Cereal Disease Laboratory

Visiting Researcher at CDL, March 2011

I had the opportunity to travel to the USDA Cereal Disease Laboratory in March of 2011 and observe techniques used by the world's preeminent rust researchers. I presented my research on Canada thistle biological control with the rust fungus Puccinia punctiformis. The contrast between the cereal rust research and weed biocontrol is very interesting. Host resistance, virulence genes, dispersal characteristics and epidemiology have all been intensively studied for rust diseases of cereal crops. The contemporary research relies on standardized protocols and scientific understanding built on decades of cumulative knowledge. My work on P. punctiformis has dramatically less background information with a veritable genetic black box.

Standard techniques for inoculating plants and generating disease symptoms can be applied to thistle research.

Rating scales developed from the careful observations of rust researchers may serve as a basis for my own research into variable host resistance. Applying similar methods to quantify the variable disease response of different genotypes of Canada thistle can show the biocontrol potential of P. punctiformis considering the real-world diversity of the weed.

You can see rust race analysis explained in a helpful video from the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative