Beating Beet Diseases

Worksite Location
CCE Ontario (Primary), Genesee and Livingston Counties
Faculty Sponsor
Sarah Pethybridge, Assistant Professor, Plant Pathology
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Niloofar Vaghefi, PostDoctoral Research Associate, Plant Pathology
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Julie Kikkert, Senior Extension Associate, CCE Vegetable Team
Stipend Amount
$4,000
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

One of the major factors affecting beet productivity in New York is disease management. The predominant disease is Cercospora leaf spot caused by the fungus, Cercospora beticola. Epidemics can lead to significant reductions in yield and in some cases, total crop loss. The dominant method of control in processing crops is multiple fungicide applications. However, strobilurin fungicide resistance was reported in 2012, highlighting the imperative to identify fungicides for use in conventional production to build resilience into disease management recommendations. The project will support the expansion of the New York industry following the establishment of LoveBeets USA.

Roles and Responsibilities

The student intern will be integrally involved in field and laboratory work planned within our beet disease management program for 2016. This will involve monitoring disease intensity within our replicated trials conducted within research facilities of The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (Geneva) and on private grower properties. Trials are planned to quantify the efficacy of fungicides for disease management, varietal susceptibility, and pathogen evolution. The intern will assist in collecting and analyzing data to quantify treatment effects using manual and canopy reflectance assessments (using a hand-held multispectral radiometer). Novel statistical methods will be used such as the effect of treatments on defoliation using a technique called accelerated failure-time analysis. The intern will also assist in the laboratory within our pathogen evolution/population genetics program. This will include learning techniques including DNA extraction and PCR for species detection.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CALS freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.

The intern would need to have completed general agricultural science subjects, statistics, and basic molecular biology techniques classes.

Benefits and Skills

The student will gain experience in practical field research, become aware of topical issues in disease management (e.g., pesticide resistance), experimental design for the field, methods of quantifying disease intensity and crop health (using canopy reflectance and manual assessments), and gain experience in routine (generalized linear modeling and regression) and advanced (accelerated failure-time analysis) statistical techniques. The student would also gain knowledge of commercial vegetable production in Western New York. Opportunities to experience laboratory techniques such as kit-based DNA extraction and PCR will also be provided.