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Plant Disease Diagnosis (PPATH 502) course offers diverse learning opportunities

Posted: August 1, 2012

Graduate students enrolled in this summer’s PPATH 502 organized by Drs. Don Davis and Fred Gildow, had the opportunity to learn about plant disease diagnosis from many experts during July gaining hands-on experiences in the field and lab. The sudents also networked and learned about different job opportunities in industry and government.

Dr. Wakar Uddin began the course taking students to the Valentine turf grass research plots to collect samples and diagnose common diseases of grasses.  The following week, a survey of disease on ornamental landscape plants on campus directed by Dr. Gary Moorman followed.   

On July 16, students toured the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Station (AFRS) in Kearneysville, WV, to learn about current research on tree fruit disease.  At the AFRS, Dr. Chris Dardick hosted students and organized a series of research presentations by Drs. Mike Glenn, Wojziech Janisiewicz, and Doo-Hyung Lee and orchard tours by Dr. Michael Wisniewski

On July 17, students visited the USDA Foreign Disease and Weed Research Lab in Frederick, MD, hosted by Dr. Reid Frederick and Diana Sherman.  During the morning students discussed a wide range of plant pathogen and insect vector research topics with Drs. Tim Widmer, Bill Bruckert, Dana Berner, and Bill Schneider; and after lunch they toured the USDA’s BL-3 biocontainment greenhouses and labs and learned about invasive foreign plant pathogens.  Students also learned about a variety of research positions and areas of expertise needed to fill future USDA jobs. 

On July 23, students toured Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, with Dr. Casey Sclar, Plant Health Care Division Leader at Longwood.   Casey lead the students on a survey of Garden plant disease problems and discussed environmental issues associated with plant diseases developing over time and problems associated with their diagnosis.  The next day was spent with Dr. Dave Beyer who organized visits to several mushroom production farms and composting facilities.  There students learned about various methods for mushroom production and disease control in mushroom crops from Chris Alonzo, President of Pietro Industries and from Joe Poppiti, President of the American Mushroom Institute.  At Needham’s Mushrooms, Art Needam, President of Needhams Mushroom Farm, explained the process for developing prepackaged spawned mushroom compost ready for mushroom production at delivery.  The afternoon was spent visiting Laurel Valley Farms Composting Facility in Avondale, PA.  There, Glenn Cote, General Manager, taught students about the microbiological and environmental details required for commercial production of compost.  Students toured phase 1 and 2 bunkers and tunnels and studied firsthand the types of environmental controls needed for successful compost production.   

The last week of the course returned to campus, where Dr. Beth Gugino lead the class on a survey of vegetable crop diseases at the Larsen Research Farm and assisted in the disease diagnosis later that week in lab.