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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Frederick, Maryland » Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research » Research » Research Project #438761

Research Project: Improving Boxwood Blight Mitigation through Innovation, Economic Analysis and Education

Location: Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research

Project Number: 8044-22000-051-014-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2020
End Date: Jun 30, 2025

Overall: This project aims to safeguard the nation’s boxwood crops and gardens from boxwood blight caused by Calonectria pseudonaviculata (Cps) through innovation, economic analysis, and education. This will be accomplished by preventing further spread of this disease via nursery trade, better managing the disease at sites of contamination, and building resilience into boxwood production and gardening. All resultant innovations and tech integration will undergo vigorous cost/benefit analyses to ensure that each and every recommendation is economically viable, promoting the sustainability of boxwood production and gardening. Investigate disease epidemiology. Both growth chamber studies and case studies of boxwood blight epidemics will be conducted to advance knowledge of blight epidemiology. Develop on-site commercial dipstick kits for identification. There is high demand for a field test for boxwood blight. Our objective is to apply antibodies against surface proteins of the pathogens to develop portable, rapid low-cost “dipsticks” for detection of C. pseudonaviculata (Cps) and C. henricotiae (Che) in boxwood tissue extracts.

Controlled environment growth chamber studies will be done at the FDWSRU containment facility. They will build upon the recent investigations into the temperature and wetness impacts on infection and sporulation and delineate the relative humidity and cultivar effects on sporulation of Cps (both European and US populations) and Che. Cuttings infected with Cps or Che will be incubated in growth chambers set to different day/night temperatures to study the effect of variable temperature on lesion size and sporulation for the two species of pathogen. We will apply antibodies raised against Cps and Che surface proteins to develop portable, rapid low-cost “dipsticks” for detection of Cps and Che in boxwood tissue extracts. Once the specificity and sensitivity of the dipsticks are confirmed with greenhouse-generated Cps- and Che-infected leaf extracts, experiments will be conducted to identify optimal sampling strategies for Cps-infected boxwood plants before symptoms appear and in garden and nursery settings. We will test the kits at selected sites with a history of disease. We will further expand this testing to include first responders in APHIS, NPDN and NPB. If testing is successful, we will have the dipsticks mass-produced under contract, and distribute them to stakeholders.