Thursday, April 2, 2009

NCSU Experts Team up Against Ornamental Diseases

NCSU Experts Team up Against Ornamental Diseases
Kelly Ivors, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist;

It’s time to get the word out! In case some of you don’t know, as of last fall my extension program in the Department of Plant Pathology transitioned to include state-wide responsibilities for disease management in ornamentals, including commercial greenhouses and nurseries. My assignment is 80% extension and 20% research, and also includes Christmas trees and vegetables in western North Carolina. For the past 5 years my research has focused on applied and molecular disease diagnosis, monitoring pathogen populations for the development of fungicide resistance, and integration of fungicides, cultural control and host resistance in disease management practices (IPM), with an emphasis on Phytophthora diseases. Currently I am directing two research specialists: Dreama Milks provides assistance in the laboratory and Chris Holmberg provides assistance in field and greenhouse trials. In addition, research assistant Landis Lacey conducts DNA based studies in my lab, and I co-advise PhD student Brantlee Richter with Mike Benson on a project involving biological and cultural control of Phytophthora root rot of Fraser fir.

A little bit about me. I received my PhD from The Pennsylvania State University in 2001, and started working as an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Plant Pathology at NCSU’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River in July 2004 after conducting post-doctoral research at the University of California- Berkeley on the population genetics of Phytophthora ramorum, causal agent of sudden oak death and ramorum blight. It was at UC Berkeley where I learned how much ‘I love to hate Phytophthora’.

As a new extension pathologist to the NC ornamental industry, one of my goals is to gain a better understanding of the various methods both greenhouse and nursery growers use to sanitize irrigation water, as well as gaining a better understanding of the water quality issues facing this industry. Due to the diversity and complexity of irrigation systems and monitoring methods, I believe this is the first logical step in optimizing recommendations for managing water-borne diseases of ornamentals in both the greenhouse and nursery. This summer I will be conducting a state-wide survey to collect and analyze irrigation water samples from commercial greenhouses and nurseries. So, watch out! I hope to meet with many of you soon.

Kelly Ivors

A little bit about ornamental plant pathology resources at NCSU. The Plant Disease and Insect Clinic (PDIC) provides disease diagnostic and insect identification services to help you grow healthy plants and make good pest control decisions. Long time staff members include plant disease diagnostician Shawn Butler, entomologist David Stephan, and turf disease diagnostician Lee Butler.

We are very pleased to announce that Mike Munster joined the staff of the PDIC in February 2009, with primary responsibilities in disease diagnosis of commercial ornamentals. Mike will work closely with Dr. Mike Benson and I. Mike Munster comes to the PDIC with broad experience in plant pathology and disease diagnosis, both in North Carolina and in parts of Mexico. He has an M.S. degree in plant pathology from NCSU and gained diagnostic experience while working in the clinic from 1996 – 1999. In his most recent position he honed his mycological skills as a research specialist for Dr. Larry Grand. Mike looks forward to diagnosing your plant disease problems and hopes to meet many of you at site visits, workshops, and field days.
Mike Munster

All ornamental samples for diagnosis should be submitted to the PDIC. Information and instructions for sample submission, clinic location, hours and fees, diagnosis of digital images, and a virtual tour of the PDIC can be found at Together with extension specialists from Plant Pathology, Entomology, Horticulture, Crop Science and Soil Science, the clinic staff is dedicated to providing accurate and rapid diagnosis of plant health problems. Dr. Barbara Shew in the Dept. of Plant Pathology is the director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic. Please contact her for further information about clinic services and programs.

Mike Benson, Professor in the Dept. of Plant Pathology, also conducts research on diseases of both floriculture and nursery crops, with an emphasis on the epidemiology, ecology and control of root-infecting fungi, including Rhizoctonia, Phytophthora and Pythium. In addition, Mike evaluates disease control products for root rot diseases on a number of crops through support from the IR4 project. IR4 is a cooperative project involving the federal government, universities, agriculture chemical companies and grower stakeholders with the mission to provide safe and effective pest management solutions for growers of specialty crops so that growers will have the tools they need to protect their crops from plant diseases, insects, and weeds.

Mike Benson

The Dept. of Plant Pathology recognizes the importance of the greenhouse and nursery industry in North Carolina and is committed to providing the best disease management support and services possible. Our goal is to develop innovative programs that utilize the expertise of our personnel to address emerging and critical plant disease issues facing this Green Industry. Please let us know how we can help you!

For more information contact your local Cooperative Extension Center and ask for the Commercial Horticulture Agent.