|Agrobacterium tumefaciens creates
cancer-like galls on the roots of plants such as
Gaillardia. (Photo by OSU Plant Clinic)
Oregon State University announced plans to use a $3 million grant to study two groups of bacteria that result in millions of dollars in losses annually to the nation’s nursery industry.
According to a press release, OSU researchers will study Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Rhodococcus fascians, which deform hundreds of common landscape plants, including hostas, Shasta daisies, petunias and pansies.
“We are very supportive of Oregon State University and their research initiatives, especially when it comes to nursery production,” OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said. “We work in concert with OSU on issues as P. ramorum research, protecting the health of nursery products, and ensuring pollinator health.”
These two bacterial pathogens — the subjects of an article published in the February 2014 issue of Digger magazine — are of particular concern in Oregon, where the greenhouse and nursery industry contributes more than $745 million to the Oregon economy annually. Some growers report losses of up to $100,000 a year to gall-forming bacterial diseases.
“Unfortunately, there is no treatment for either A. tumefaciens or R. fascians at this time,” said Melodie Putnam, chief diagnostician at OSU’s Plant Clinic. “Therefore, steps must be taken to prevent disease.”
For more than a decade Putnam has been working with Oregon nurseries to correctly identify the bacterial pathogens that are responsible for tumor-like galls and cancer-like leaf growth in infected plants. Correct identification of the bacterial pathogen is a necessary first step to preventing disease, Putnam said.
The four-year grant, from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will help determine how these pathogens are introduced into nurseries and how they establish and persist; develop new approaches to improve detection and control; and help nursery workers recognize and prevent the spread of the pathogens.