UC Davis Plant Pathology Home Page
Ben Schwessinger, UC Davis – Plant Immunity
We just found out that plants can hear. Now, we’ll learn about their complex immune systems.
Ben Schwessinger, a post-doc at UC Davis, is studying how plants fight off pathogens.
Dr. Benjamin Schwessinger is a Human Frontier Science Program long-term postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Pamela Ronald at UC Davis’s Department of Plant Pathology. His work focuses on how plant recognize invading microbes and mount an appropriate immune response. He is currently investigating the rice immune system in relation to bacterial rice blight. He performed his PhD work at the Sainsbury Laboratory, where he started the work described in this Academic Minute. Follow him on twitter.
Learn more from The Academic Minute
Bryce Falk now Distinguished Professor (effective July 1, 2014)
Congratulations to Prof. Bryce Falk who recently advanced to Distinguished Professor. This is quite an honor and recognizes career-long contributions to research, teaching and service.
Congratulations to Chris Greer who was recently appointed ANR Vice Provost.
Dr. Greer received his Ph.D. in plant pathology from our department in 1999 under the guidance of Professor Emeritus Robert Webster. His dissertation research concerned rice blast disease. Chris has served as UCCE area rice advisor with responsibilities in multiple counties and provided leadership in various programs and committees within ANR and elsewhere. Additional details about his experience and new responsibilities can be found at http://ucanr.edu/sites/anrupdate/index4.cfm?blogpost=14296&blogasset=53209 .”
Congratulations to the Cook Lab, this year's Bocce Ball Champs!
David Doll, former Plant Pathology Graduate, recipient of "Outstanding New Academic"
I am pleased to announce the 2013-14 recipients of the ANR Distinguished Service Awards, which are given biennially for outstanding contributions to the teaching, research and public service mission of the Division.
Awards were given in six areas:
- Outstanding Extension – Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis for bees.
- Outstanding Research – Mark Battany, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara countiesfor viticulture.
- Outstanding New Academic – David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County for nut crops.
- Outstanding Team – Ken Tate, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Rob Atwill, director of Veterinary Medicine Extension at UC Davis, are the recipients of the Outstanding Team Award. Since 1994, Tate and Atwill have collaborated on a series of projects assessing the potential risk to rangeland surface-water quality and human health from livestock associated pollutants.
- Outstanding Leader – Pamela Geisel, former director of the statewide UC Master Gardener Program. Although Pam retired recently, since this nomination package was very strong, I believe it's appropriate and important to give Pam this much-deserved award.
- Outstanding Staff – Michael Yang, UCCE agricultural assistant in Fresno County for small farms.
Each of the recipients will receive $2,000 and a certificate, except for the team award recipients, who will receive individual certificates and share $5,000.
The DSA nominations were reviewed by the Academic Assembly Council Program Committee, which gave me its recommendations. The committee was chaired by Joe Grant and included Rachel Surls, Becky Westerdahl, Scott Oneto and Jennifer Heguy.
On behalf of ANR, I thank the DSA recipients for providing excellent service to the people of California. I hope you will join me in congratulating them on this well-deserved recognition.
Barbara Allen-DiazVice President
View or leave comments for ANR Leadership at http://ucanr.edu/sites/ANRUpdate/Comments.
This announcement is also posted and archived on the ANR Update pages.
Sara Robinson awarded "Professors for the Future" Fellowship
Sara Robinson was recently awarded a “Professors for the Future” fellowship from the Office of Graduate Studies. The PFTF award recognizes academic performance, leadership potential, the desire to serve the needs of fellow students and interest in participating in the graduate and postdoctoral education process. This award will provide a stipend for the 2014-15 academic year. During this time Sara will participate in various program-sponsored activities, including a seminar on college teaching and a course on Ethics and Professionalism. In addition, she will complete a project of her own design related to the goals of the PFTF program. Congratulations Sara!
Tom Gordon APS Fellow
Tom Gordon was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society. This award recognizes distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to the APS. Tom was acknowledged for his accomplishments in teaching, research, and administrative leadership. The award will be presented at the APS national meeting in Minneapolis in August, 2014.
Ronald Lab Scientist Benjamin Schwessinger in the news!
Long before nations devised complex military strategies, plants had their own built-in systems for thwarting potential attacks by disease-causing microbes.
Two new players in this mutual seek-and-destroy struggle between the plant and microbial worlds have been identified by an international team of researchers, including a plant scientist at the University of California, Davis.
UCD News & Information: Study unmasks key operatives in plant immunity battle
“In this study, we showed that a biochemical process known as tyrosine phosphorylation is important to the plant’s immune signaling system,“ said study co-author Benjamin Schwessinger, a Human Frontier Science Program postdoctoral fellow in the UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology. Schwessinger initiated the work when at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, U.K.
“Furthermore, we demonstrated that a certain plant receptor that recognizes the presence of the Pseudomonas syringae bacterium also becomes the target for a counterattack when that bacterium attempts to fight back and suppress the plant’s immune system,” he said.
See the abstract to this study published online today~ A Bacterial Tyrosine Phosphatase Inhibits Plant Pattern Recognition Receptor Activation
$4 million chickpea project aims to boost nutrition and environmental sustainability
A new research effort, designed to improve the productivity of chickpea varieties by harnessing the genetic diversity of wild species, was launched today in Ethiopia through the federal Feed the Future Initiative and under the leadership of the University of California, Davis.
Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
The new, five-year, $4 million research program is especially important in the developing world, where the chickpea provides a crucial source of income, food security and nutrition to poor farmers — particularly women. Chickpea is the third most widely grown legume crop in the world, following soybean and bean, and it has the ability to capture and use atmospheric nitrogen, thus contributing to soil fertility.
Doug Gubler receives the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award
Doug Gubler received the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists in recognition for contributions to Integrated Pest Management and Applied Ecology in grapevine disease research. Gubler’s work over the past 30 years has led to a reduction in fungicide use for Botrytis bunch rot by the process of leaf removal, reduction in fungicide use for grapevine powdery mildew by use of the Gubler-Thomas Risk Assessment Model, Cultural control of grapevine canker diseases by use of double pruning, Etiology of the 3000 year old disease known as black measles and etiology of grapevine canker diseases. This work in disease epidemiology and pathogen biology work has led to an average of 6-7 fewer fungicide applications used in California vineyards.
Elana Peach-Fine: USAID Award for Scientific Excellence
Elana Peach-Fine, who works as a project analyst in the CA&ES International Programs Office, was honored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for work she did as a graduate student with the Horticulture Collaborative Research Program (Horticulture CRSP) at UC Davis. The Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, a USAID advisory board appointed by the president, selected Peach-Fine for its “Award for Scientific Excellence” at a meeting held in January in Washington, D.C.
Peach-Fine recently completed master’s degrees in international agricultural development and in plant pathology. Her work with the Horticulture CRSP included managing its Trellis Fund, which pairs U.S. graduate students with organizations in developing countries to work on fruit and vegetable projects. Horticulture CRSP has funded 37 Trellis projects in 14 countries through a process largely run by graduate students.
Currently Peach-Fine works on agricultural projects in Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, and Ecuador. In the photo, Peach-Fine is on the left, receiving an award from Raj Shah, chief administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Elizabeth Henry awarded 2 year USDA fellowship
Elizabeth Henry, a third year Plant Pathology Department grad student and PhD of Coaker lab was awarded a 2 year fellowship from the USDA to study the ability of different plant cell types to recognize bacterial pathogens in Arabidopsis and tomato. It is a USDA NIFA Pre-Doctoral fellowship. The title of the grant is: “Early Infection Events: Bacterial Manipulation of the Host and the Role of Tissue-Specific Immune Responses During Infection”
Gitta Coaker selected as 2013-2014 Chancellor's Fellow
Associate Professor of Plant Pathology Gitta Coaker has been selected to be a 2013-2014 Chancellor's Fellow and will receive a one-time award of $25,000 toward her research, teaching and service activities by Chancellor Katehi. The Chancellor's Fellows Program was established in 2000 to honor the achievements of outstanding faculty members early in their careers. Congrats Dr. Coaker!
With a background in plant genetics and
molecular biology (Ph.D., Ohio State University, 2003), she was not an obvious fit for a position in microbial ecology, according to Mary Delany, interim dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. However, Delany wrote in her nomination letter, Coaker impressed the search committee with her achievements and ability to show how her expertise could be applied in novel ways to the study of plant-associated microbes - and she got the job. That was in 2007, and she has continued to impress in her research of plant-microbe interactions, an important aspect of global food security. Delany also pointed out Coaker's "engaging presentation skills," noting that she has established herself as an outstanding educator both in the classroom and as a mentor of graduate and
undergraduate students and post-doctoral scholars.
More information here
Laboratory Hazard Assessment Tool
Deadline: January 10th 2014
The new Laboratory Hazard Assessment Tool (LHAT) has been created as part of the University of California’s commitment to continuing a culture of safety. LHAT is a web-based system intended to identify and communicate hazards present in a laboratory or research area. Once the hazards are identified, staff can take appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) training and print a voucher that can be exchanged for free PPE at the UC Davis Distribution Event in February 2014. LHAT will be used by all academic appointees, staff, students, and visitors to prevent workplace illnesses and injuries.
As a Principal Investigator (PI) or Laboratory/Shop Supervisor, LHAT allows you to:
- Identify or add laboratory workers into your lab group
- Determine hazards that are present in the laboratory through guided questions
- Communicate laboratory hazards to personnel through the LHAT
- Identify the proper PPE to be used based on the hazard assessment
As Laboratory Personnel, LHAT allows you to:
- Identify with a lab group
- View potential hazards present in the laboratory through the assessment
- Receive a list of proper PPE to be used in your laboratory setting
- Receive training and demonstrate understanding of the training on the selected PPE for your laboratory
- Earn voucher for free PPE to be used at the February 2014 Distribution Event
What Safety Training do you need? Check out the UCD_lab-personnel_training_matrix_20130916">Safety Training Matrix
UC Davis TAPS BEEP Video from UCDavisTAPS
Janet Brown-Simmons, Neal Van Alfen, and Jim MacDonald have all three been awarded the recipient of the Award of Distinction by our college. Congrats!!! More info below:
Reposted from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website
On Friday, October 11, 2013 the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences will bestow the Awards of Distinction at its 25th annual College Celebration. The event is held each year at harvest time to celebrate the advancement and accomplishments of our college and its impact on agriculture and the environment.
The Award of Distinction is the highest recognition presented by the college to individuals whose contributions and achievements enrich the image and reputation of the college and enhance its ability to provide public service.
Treat yourself to a delightful outing with delicious hors d'oeuvres and excellent wines. The evening culminates with a farmers market where attendees dismantle the "welcome display" and take home a bag packed full of California's freshest produce and grains.
- Alumni: Will Crites
- Alumni: Glenda Humiston
- Friend: Robert Curtis
- Staff: Janet Brown Simmons
- Faculty: Kay Dewey
- College Leaders awardees: Neal Van Alfen and James MacDonald
Registration will open in early September 2013.
For more information, please contact Carrie Cloud at (530) 204-7500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 5:30pm — Award of Distinction Ceremony
- 6:30-8:00pm — Reception and farmers market
- Freeborn Hall, UC Davis
Information on hotels, shuttles, restaurants, airports and more, coming soon.
Carrie Cloud (530) 204-7500 (cell) email@example.com
Crop rotation with nematode-resistant wheat can protect tomatoes
In a study published in Crop Science, scientists describe a nematode-resistant wheat. But while the wheat carries the resistance to the pest, the benefits are actually seen in the crop that is grown after it.
Root-knot nematodes cause crop losses around the world, and they can be difficult to control. In order to reproduce, nematodes need to infect a living plant root. Once they are present in soil, they can survive winter in a fallow field and infect plants during the next growing season. Trap crops – unsuitable hosts that “trick” the nematodes into starting their life cycle but then prevent them from reproducing – are often a better option than leaving the field fallow.
“Once nematodes commit to being a parasite, they have to complete their life cycle,” explains Valerie Williamson, lead author of the study and professor at University of California – Davis. “If they don’t reproduce, the population dies out.”
Trap crops can reduce the number of parasites in the soil and lessen the effects of the pests on the next crop in the rotation. But crops resistant to nematodes can be hard to find due to the pest’s wide range of hosts, and trap crops are often plants that are less valuable to farmers. In the present study, researchers found a resistant strain of wheat that can reduce nematode numbers in soil and protect the next rotation of tomato plants.
“What’s nice about this finding is that wheat is what farmers often use as a rotation crop in California,” says Williamson.
The researchers were surprised to find the resistant wheat. They had tried a number of different rotation crops before turning to wheat. Wheat breeder and senior co-author Jorge Dubcovsky then gave Williamson a strain of wheat called Lassik. Lassik is similar to wheat that is commonly grown, but it has a slight difference. A small segment of genes from another wheat strain relocated, through breeding, into Lassik.
This relocated segment has no effect on yield or behavior of the crop, but Williamson and her co-authors found that it did have a benefit – it made the wheat resistant to nematodes. “Dubcovsky gave us this strain because it had other resistance genes in it,” says Williamson. “It turned out, to our surprise, that it also had nematode resistance.”
Once they realized that the Lassik wheat was more resistant to nematodes than the wheat normally grown, the research team validated the source of the resistance by comparing pairs of strains with and without the relocated segment. Then to determine if rotating the resistant wheat with tomato plants would help protect the tomatoes, the authors grew Lassik wheat and used some of the soil to plant tomato seedlings. The wheat had the effect they were hoping for – the tomatoes grown in soil from the resistant wheat plots were less damaged by nematodes.
“If farmers use a wheat that does not have the resistant genes, more nematodes survive, and they’ll be there when they plant tomatoes,” explains Williamson. “But if they plant the resistant wheat, there won’t be as many nematodes in the soil.” Dubcovsky noted that the last three bread wheat varieties released by the University of California Wheat breeding program and the USDA-supported Triticeae-CAP project all carry this resistance gene and are readily available to growers.
The results from the study offer a promising option for reducing nematode damage. The next step is to verify the findings on a larger scale. Williamson and her team grew plants both in greenhouses and in small microplots. They are now anticipating that agronomists will try the rotation on a field scale.
“We wanted to get the results out there so that people who work in the field, farm advisers for example, can see if it works in practice as well as it did in a controlled experiment.”
View the abstract at: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.2135/cropsci2012.12.0681
Congratulations to the Gilbertson lab, this year's bocce ball champs!!!
Falk Lab Research Posted on "Top Research Published in Virology" Blog
Dr. Raj Nandety, first author (left), and Professor Bryce Falk, corresponding author (right)
Department of Plant Pathology, University of California, Davis, USA
About the research
Virology, Volume 442, Issue 1, Pages xx
Raja Sekhar Nandety, Viacheslav Y. Fofanov, Heather Koshinsky, Drake C. Stenger, Bryce W. Falk
PLP Department Displays Samples of Pathogens for Public Viewing on Picnic Day
By Suzann Muy
UC Davis celebrated its 99th annual Picnic Day a month ago on Saturday, April 20th. Families, friends, students, and visitors in the Davis community gathered to enjoy a day of fun activities and events and to learn about the UC Davis departments and campus culture. A little over 1,000 people also came to explore the world of plant pathology in Hutchison Hall.
The Department of Plant Pathology held an exhibit where the public could learn and ask questions about plant pathogens and the diseases they cause. Additionally, specimens could be submitted for diagnosis. Kari Arnold, a Ph.D. student in Plant Pathology, and her colleagues assembled a display of plant samples with symptoms of diseases commonly affecting plants in the Davis area. This included peach leaf curl, stripe rust on blue grass, black spot on roses and fig mosaic virus. Crown gall was this year’s mystery disease. Arnold explains that this event helps bridge the gap between “field and fork” by helping people to understand how pathogens affect crops and the food we eat, not just trees and ornamental plants. Visitors were offered a free strawberry plant donated by Lassen Canyon Nursery.
Another exhibit at Picnic Day allowed guests to perform a strawberry DNA extraction with Linda Curro, who is the Education Coordinator for the outreach program, Partnership for Plant Genomics Education (PPGE), in the Plant Pathology department.
IGERT Video Competition: We Won!
Congratulations! Mitch, Hyrum and Elenor’s project's video submission to the
2013 IGERT Video and Poster Competition has been selected as one of 25 winning submissions!
This year's competition included 124 submissions from 119 IGERT programs and 249 Ph.D. students nationally. The online video competition on
http://www.igert.org, has received over 16,500 "Likes" on Fcebook and over 39,000 unique visitors from over 153 countries. Additionally, news sites such as Scientific American, Nature, Red Orbit, and Yahoo have featured the competition.
Mitch, Hyrum and Elenor were invited to the National Science Foundation Headquarters, in Arlington, Virginia, on June 11, 2013 to be recognized in an all-day awards ceremony, video and poster session, and series of discussions about career opportunities for IGERT graduates. The morning portion of the event will include IGERT Alumni Panelists who will share their career paths and advice for current IGERT trainees. This will be followed by a poster session. Following the poster session, there will be a World Café Roundtable style discussion of career opportunities for trainees in the industry, government, NGO, startup, and academia sectors. The event will conclude with an awards ceremony and an informal networking session into the early evening.
Robin Choudhury Receives Multiple Awards
Plant pathology graduate student Robin Choudhury recently received The Robert W. Fulton Student Travel Award and The Kyung Soo Kim Student Travel Award from the American Phytopathological Society. He will use the awards to help support his travel to the APS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX this summer. At the meeting, he will present his modeling work on maize streak virus, conducted under the guidance of major professor Neil McRoberts. Congratulations Robin!
Tom Gordon awarded Academic Senate 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching
We are pleased to announce that Professor Tom Gordon, Chair of Plant Pathology, has been awarded the Academic Senate 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate Teaching. This award is one of the most prestigious granted on the UC Davis campus and recognizes consistent outstanding teaching and commitment to student success. This is a great and well-deserved honor. Congratulations Tom!
An award ceremony will be held in honor of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award recipients on 14 May, 2013 at the Arc Ballroom, in conjunction with other Senate and Federation awards. The Program begins at 5:15pm. Academic Awards Invitation 3may2013bm">Click here for more information and here to RSVP.
Stephen Bolus awarded 3-year NSF fellowship
Congratulations to Stephen Bolus who recently was awarded a 3-year NSF fellowship to support his graduate studies in plant pathology. This year there were over 12,000 applicants (2000 Fellowship Offers and 1809 Honorable Mentions) this year. He joins a group of 35+ new 2013-14 UCD fellows and over 100 continuing fellows here on campus. Stephen is working under the guidance of Dr. Ioannis Stergiopoulos.
Graduate Students Diagnose Sick Plants as a Learning and Teaching Tool
April 16, 2013- Some people have a natural “green thumb” to take care of plants, but the lack of it doesn’t stop anyone from growing their own garden. All plant growers must give attention and care to their plants, especially when they are sick. Like humans, plants are affected by pathogens too, so as a solution Davis residents can ask the UC Davis Plant Disease Clinic (PDC).
Run by the Chair, Allison Ferry, and Co-Chair, Cassandra Swett, PDC is a non-profit, student-run organization in the Department of Plant Pathology to help the community by diagnosing various sick plants at no cost. PDC has been running for about six years, and Ferry, who is a fourth-year Ph.D. student, has been in charge of PDC for two years now; she acts as the primary diagnostician. She, along with about 15 other graduate students, uses PDC to enhance her learning and progress in her research; it is also a teaching tool to educate the public about plant diseases.
Every year, PDC holds two events in the fall and spring quarters at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery’s Plant Sales event. People can bring in a picture of their plants or part of the plant that show signs of a pathogen. The clinic often gives a diagnosis and recommendations for disease control on the spot but may also do further laboratory testing if needed. The most common plant samples people bring in are ornamental plants (home or outdoor), such as trees or shrubs, but they can diagnose sick vegetables and crops too.
Once the sample has been analyzed, PDC will contact the person by phone or email and make recommendations such as using fertilizers or fungicides, but they try to recommend cultural controls such as pruning or other environmentally friendly treatments, whenever possible. Their next upcoming event is on Saturday, April 28, at the Arboretum Teaching Nursery. This is a chance for the public to purchase plants and talk to the PDC members about any their sick plants. If you wish to consult with them about a plant, you can also contact them by phone or email: (530) 752-3831 or firstname.lastname@example.org. (See website for more information: http//:pdc.ucdavis.edu)
Article by Suzann Muy
December 13th, 2012. Two CA&ES plant scientists have received honors for the humanitarian impact of their rice research by The Tech Museum in San Jose. David Mackill, an associate geneticist in the Department of Plant Sciences, and Pam Ronald, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, were named laureates of The Tech Awards 2012. They are two of 12 people from around the world celebrated by the museum this year for using technology to benefit humanity and spark global change.
Nearly half of the world’s seven billion people eat rice every day. About 50 million acres of rice is grown in flood-prone regions of the world, and rice plants die if they’re completely submerged for more than three days. Mackill and Ronald helped develop a submergence-tolerant variety of rice that produces yields up to five times greater than conventional varieties, improving life for rice growers around the world.
Mackill and Ronald were honored at an event at the Santa Clara Convention Center in November, along with Ronald’s former postdoctoral fellow Kenong Xu—who contributed to the research and development of submergence-tolerant rice variety “Sub 1 rice.”
December 13th, 2012. Plant pathology Professor Richard Bostock has been elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of 17 faculty members from UC Davis to receive the honor this year. Bostock was recognized for his distinguished contributions to basic research in plant-microbe interactions and exemplary leadership in the National Plant Diagnostic Network, a surveillance and diagnostic program designed to protect plants against serious pests and diseases that could be introduced accidentally or through bioterrorism. His research focuses on fungal diseases of orchard crops and on root- and crown-rot diseases caused by the destructive Phytophthora species, using various research plants including tomato, Arabidopsis, peach, walnut and rhododendron.
Bostock is among 702 new fellows, honored for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Bostock and other new fellows will be formally recognized in February during the association's annual meeting in Boston.