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Plant Pathology

Field Crops disease photo


The pathology program at the Tidewater AREC is lead by Dr. David Langston. This program focuses on the development and deployment of safe, effective, economical, and sustainable disease management tactics for field crops in Virginia including peanut, cotton, soybean, corn, small grains, and sorghum. Integrated approaches to disease management, including crop host resistance, cultural practices, and judicious use of fungicides are promoted through research and extension activities.

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Applied field research and laboratory studies are conducted to elucidate interactions between crop plants, their associated pathogens, and environmental factors in order to better understand the epidemiology of plant diseases and develop novel strategies to manage these diseases and improve food safety and security. Research areas include 1) evaluation and optimization of different plant disease management strategies including chemical and biological control, crop host resistance, and cultural practices; 2) development of rapid, quantitative molecular detection methods for utilization in disease diagnostics, assessment of host resistance to specific pathogens, and study of plant pathogen population dynamics; and 3) elucidation of epidemiological factors driving plant disease development through studies of interactions between crops and their associated microbial communities at both individual field and agroecosystem scales. Plant pathologist David Langston leads the pathology program at the Tidewater AREC which includes technical staff, research associates, and graduate students. Mehl participates in collaborative and interdisciplinary projects with other Tidewater AREC faculty, campus-based and other Virginia Tech AREC faculty, researchers at other universities, extension agents, and cooperating growers. Sources of funding for research and extension programs include support from commodity boards, industry, and competitive grants. Some examples of current research projects include:

  • Incorporation of cultivar and fungicide selection into disease advisory programs for peanut
  • Evaluation of cotton varieties for resistance/tolerance to root knot nematode
  • Efficacy of new nematicide chemistries and biologicals in control of plant parasitic nematodes
  • Development and optimization of a weather-based fungicide advisory for soybean
  • Evaluation of field corn for brown marmorated stink bug injury and associated fungi and mycotoxins
  • Refinement of economic thresholds and timing of fungicide applications for control of leaf and glume blotch on wheat
  • Management of foliar disease and mycotoxins in sorghum
  • Epidemiology and biological control of aflatoxin-producing fungi
  • Cooperation with the aflatoxin management using biological control approaches in Pakistan program

The extension plant pathology program works with scientists, growers, and industry in Virginia and the surrounding region to solve persistent and emerging plant disease problems impacting field crops including cotton, peanut, soybean, corn, and small grains. The primary goal is to identify and implement novel, cost-effective, and environmentally sound strategies to prevent or control diseases in field crops and to deliver educational programs responsive to the needs of stakeholders in Virginia and beyond.

Recent News

Applied Research on Field Crop Disease Nematode Management 2020.pdf
Southeastern U.S. Vegetable Crop Handbook, 2020.pdf
Mid-Atlantic Commercial Vegetable Recommendations.pdf