Project Description :
Our lab ( http://people.umass.edu/dcooley ) works on finding more sustainable ways to manage plant diseases in fruit crops, particularly apples. Primarily we work with fungal diseases. We identify important fungal pathogens using both DNA and traditional morphological taxonomy, and investigate the epidemiology of the diseases they cause. Our present focus is on a group of fungi that cause a complex blemish disease of apple fruit. While the disease is not actually destructive to apple fruit, it does greatly decrease the economic value. Therefore, commercial apple growers spray a significant proportion of the annual fungicides used to manage this disease complex, sooty blotch / flyspeck. Presently we are focusing on a little known but apparently important fungus in the complex in the Northeastern U.S., Geastrumia polystigmatis. Our lab has established its importance in the region, and now we are trying to better understand the fungus. To do this we are studying its growth under varying environmental conditions in the lab, its response to apple fungicides, and its genetic makeup.
Undergraduates will have opportunities for laboratory research involving the culture and growth of this fungal plant pathogen, working with the genetic identification of the fungus, and developing a better understanding of how the fungus may behave and be controlled in orchard settings.