Enhanced Disease Resistance and Improved Methods of Plant Selection for Alfalfa and Other Legumes
The ultimate goal of my research program is the development of improved alfalfa germplasm with very high levels of resistance to diseases caused by soilborne pathogens. I also collaborate very closely with both plant breeders and pathologists of other legumes, including beans and peas, in efforts to enhance disease resistance in these important crops. Realizing these goals involves applying principles and techniques of plant pathology, classical genetics, plant breeding and molecular biology.
My research focuses on (1) developing new methods to detect plant pathogens in soil and infected plants, and (2) accelerating the process of plant varietal improvement by developing new methods to rapidly and accurately identify plants that have desired resistance gene combinations.
The development of new methods to detect plant pathogens are all based on designing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays that are specific for DNA sequences that are unique to particular pathogens. Assays have been developed for several pathogens of global importance in legumes and other crops, including the soilborne pathogens Aphanomyces euteiches and Phytophthora medicaginis.
My research program also focuses on developing new methods based on PCR for determining the number of specific disease resistance genes in plants. These new approaches save plant breeders considerable time and expense. The general strategy used to develop these assays can be universally applied towards developing similar assays for the study of plant, animal and human genetics.