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Sunday, May 19, 2024

NMSU project to reduce risk of plant pathogen

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LAS CRUCES — A four-year research project led by New Mexico State University aims to significantly reduce the risk of one of the most common plant pathogens in the United States.

Soum Sanogo, a professor of fungal plant pathology at NMSU, received a nearly $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lead an interdisciplinary team of more than a dozen researchers from institutions across the country to develop a system-based approach to curb Phytophthora blight in peppers, cucurbits and other high-value crops.

Phytophthora blight causes fruit rot, root rot, rapid wilting and plant death in many vegetables and fruits like melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, snap beans, lima beans and others. It is the biggest threat to the watermelon industry in the U.S. and poses risks in nearly every state, Sanogo said.

“This is a major disease problem in every state producing vegetables in the United States,” he said.

“Outside the U.S., you will find this disease on every continent.”

Sanogo said the project’s three main objectives include examining the pathogen’s genetic diversity, developing disease-resistant varieties and identifying a novel method to detect the pathogen in soil and irrigation water. The project will also have an economic component
to examine the fiscal benefits of management strategies, as well as outreach activities targeted to producers. 

“We will also come up with a management risk index, where we can look at different regions and understand the severity of the disease based on location,” Sanogo said. “Our goal is to give indicators of why this pathogen affects crops differently in New Jersey than in New Mexico or Florida, for example.” 

The project builds on Sanogo’s previous work as the director of NMSU’s Soilborne Disease Research Program. His primary research focuses on soilborne diseases in annual and perennial crops.
One of Sanogo’s collaborators on the project is Dennis Nicuh Lozada, NMSU’s chile pepper breeder and director the Chile Pepper Breeding and Genetics Program. Last year, Sanogo and Lozada co-authored a scientific paper on the history of Phytophthora capsici, the soilborne microorganism that causes Phytophthora blight in chile and other vegetable crops. 

His other NMSU collaborators include Ram Acharya from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, Willis M. Fedio from the Center of Animal Health and Food Safety and Koffi Djaman from the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences. 

The other collaborating institutions include the University of Illinois, Alcorn State University, University of Florida, University of Arizona, Texas A&M University and Rutgers University. 

By Carlos Lopez

NMSU News Center

CUTLINE: Soum Sanogo, a professor of fungal plant pathology at New Mexico State University, received a nearly $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lead an interdisciplinary team of more than a dozen researchers from institutions across the country to develop a system-based approach to curb Phytophthora blight. (NMSU photo Josh Bachman)

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