Seedling pathogen research is just the beginning
Erika Arnao, Ph.D., Ahmad Fakhoury, Ph.D., and Amanda Warner [center] at SIUC pre-screen fungal isolates in preparation for identification. Growers and sales agronomists have recognized root rot and damping-off in seedling soybeans that even had a fungicide seed treatment. Is it caused by Pythium, Phytophthora, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia or combination of them? If so, which strains? Or is it something else entirely? Helping to answer those questions and more is the focus of the grower funded “Identification and Biology of Seedling Pathogens” research study.
“We have 14 investigators from 12 states working on the project,” said Jason Bond, associate professor, soybean pathology/nematology, Southern Illinois University. Bond is a participant as well as the coordinator for the project. “Some of the investigators are more Extension oriented, while others are more lab oriented, and some have overlapping duties.”
After decades of cutbacks in state and federal funding for basic research, growers have stepped up to the plate as never before, and the time has never been better. Recent additions to traditional analytical tools, such as molecular probing, expanding genomic databases and computerized search capabilities of those databases, make sample identification and classification faster and more complete than ever before. Taking advantage of classical research efforts and the new advances is the goal of the pathogen study. Funding is from the United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP).
NCSRP is a coordinated research effort by state soybean checkoff organizations in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
The goals are straightforward:
• Identify fungi responsible for causing seedling blights of soybeans
• Develop high throughput diagnostic tools for identifying fungal seeding pathogens
• Characterize the biology of seedling pathogens and develop assays for inoculation
• Identify the impact of environmental conditions on seedling pathogens.
EFFORT TO STUDY SEEDLING PATHOGENS
The breadth of the effort and the rapid development in analytical tools in recent years are multiplying its potential impact. Examining seedling pathogens in their native environment means sampling can only take place once a year—at the seedling stage. The pathology project involves researchers across the 12 states who gather samples and submit them to researchers at Southern Illinois University and Michigan State University. There, isolates are evaluated under microscope as well as through molecular probing. Those samples are then compared via computer searches with known genetic databases, derived from domestic and international fungal collections.