By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Carrie Harmon, 352-273-4640, email@example.com
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Plant Diagnostic Center will help shed light on potentially devastating plant diseases at the 4th National Meeting of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) in Washington, D.C.
Held every three to four years, this year’s conference will take place March 8 to 12 in the nation’s capital.
Among those representing UF will be Jason Smith, a UF/IFAS associate professor of forest pathology. Smith’s topic is titled, “Holy Guacamole: Insights into the Emerging Laurel Wilt Pandemic.”
UF/IFAS scientists estimate the pathogen laurel wilt could severely reduce the commercial avocado industry if they don’t find control strategies for the pathogen and ambrosia beetles, which transmit the disease into the trees. About 500 growers produce Florida’s avocado crop annually, and more than 98 percent of the fruit is grown in Miami-Dade County. UF/IFAS researchers recently published a study in which they found an algorithm to help them detect laurel wilt, which threatens Florida’s $100 million-a-year avocado industry.
Carrie Harmon, a UF/IFAS Extension specialist in plant pathology and director of the UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Center, will co-present a talk on International Diagnostic Capacity Built on NPDN Capacity. Harmon coordinates diagnostics for the southeastern United States in her role with the NPDN and is co-organizer of the meeting.
“The National Plant Diagnostic Network has been helping to safeguard U.S. agriculture and natural areas since 2012 through early detection, accurate identification and plant health management,” Harmon said. “Plant diagnostic labs and specialists are your plant emergency room, family doctor and physical therapist all in one. Our connection to anyone who works with plants is built on the Extension system, supporting the state and federal departments of agriculture goals to protect crops and livelihoods across the country. We teach science-based methods to help you grow your plants better. It’s so easy to obtain plant material from anywhere in the world, thanks to international trade, but we must take care not to import new diseases that may devastate our native or cultivated systems. So we need help from the public, from gardeners and farmers, foresters and ranchers – the more help we have to detect a new plant disease, the faster we can help protect the plants we need and enjoy.”
Don Dickson, a UF/IFAS nematology professor, will speak on “Newer Species of Root-Knot Nematodes.”
“There are more than 100 root-knot nematodes reported worldwide, and the list keeps growing,” Dickson said. “Many of these species infect specific crops, whereas others have a much broader host range. Regardless, they are capable of causing serious plant diseases in more than 2,000 reported plant species. As a consequence, they rank among the world’s top soil-borne pathogens. Once they infest soils they are very difficult to manage and exceedingly hard to get rid of.”
Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will give the opening keynote address, “Plant Health: A Priority of National and Global Security.”
“The plant systems that provide the food, feed, fiber and fuel that contribute to public health and economic well-being are under increased pressures from a long list of biological and climactic stressors,” according to the NPDN website. “Early detection and rapid response are essential to minimizing the impacts from incursions of plant pathogens and pests.”
The NPDN national conference will focus on plant health diagnostics as well as diagnostic laboratory infrastructure and organization to improve and sustain disease detection and plant health management.
For more information, go to http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/npdn/index.html.