Main research interests in my laboratory focus on plant microbiology. Research projects include investigating the molecular basis of bacterial antagonism of fungal plant pathogen hosts; characterizing populations of the bacterial pathogen, Xylella fastidiosa, infecting oak and other shade trees the greater northeastern United States; and detecting plant diseases caused by bacterial pathogens.
Molecular Basis of Bacterial Antagonism of Fungal Pathogens
Integrated pest management offers an attractive alternative to traditional methods for plant disease control. Biologicals are often considered important components of IPM programs, especially for efforts to reduce chemicals in the environment. To facilitate integration of biologicals into the management of turf diseases, my laboratory studies how the biological control bacterium, Lysobacter enzymogenes, establishes antagonistic interactions with fungal plant pathogens. The bacterium provides an excellent model system of study to investigate a broad range of mechanisms associated with fungal antagonism, including production of antibiotics; extracellular cell wall degrading enzymes; and pathogenicity mechanisms directed at fungal hosts. Results from these studies could potentially lead to novel antimicrobial activities for disease control purposes.
Characterization of Bacterial Leaf Scorch of Oak and Other Shade Trees
Shade trees are often used as an integral part of golf course and other landscape designs. However, bacterial leaf scorch poses a major threat to the viability of mature oak tree stands and the longevity of young oaks. Xylella fastidiosa subsp. multiplex is the causative agent of bacterial leaf scorch of oak, a disease in the greater northeastern US that has been reported in the region over the past 40 years. The disease has now reached epidemic proportions throughout the region, with no viable disease control method. My laboratory genetically characterizes pathogen populations of infected trees throughout the greater New Jersey region. These efforts help to better understand disease spread, pathogen host range, and ultimately development of feasible management methods to reduce progression of the disease.