Qu Resolves Potato Disease Challenges

Posted: December 8, 2015

Every year new or more frequent potato disease outbreaks mean fresh problem solving and research for PPEM Research Associate Dr. Xinshun Qu.

Dr. Xinshun Qu has managed the Penn State Potato Research Program and been involved with field research since 2009. The biggest change in the program since his arrival has been a higher level of cooperation with Pennsylvania industry partners to solve problems. This has been especially important for handling the increased workload due to the rising number of unreplaced Extension potato researcher retirees in New Jersey, Maryland, and New York. Growers in these states now use field trial reports from Penn State’s potato research program.

Penn State is the main potato research program in the eastern U.S. that tests for early blight, late blight, and powdery scab resistance. Germ plasma is sent to Penn State for evaluation and disease resistance testing from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Cornell, the University of Maine, and the University of North Carolina.

The latest potato problem is the 2015 outbreak in the eastern U.S. of potato soft rot, a disease heretofore rarely seen in Pennsylvania. Dr. Qu plans to address this disease with new experiments and research. He will be joined in January by Dr. Weiya Xue, a postdoctoral researcher who will transfer from Penn State’s Department of Plant Science to execute a cooperative project with the USDA. Dr. Xue will conduct laboratory and field research to identify potato genes responsible for disease resistance and other agronomic traits.

Xinshun Qu was born and raised in Songbu, Hubei Province, in central China. Throughout his childhood and young adulthood he assisted his mother who farmed alternating cotton and wheat fields and their family’s extensive vegetable garden.  Ranking in the top 5 percent of students nationally qualified Dr. Qu to attend Beijing Normal University where he elected to study biology.  He returned to Hubei Province to complete his M.S. degree in botany at Wuhan University in Wuhan, the provincial capital.  Nearby Huazhong Agricultural University invited Dr. Qu to join their faculty where for more than six years he taught botany.  In 2002 Dr. Qu completed his Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University College Dublin, the National University of Ireland, and joined the Department of Plant Pathology & Environmental Microbiology (PPEM) to work with Dr. Barbara Christ and the potato research program.