The purpose of my program is improving knowledge on plant pathogen biology, ecology, and population dynamics that could facilitate development of new disease management options and strategies on apple and pear. The goal is to elucidate quantitative parameters of pathogen survival and stress, improve understanding of plant defense responses under field conditions, and develop new or improve existing strategies for disease management. An integral part of my program are fungicide and bactericide efficacy trials and intensive extension outreach to deliver new disease management information to directly benefit the apple industry of New York. Areas of my research focus are:
Plant Pathogen Biology, Ecology, and Population Dynamics:
• Survival, physiology, and population dynamics of fire blight bacterium Erwinia amylovora under stress conditions and during overwintering
• Plant defense responses
• Plant pathogen identification and population structure
• Plant pathogen resistance to biocides
Plant Pathogen Management:
• Fungicide and bactericide efficacy trials in the field and in vitro
• Evaluation of classic and novel management options for apple pathogens
• Development of new strategies, tools, and programs for plant disease management
My ongoing projects focus on improving efficacy of post-infection sprays for suppression, tissue-progression, and reduction of populations of fire blight bacterium E. amylovora. Of particular interest are sprays of different rates of copper and plant growth regulators, as well as use of penetrants to boost their efficacy. In cooperation with apple growers we conduct research on comparing population dynamics of E. amylovora during dormancy in commercial and research apple orchard plots. Additionally, we are investigating detection and quantification of E. amylovora in tolerant and susceptible apple rootstocks.
Outreach and Extension Focus
The purpose of my extension program is to provide industry with disease management recommendations specific for each growing season. In recent years, apple tree growers are challenged with complications associated with climate change such as mild winters, early spring frosts, unusually warm weather during bloom, and hail storms early in the season. Some of these conditions often favor development of some of the major apple diseases such as fire blight and bitter rot. Hence, the use of disease prediction models (NEWA, RIMpro) is crucial for forging out and issuing sound spray recommendations and their timing. In support of accuracy in model predictions, my lab is monitoring the start of discharge of apple scab fungus ascospores and their quantity. The need for precise timing of sprays and correct fungicide/bactericide choice for maximum efficacy has never been greater. This is primarily due to high potential for extensive damage diseases can cause, facilitated by growing apples in high density orchards, using spindle training systems, and planting new and susceptible apple cultivars and rootstocks that nurseries and fresh market prefer. My disease management recommendations are delivered at petal fall meetings, during on farm visits and tours, via phone calls and e-mails, and through workshops, fruit schools and my lab’s blog page. My extension engagement also includes diagnosis of tree fruit problems in cooperation with Cornell’s entomology and horticulture faculty and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, associates and staff. Through networking with other research and extension plant pathologists and horticulturalists at conferences and individually, my lab delivers region wide information on plant issues to the growers. Finally, through establishing and expanding my research program, my goal is to generates new information on pathogen biology, ecology and plant disease management to include into extension.