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Departmental News

Check back regularly for news and photos from around our Department. Click here to visit our photo gallery and to download the February 2014 Newsletter  [Adobe PDF - 3.7mb].

Past Newsletters:


Congratulations to our Fall 2014 graduates! Rebecca A. Melanson and Bishnu Shrestha received their PhD and Eduardo Chagas and Surendra Osti received their MS. Congrats to all of you!

Melanson wins prestigious C. W. Edgerton Award

Rebecca A. Melanson, Ph. D. candidate, in the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology at Louisiana State University and the LSU AgCenter, recently won the prestigious C. W. Edgerton Award.  She was nominated by her advisor, Dr. Jong Hyun Ham, Associate Professor.  She won this award for her outstanding academic and professional achievements, especially her significant contributions toward our understanding of bacterial regulatory mechanisms. She identified ntpR, a new regulatory gene of major virulence factors, from the plant pathogenic bacterium Burkholderia glumae and characterized its global regulatory function in bacterial signaling and pathogenesis.

Singh Wins Prestigious LSU AgCenter's Floyd S. Edmiston Extension Award

Dr. Raj Singh, Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, LSU, received the Floyd S. Edmiston Extension Award from the LSU AgCenter 15 December 2014. This meritorious award is made annually to the extension specialist, who during the past three years, has made the most outstanding contributions toward improving Extension services and mission while benefitting the people in the state of Louisiana. 

Dr. Singh was recognized for his outstanding extension program that provides accurate and timely diagnoses of plant diseases and other pests and educational programs to the agronomic and horticultural industries and homeowners of Louisiana. In addition, he provides diagnostic services in support of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and serves as a liaison to the National Plant Diagnostic Network. He has transformed the Plant Disease Clinic into a Plant Diagnostic Center with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and stream-lined sample handling and results reporting. He has successfully processed over 10,000 samples that have led to the identification of seven new diseases from a number of ornamental, landscape and other plant species.  Further, he has definitively identified these pathogens by developing and applying serological and molecular techniques. For example, he recently discovered a new disease of boxwoods caused by Colletotrichum thoebromicola. After his discovery, several other states have confirmed the disease in the United States. He also instituted the Rapid Turfgrass Diagnostic Service for the Louisiana in and out-of-state turfgrass industries. This service provides sound information within a 24 hour period on whether the turfgrass problems observed were either biotic or abiotic. Dr. Singh has provided up-to-date presentations on plant diseases to diverse organizations, such as Master Gardeners, Orchid Society, La Nursery and Landscape Association, and participated in delivering diagnostic information at a bunch of garden shows/field days as well as at meetings/symposium/conferences in Louisiana and 12 other states. These are just a few examples of the positive impact that Dr. Singh’s extension program in plant disease/pest diagnostics is having on the agronomic and horticultural industries in Louisiana and even in other states. His impact is especially noteworthy in the successful urban interface his program provides for the LSU AgCenter.


Schneider Wins Prestigious LSU AgCenter’s Doyle Chambers Research Award

Dr. Raymond W. Schneider, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, LSU, received the Doyle Chambers Research Award from the LSU AgCenter 15 December 2014. This meritorious award is made annually to the scientist who, during his/her career at the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, has made the most outstanding contributions to agriculture in the state of Louisiana. 

Dr. Schneider was recognized for his research that has vastly and greatly affected the soybean industry locally, nationally, and internationally especially with his first finding of Asian Soybean Rust caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi in the US.  This new finding lead to a vast array of research endeavors that included risk model assessment and spatial analysis of ASR disease development. In this effort, he developed a state-of-the-art air spore sampler to better trap and monitor airborne populations of P. pachyrhizi as well as improved PCR detection technologies. He further demonstrated that the pathogen had a long latent period and fungicide efficacy was vastly improved with this finding.  He also discovered a fungus, Simplicillium lanosoniveum, will colonize and infect P. pachyrhizi and, as a consequence, has great potential for use as a biological control agent. He pioneered the use of vegetative compatibility groups (VCGs) to study the genetics of Fusarium oxysporum and Cercospora kukuchii, the cause of soybean leaf blight.  His findings with the latter soybean pathogen demonstrated vast genetic diversity exists in the pathogen population. In part, this explains why host plant resistance breaks down rapidly and why fungicide resistance develops rapidly. Dr. Schneider has also pioneered the use of chloride for suppressing root diseases and is currently investigating the role of other minor elements against Cercospora leaf blight. 


Congratulations to our Spring 2014 MS Graduates, Favio Herrera, Addison Plaisance (pictured below) and Andres Gutierrez.

 


Rebecca Melanson Wins an AAUW Eleanor Earle Memorial Scholarship and an Sarah Bradley Tyson Memorial Fellowship

Ms. Rebecca Melanson, PhD candidate under the direction of Jong Hyun Ham in the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology, was the recipient of one of two 2013 Eleanor Earle Memorial American Association of University Women (AAUW) scholarships from the Baton Rouge Chapter of the AAUW awarded to female doctoral students pursuing degrees at either Louisiana State University or Southern University.  She received the award at a campus study luncheon of the AAUW Baton Rouge Chapter on April 18, 2013.  Melanson also received one of four 2013 Sarah Bradley Tyson Memorial Fellowships awarded to graduate students by the Women’s National Farm and Garden Association, Inc.  Melanson is currently working to complete her PhD research on the “Characterization of a novel negative LysR-type transcriptional regulatory factor of toxoflavin production in Burkholderia glumae, the causal agent of bacterial panicle blight of rice” for which she received a USDA AFRI-NIFA Predoctoral Fellowship Grant in 2012 and plans to graduate in 2014.


Edward McGawley Receives Prestigious Society of Nematologists Outstanding Teaching Award

Dr. Edward McGawley, Professor, Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology recently received the inaugural Outstanding Teaching Award at the 2013 annual meeting of the Society of Nematologists (SON).  Dr. McGawley and his co-authors have produced numerous teaching aids over the years that  include biological illustrations of nematode anatomy and morphology, videotape presentations on identification of common genera of plant parasitic nematodes, preparation of perineal patterns of root-knot nematodes, and early season soybean diseases caused by nematodes. Recently, an internet-based presentation entitled “Introduction to Nematodes” has been featured on most major nematology and parasitology websites with over 4,000 downloads to date. 


Melanson Receives the “Ray And Dorothy Young Endowed Assistantship in Crop Intergrated Pest Management”

Ms. Rebecca A. Melanson was honored at the 2013 College of Agriculture Alumni Awards Reception, held at the Lod Cook Alumni Center on March 20, 2013, as the first recipient of the “Ray and Dorothy Young Endowed Assistantship in Crop Integrated Pest Management”.  Melanson is a graduate student in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology under the direction of associate professor Dr. Jong H. Ham.  She is currently working to complete her dissertation research on the “Characterization of a novel negative LysR-type transcriptional regulatory factor of toxoflavin production in Burkholderia glumae, the causal agent of bacterial panicle blight of rice”. The knowledge gained from this research will give scientists a better understanding of how the bacterial pathogen Burkholderia glumae causes disease in rice and will ultimately lead to the development of disease management methods that rice producers can utilize to prevent yield losses attributed to bacterial panicle blight. 

The “Ray and Dorothy Young Endowed Assistantship in Crop Integrated Pest Management” was established to honor Mr. Young for his professional contributions and service to agricultural industries for more than 40 years as an agricultural consultant. The establishment of the award was announced at the annual Louisiana Agricultural Technology and Management Conference in 2011 and was formalized by a donation from the Louisiana Agricultural Consultant’s Association.  

Mr. Ray Young was in attendance at the alumni awards reception to present the award.

PHOTO- left to right: Dean Kenneth Koonce, Dr. Jong H. Ham, Ms. Rebecca Melanson, Mr. Ray Young, Dr. Rogers Leonard, and Dr. Donnie Miller.

 


Plant Health Clinic wins Education Excellence Award

‘Plant Health Clinic’ in association with ‘Weeds of Louisiana’ won the Education Excellence award at the New Orleans Spring Garden Show on April 6th, 2013. The team of specialist consisted of Dr. Raj (Nick) Singh (Plant Doctor), Dr. Ron Strahan (Weed Doctor), Dr. J. Bird (State Soil Specialist) and Ms. Kirandeep Kaur (Graduate Student PPCP). The award was presented by Dan Gill.

 


Kularathana and Xavier win honors at Beltwide Cotton Conference

During the recent Beltwide Cotton Conference held in San Antonio, Texas on January 7-10, 2013, two students in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology won awards in the graduate student competition sponsored by the Cotton Disease Council. Manjula T. Kularathna won second place for his presentation entitled “Influence of soil nutrients on reproduction and pathogenicity of Rotylenchulus reniformis on cotton”. Deborah M. Xavier won third place for her presentation “Influence of soil texture on reproduction and pathogenicity of Rotylenchulus reniformis on cotton”. Both students are working on their master’s degree under the direction of Dr. Charles Overstreet.


Manjula Kularathna receiving his award

Deborah Xavier receiving her award

Plaisance Wins Grodner Scholarship Award

Mr. Addison Ray Plaisance, an M.S. student  studying Nematology under the direction of Dr. Edward McGawley, Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, was selected as the 2013 Dr. Mary Grodner Scholarship Award recipient by the Louisiana Vegetation Management Association (LAVMA). On Wednesday, February 6th he will attend the annual LAVMA conference in Marksville, LA, to give a brief summary of his research and career goals, and to receive a plaque and monetary award.

 

 


Deborah Xavier wins student poster competition at ONTA annual meeting

(Sept. 12, 2012) Deborah M. Xavier, a Master’s candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology under the direction of Dr. Charles Overstreet, won second place in the Rod Rodríguez-Kábana student poster competition at the recent 44th Organization of Nematologists of Tropical America (ONTA) meeting held in Cancun, Mexico. She received this highly competitive international award for her poster entitled “Population development of Rotylenchulus reniformis in a field over a nine year period”.


PPCP Representation at National Corn Growers Association in Indianapolis, Indiana

Dr. Kenneth Damann of the Dept of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology organized a session on biological control of aflatoxin at the “Corn Utilization and Technology Conference” of the National Corn Growers Association in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 4-6, 2012. Dr. Eric Tedford of Syngenta Crop Protection provided the industry perspective in his talk on “Development and refinement of Afla-Guard for reduction of aflatoxins in corn in the US”. Rebecca Sweany of the LSU AgCenter’s Dept. of Plant Pathology spoke on her work on  “Aspergillus flavus niche specialization in Louisiana corn fields” which was a population biology study of soil and kernel  strains. Damann concluded the session with a talk on “Aflatoxin biocontrol: What have we learned?” which emphasized the mechanism of biological control and attributes of good biocontrol strains as well as the infective toxigenic strains. Powerpoints of the presentations are available online at the National Corn Growers Association website under CUTC-Presentations.


Warr Wins APS Travel Award

Michelle Warr, an undergraduate student conducting research with Dr. Raymond Schneider in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology, won the American Phytopathological Society (APS) Raymond G. Grogan Student Traval Award. This highly competitive award was given to Ms. Warr in recognition of her achievements in plant pathology research. The award will be used for travel expenses to the national APS meeting in Providence, RI, this coming August where Ms. Warr will present her research findings entitled Genetic Relationships among Subpopulations of Competitive Nonpathogenic Strains of Fusarium oxysporum and F. oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici.


Aime elected Fellow of the Mycological Society of America

M. Catherine Aime was selected as a 2012 Fellow of the Mycological Society of America (MSA).  Aime is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology with an internationally recognized program in systematic mycology.  MSA Fellows are outstanding mycologists selected on the bases of an outstanding record of mycological research, successful teaching in mycology, and significant service to the MSA.  Aime has published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers in the last ten years and served a three-year term as Secretary of the MSA and is currently an Associate Editor of the Society’s journal, Mycologia.  Aime is major advisor to six graduate students and serves on the graduate committee of 15 students at LSU, Humboldt University, University of Florida, and University of Southern Mississippi. She joins 36 previously awarded preeminent mycologists as Fellow of the MSA.


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Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology
302 Life Science Building
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803 
(225) 578-1464
 

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