Kleczewski joins UD Cooperative Extension as plant pathology specialist

May 15, 2013 under Cooperative Extension

Nathan Kleczewski has joined the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Service as the plant pathology specialist. He replaces Bob Mulrooney, who retired after 38 years with UD Cooperative Extension.

Kleczewski received his bachelor of science degree in biology from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his doctorate in plant pathology from Ohio State University. He did postdoctoral research at Indiana and Purdue universities. Most recently, he worked as a plant pathologist with FMC Agricultural Products.

At UD, Kleczewski’s work will concentrate on plant pathology in field crops. Although he has only been in his new job since May 1, Kleczewski has hit the ground running. He already has set up meetings with local growers to better understand their needs.

“My work is grower-driven,” notes Kleczewski. “All of my applied research projects will focus on the concerns of Delaware’s farmers.”

KleczewskiNathanRecognizing the ever-increasing role that technology plays in daily life, Kleczewski will create a Facebook page where he will post up-to-the-minute information on plant diseases in Delaware and surrounding states. A farmer in the field need only glance at his or her smartphone to find out the latest issues and learn how to prevent or mitigate crop loss.

“We are very pleased to have Nathan join our Extension team. Each growing season brings its own disease challenges and having plant pathology expertise on our team in Delaware is a critical aspect of successful crop production and sustaining Delaware agriculture,” says Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension and Outreach.

Kleczewski grew up in rural Wisconsin. Both his maternal and paternal grandparents owned dairy farms and his uncles currently work as dairy farmers. He always enjoyed studying the sciences but when the time came to enter graduate school he told a college professor, “I want to work in the sciences but I want to do work that my uncles will understand and appreciate. I want to make a difference in the lives of people I know.”

His professor suggested plant pathology and Kleczewski quickly discovered that it was the perfect discipline for his interests. Kleczewski’s wife, Victoria, also works in the agricultural field; she is employed in field development for DuPont.

Kleczewski is enjoying a busy spring. He and his wife settled on a new house in Middletown in late April, and are looking forward to the birth of their first child later this month.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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UD awarded $1.5 million USDA grant to study lima beans

January 11, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Researchers from UD study lima beansDelaware is currently the number two producer of lima beans in the United States, second only to California and with the possibility of becoming number one in the future.

Because of this, it is imperative to study the many aspects of various diseases affecting the crop in Delaware and throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

Such work requires a collaborative effort and a team has been assembled thanks to a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant.

The grant awarded to the University of Delaware includes researchers from UD, Delaware State University, the University of Maryland, Ohio State University, Cornell University and the University of California Davis (UC Davis) who will begin studying the various effects of plant disease on lima beans in the First State.

The many aspects of this grant will include studies that are being conducted for the first time in history.

There are six components to the grant, each with various researchers studying different parts of the problem. They are conducting research on downy mildew, pod blight, white mold, root knot nematodes and germplasm resources and developing an economic analysis.

Downy mildew

Downy mildew is a fungal-like disease of the lima bean caused by Phytophthora phaseoliand the goal of the research team is to improve disease forecasting and look at genetic diversity of the population of the pathogen. In this way, researchers will be able to inform farmers of their risk of occurrence of the disease and have a better understanding of the genetics of the pathogen.

Tom Evans and Nicole Donofrio, professors of plant pathology in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Nancy Gregory, plant diagnostician for UD, will work together on this part of the project.

Pod blight

Pod blight is caused by the pathogen known as P. capsici and Gordon Johnson, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, will work on this part of the study with Evans and Gregory.

Unlike downy mildew, which is a disease that generally affects only lima beans, P. capsicihas a very wide host range. Once it strikes a particular crop, it is very difficult to get rid of, with pathogen’s spores lasting up to 10 years in the soil. Because of this, pod blight is an increasing problem for growers. The disease occurs in low-lying areas of fields and is more frequent in wet years. Therefore, this part of the project has three goals: to look for a fungicide to deal with the disease, to monitor the disease, and to look for alternative or organic non-pesticide driven strategies for control.

The study is also looking at risk management strategies, including information for growers in the state about the best time to spray for disease control and consideration of alternate control strategies.

Gregory, who diagnoses field samples collected by the research team and growers, maintains cultures of the pathogens and produces  the inoculum for the studies, said that the researchers are eager to “learn more about the epidemiology and the spread of pod blight and downy mildew, that will enable us to do a little bit better job on forecasting.”

She also noted how great is to have so many expert researchers involved, noting that she is looking forward to making significant progress on problems that have plagued the region for years. “To pull together a strong team of researchers like this and many new graduate students is really going to pull a lot of this research together and we’ll really come up with some great results.”

White mold

Kate Everts, an adjunct associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD and a Cooperative Extension specialist with both UD and the University of Maryland, is leading research on alternative ways to control white mold, another disease that is very difficult to eliminate.

With an even broader host range than P. capsici, and an even longer life — persisting in soils for 20-30 years — finding out as much about the disease as possible, as well as possible ways to control it, is imperative.

Everts will look not just at lima beans but other crops, as well, as she tests biological control strategies and alternative control strategies for dealing with the white mold.

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UD Professors, Extensions Specialists present at Ag Week

January 18, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Professors from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Cooperative Extension Specialists were well represented at the 7th annual Delaware Agriculture Week, giving presentations and moderating discussion panels throughout the week for members of the agricultural community.

This year’s Delaware Ag Week runs from Jan. 16-21, with the majority of events taking place at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, Delaware. Delaware Ag Week is an on-going collaboration between The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Delaware Ag Week aims to provide useful and timely information to the agricultural community and industry through educational meetings and events, as well as allowing for networking and fellowship with old and new acquaintances. There are also many opportunities to receive nutrient management, pesticide and certified crop advisor continuing education credits.

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, University of Delaware professors and extension specialists gave numerous presentations during the “Processing Vegetables” sessions that took place during the morning and afternoon. Emmalea Ernest, extension vegetable crops associate, gave two lectures during the morning highlighting her trials with sweet corn and lima beans, as well as moderating the afternoon session.

Other presenters included Mark VanGessel, a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences as well as an extension weed science specialist, Gordon Johnson, assistant professor of plant and soil science and an extension fruit and vegetable specialist, Kate Everts, an adjunct associate professor of plant and soil sciences, Joanne Whalen, an extension integrated pest management specialist in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and Bob Mulrooney, an extension plant pathologist.

Presentations will continue on Thursday, Jan. 19, with sessions on agronomy and soybeans scheduled for the morning and the afternoon at the Delaware State Fairgrounds Dover Building.

Delaware Ag Week will wrap up with the “Friends of Agriculture Breakfast” at 7:15 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 20 at the Harrington Fire Hall and then with a fruit and vegetable growers roundtable discussion on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Paradee Center in Dover, followed by a potluck lunch at noon. Registration for the “Friends of Ag Breakfast” is $20 and advance registration is preferred.

For more information on Delaware Ag Week, visit the website.

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Corn Hybrid Trial Tour, Meeting

August 16, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

All farmers and crop advisers are invited to attend the University of Delaware corn hybrid variety trial and twilight meeting on September 1, 2011. The corn hybrid plots will be open for viewing at this irrigated location starting at 4:00 p.m. Extension specialists will be on hand to discuss insect pest management in corn, management of diseases commonly found in our area, and weed control issues. Optimizing nutrient applications in corn will also be discussed. Dinner will be provided. CCA, DE Nutrient Management, and DE Pesticide credits will be available. Contact Phillip Sylvester, Extension Ag Agent, Kent County, with questions at 302-730-4000 or email at phillip@udel.edu.

When: Thursday, September 1, 2011
Time: 4:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Location: Dickerson Farms, 1730 Bayside Drive, Dover, DE (From Rt.1, take the Rt. 9 exit towards Little Creek. Farm entrance is on the right after Bergold Lane.)
Registration: Please RSVP by calling (302)-730-4000 by August 29 or email Phillip Sylvester phillip@udel.edu.

Schedule:
4:00 to 5:30 Sign-in and Tour Corn Hybrid Plots, Dr. Richard Taylor, Extension Agronomist and Tecle Weldekidan, Scientist, UD
5:30 to 6:00 Dinner
6:00 to 6:20 Late season insect pest update, Joanne Whalen, Extension IPM Specialist, UD
6:20 to 6:40 Common corn diseases in Delaware, Bob Mulrooney, Extension Plant Pathologist, UD
6:40 to 7:00 Weed control issues in corn, Dr. Mark VanGessel, Extension Weed Specialist, UD
7:00 to 7:30 Optimizing nutrient applications in corn, Dr. Greg Binford, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist of Soil Fertility, UD

Submitted by Phillip Sylvester

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June 13: NCC small grains meeting

June 7, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

A New Castle County small grains meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 13 from 5:30 to 8:30 with refreshments thereafter.  The meeting will feature information on the small grain trials with a yield guessing contest for the brave at heart with a prize of 50 bushels of the top yielding variety at Middletown for you to plant this fall.

New Castle County Small Grains Meeting
June 13, 2011
Middletown UD Coop. Ext. Demonstration Site
Marl Pit Road, approx. 1 mile East of Rt. 301/71
Middletown, DE

 

5:30 pm                      Sign-in
6:00 to 6:45 pm          Tour Small Grain Variety Trial plots with Bob Uniatowski
6:45 to 7:00 pm          Small Grain Disease Update with Bob Mulrooney
7:00 to 7:30 pm          Insect Management Update for 2011, Joanne Whalen
7:30 to 8:00 pm          Weed Control Issues to Consider, Dr. Mark VanGessel
8:00 to 8:15 pm          Market Update, Carl German
8:15 to 8:30 pm          Fertility Issues and Reminders, Dr. Richard Taylor
8:30                             Refreshments and General Discussion

Special Note:  Bob Uniatowski will again be conducting the “Guess the Top Yielding Wheat” contest this year for NCC.  The winner will receive 50  bushels of the wheat variety that comes out tops in the Middletown Wheat Variety Trials in 2011.

 

For more information contact Richard Taylor at rtaylor@udel.edu.

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CANR researchers team up to combat lima bean disease

February 3, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

When battling downy mildew, a potentially devastating disease that strikes lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus), one of Delaware’s most important vegetable crops, assembling a team of experts to attack the problem from all angles is a must. That’s why a diverse group of plant scientists in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has joined together to battle this important plant disease.

Tom Evans, professor of plant pathology in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and many graduate students have studied downy mildew over the past 15 years.

Evans said lima beans are vital to agriculture in Delaware and are “the cornerstone of the state’s processing vegetable industry.” Approximately 6,000 hectares of baby lima beans are grown annually, with a farm value of over $6 million. If lima bean cannot be grown profitably in the state, then many other processing vegetables would not be grown due to the economics of processing.

Downy mildew, caused by the fungus-like organism Phytophthora phaseoli, is prevalent in Delaware because it thrives in humid conditions, and lima beans are grown on small, dense acreage. Evans said that most lima bean growers are concentrated in close proximity from Dover to Georgetown and from the Delaware Bay west into Maryland, so wind-driven rain makes it easier for the pathogen’s sporangia to move from one lima bean field to another.

That was the case in 2000, when downy mildew caused $3 million damage in what Evans called “the largest downy mildew of lima bean epidemic ever recorded.” Two factors contributing to this epidemic were the emergence of a new race of the pathogen, Race F, which overcame the genetic resistance of lima cultivars being grown, and frequent wind-driven rain that spread the pathogen’s sporangia.

With the emergence of Race F, growers could no longer rely on downy mildew resistant lima bean cultivars to prevent the disease, as they had in the past. New cultivars with resistance to Race F need to be developed and in the meantime growers have relied upon fungicides to manage the disease.

Bob Mulrooney, extension specialist in plant pathology, has tested fungicides for effectiveness against downy mildew for a number of years and has identified new more environmentally-friendly chemicals which offer good control. Mulrooney’s research results are the basis for growers’ current downy mildew management practices.

Evans and his group have been responsible for studying the biology of the pathogen, monitoring the evolution of new races of the pathogen and the epidemiology of the disease.

Extension associate Nancy Gregory diagnoses the disease on samples sent in by growers, maintains the pathogen in culture for field and greenhouse experiments, and determines their races.

Emmalea Ernest, an extension associate at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, Del., breeds lima bean for desirable traits, such as disease and drought resistance, and is developing cultivars for Delaware farmers. Ernest and Evans work together screening lima bean germplasm from around the world for resistance to races E and F of P. phaseoli. Ernest has conducted experiments to determine how the resistance genes are inherited. After making crosses between resistant parents followed by several years of field screening, Evans and Ernest are testing lima bean lines with resistance to both races this summer.

Nicole Donofrio, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, is responsible for the pathogen side of the study, trying to understand the pathogen’s virulence mechanisms, and how it evolves to attack certain aspects of the plant. Donofrio said, “In order to fight the disease, you have to know your enemy, and the more you know your enemy, the more equipped you are to tackle it when things like a new race emerge.”

Knowing exactly how to fight against the disease from a pathogen standpoint is difficult. Donofrio points out that P. phaseoli has over 500 effector genes, molecules that bind to a protein altering its activity and enabling infection. To study effectors, Donofrio and doctoral student Sridhara Kunjeti took a two-pronged approach. First, they took what they knew about P. infestans, the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine and a close relative of P. phaseoli, and searched for similar genes in P. phaseoli to determine if it used similar mechanisms in its attack on lima bean.

Next, they looked at lima beans that had been infected for three and six days to see which effectors were active during those time-points of infection. Donofrio said this could lead to a breakthrough because if they are able to characterize the effector genes, they can look for traits that could be a countermeasure to pathogen attack and thereby block pathogenesis.

Randy Wisser, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, works on aspects of quantitative genetics and plant breeding and Blake Meyers, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor and chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, works on genomics of lima bean-downy mildew interactions.

In various combinations, the research team has received over $200,000 from various CANR seed grants and Delaware state grants to more fully explore P. phaseoli and downy mildew.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

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