Plant Pathologist to Study Blueberry Disease

Dan Fruits, Specialty Crops

Since Xylella is a leading cause of plant death in southern highbush blueberries in Georgia, it is important for Oliver to study the pathogen to help prevent crop loss.
Courtesy University of GA/CAES

A plant pathologist at the University of Georgia (UGA) Tifton campus is using a grant to study a bacterial disease affecting blueberry crops. According to a story from the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CAES), Assistant Professor at UGA-Tifton, Jonathan Oliver, says the $7,000 grant from Georgia Farm Bureau will fund his studies of a new strain of the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa. While the grant supports blueberry research, the pathogen can also affect other crops such as grapes, peaches and pecans, as well as oak and elm trees.

The pathogen clogs the xylem, or the conductive tissue of the plant, which is essential for water and nutrient transport. As a result, the infected crop will often show symptoms like leaf scorching or drying, which can be mistaken for drought damage. Oliver said his study of bacterial leaf scorch on blueberries led to his discovery of this new strain of the pathogen.


The grant will allow him and other researchers to assess how widespread the new strain of Xylella is, how severe it is in comparison to the known strain, and how to determine management options. Tests are being performed in greenhouses to demonstrate how likely the pathogen is to infect different blueberry varieties.

Oliver said “We hope through the relatively small studies we’ve been able to do on this pathogen, we can better understand the threats to blueberry production in the Southeast.”

To read more about research being conducted in UGA’s Department of Plant Pathology visit,