFA funding with Corby Kistler (USDA-ARS) and Stuart Grandy (University of New Hampshire) to study soil microbiome composition, diversity, and pathogen suppressive capacity in long-term monoculture plots at Rosemount, with Dr. Sarah Castle (USDA-NIFA Post-Doctoral Fellow) is a co-PI on this project. Clyde Christensen established the monoculture plots in 1959, and they have been maintained as monocultures of oat, corn, soybean, wheat, and barley with or without nitrogen, and with or without residue amendment. This is an outstanding opportunity for us to explore the impacts of monoculture and soil carbon on soil and plant microbiomes, with Lindsey Hanson and graduate student Miriam Newton contributing important early work. 

We have 3 projects with the DOE-Joint Genome Institute, including a project on whole genome sequences of 100 isolates from our global Streptomyces collection (with Mike Smanski, Biochemistry); a metatranscriptomics project analyzing the effects of Streptomyces community composition on antibiotic biosynthetic gene expression (with Mike Smanski); and a new project that integrates whole genome sequencing, transcriptomics, and metabolomics of sympatric Streptomyces and Fusarium populations from prairie soils (with Corby Kistler, Mike Smanski, and Will Harcombe (EEB). Collectively, these projects are helping us to understand the genomic and chemical bases of species interactions that contribute to pathogen suppression. Our new graduate student, Matt Pereyra, is contributing to work in this area. 

In other new work, I led a successful NSF proposal to secure funding to support an International Agricultural Microbiome Research Coordination Network, and am now working with Co-PIs at 4 other institutions to launch this effort. This project integrates well with my work on the APS Phytobiomes Initiative. Travels to Dunkirk, France (European Federation of Plant Pathology), Brisbane, Australia (Society for the Protection of Plant Health), and Taiwan (visits to 3 National Universities and countless farms) offered opportunities to interact with international scientists. I am gratified to continue to serve on the APS Public Policy Board, and appreciate the significant efforts of our society to communicate with policy-makers, federal agencies, and elected representatives.