2017 Faculty Update: Madeleine Smith
It has been another busy year for Dr. Madeleine Smith’s Small Grains Pathology Lab in Northwest Minnesota. Anil Adhikari completed his M.S. program during this past year. His thesis research focused on evaluating nested association mapping populations for resistance to net blotch of barley and assessment of Barley Yellow Dwarf strains. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in plant breeding in the lab of Dr. Amir Ibrahim at the University of Nebraska. Mala Ganiger joined the lab this year as a Ph.D. student with funding from the U of MN Regent’s scholarship program. She will be working on epidemiology and disease control of several diseases, including bacterial leaf streak of wheat.
The Smith lab entered into a second of year of a collaborative involvement through the Oat Rust Initiative (ORI) hosted by the Stakman-Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health. This initiative brings together an international and multidisciplinary team of scientists and industry representatives to share knowledge and develop a research program related to improving aspects of oat production. Oat crown rust and stem rust can seriously impact oat production around the world. Besides controlling the diseases, management strategies must also consider any unwanted effects treatments may have on the end product being produced for human consumption. Smith and her colleague from South Dakota State University, Emmanuel Byamukama, are leading the group responsible for integrated disease management and education for ORI. They are in charge of examining effects of fungicides on both the management of oat crown rust and downstream effects on milling quality. This effort has involved multi-site collaborations, plus collaboration with Canadian partners. The fourth Oat Rust Forum will be taking place in Ithaca, NY, in November where the members of this group will evaluate what has been learned from research this year and develop goals and objectives for the 2018 growing season.
The Smith lab has continued research on management of several major diseases important to both small grains production in Minnesota and on a global scale. The lab group has been engaged in evaluating integrated management strategies for Fusarium head blight (FHB), combining varietal resistance with differing fungicide regimes to look at the most effective options for disease control and mycotoxin reduction. In addition, members of the lab have conducted research to provide data to refine the risk forecasting model for FHB. The model is a tool that is available online through ScabSmart as part of the US Wheat/Barley Scab Initiative. The program has also been focusing on other diseases that were not of much concern in the past, but are now problematic due to changing weather patterns that created conditions more conducive for development of these diseases. One such disease is barley yellow dwarf. This viral disease has been named one of the most devastating of viral diseases of small grains (wheat, oats, barely and rice) all over the world. This disease has been in Minnesota for a long time and is transmitted by aphids that primarily come from the southern US. However, milder seasons have led to earlier influxes of aphids and earlier transmission events. Such changes can lead to serious disease problems associated with significant yield losses. Work has been underway in the lab to identify robust molecular diagnostic protocols and to assess the viral strains which are present in Minnesota to inform future breeding efforts for resistance.
The lab continues to be involved in outreach efforts. Smith was involved in organizing the program for the Best of the Best in Wheat and Soybean research in January in northwestern Minnesota, as well as participating in the annual Extension Small Grains Summer plot tours around the state. She provided disease management updates for growers and producers and answered many specific management questions at these events.