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Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station

Molecular Characterization of Plant-microbe Interactions

Plant diseases cause crop loss, reduce food production and threaten global food security (Savary et al., 2012). Focusing on two distinct pathosystems that cause Fusarium vascular wilts and the Basil downy mildew (BDM), respectively, we propose to establish a pipeline to dissect host-pathogen interactions and provide novel means to develop disease resistant cultivars in order to manage plant diseases that threaten food security. Fusarium oxysporum species complex can cause vascular wilt on over 100 cultivated plant species (Beckman 1987, Moore et al.

Terpenoid Biosynthesis in Sclerotinia homoeocarpa

Natural products have a long history of providing novel compounds either directly or as lead compounds for human therapeutics, nutrition and agricultural applications. Fungal diversity has evolved over 900 million years and concurrent with this evolution is diversification of the natural product chemistry resulting in an impressive array of compounds known as specialized metabolites.

Bridging Physiology and Molecular Biology of Legumes with Sustainability and Resiliency of Crop Production in a Changing Climate

It is known that legumes generally respond to existing N in the soil. When soil N is relatively high, legumes prefer to use soil N rather than to engage in symbiosis with rhizobia. However, the ecophysiological responses of legumes to existing soil-N level and the changing climate - including temperature changes and precipitation dynamics impact rhizobia nodulation - have not been studied in actual field conditions. This study seeks to understand these responses in order to improve N management, maximize the benefits of legumes, reduce off-farm inputs, and enhance soil health.

Wild Horse & Burro Management

Identify land-grant universities, the BLM and others entities involved in sustainable management of feral equids, to collaborate and find solutions for a balanced coexistance of feral and domestic populations.
Goals / Objectives
Integrate existing biological, ecological and economic data to make comprehensive science-based recommendations for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board for sustainable management of wild and free-roaming horses and burros and the rangelands they inhabit.

Telling Pests from Non-pests: Species Delimitation in Highly Polyphagous and Abundant Armored Scale Insect Species Complexes

Armored scale insects (Hemiptera: Diaspididae) include many destructive pests of orchard crops, forestry, horticulture, and agriculture (Kennett et al., 1990), costing an estimated two billion dollars per year in the US (Miller & Davidson, 2005). They also have an extraordinary tendency to be invasive. As of 2005, the US had 132 species of diaspidids introduced from other countries (Miller et al., 2005), comprising fully 40% of the known US armored scale insect fauna. Of these, 85 (64%) were considered pests.

Harnessing Chemical Ecology to Address Agricultural Pest and Pollinator Priorities

The plum curculio is an extremely destructive key pest of stone and pome fruit in commercial orchards in eastern North America. In fact, in a survey of over 100 MA and RI apple growers (conducted in mid-April 2018 by J. Piñero) this insect pest ranked first in importance. Conventional growers typically apply broad-spectrum insecticides to control plum curculio. The main goal of this project is to evaluate the attractiveness of aromatic compounds to overwintered plum curculio and to other early-season pests.

Sustainable Solutions to Problems Affecting Bee Health

Our goal is to evaluate the role and causative mechanisms of parasitic mites, viruses, and microbes in pollinator abundance and honeybee colony success. Isolation of total RNA and DNA from bee guts will be performed following standard methods currently used in our laboratory. Bee infection status with viruses and the eukaryotic parasites Crithidia and Nosema will be determined by PCR and rtPCR analyses to detect viruses and parasites using RNA and/or DNA extracted from guts as template.

Exploring Data, Information Needs and Existing Tools to Protect Forests and Forest Resources in a Variable Climate

To increase resistance and resiliency to climate change, forest management practices will need to change to ensure species and structural diversity, and adjust to emerging threats, such as invasive species, pests and diseases.  As a result of this need, there has been a flurry of development of science-based products and tools to incorporate the additional complexity of climate change and inform decisions about forest management and conservation.

Assessment of the Mineral Nutritional Value of Vegetable Crops Grown in Organic or Conventional Systems of Farming

Experiments will be conducted in the greenhouse and in the field with leafy vegetables to investigate if the mineral nutrient content of these foods can be enriched through fertilization of the crops. This research will address investigations of mineral nutrients, suggested to include phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc, which the investigators have the capability of analyzing in their laboratories. The research will emphasize investigations with lettuce that can be cycled rapidly in greenhouse or field production.


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