Our research involves studies on the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of fungal pathogenicity and virulence and of plant disease resistance. The ultimate goal of the research is to obtain information that will expand approaches for controlling fungal diseases of corn and sorghum and lead to new and improved disease control strategies.
Research in the Corn and Sorghum Pathology Laboratory emphasizes gray leaf spot of corn, caused by Cercospora zeae-maydis, and northern leaf blight, caused by Setosphaeria turcica. During the past three decades, gray leaf spot has increased in incidence and severity and has become the major foliar disease of corn worldwide. Substantial yield losses occur under favorable environmental conditions and particularly with no-till or conservation tillage practices. Very little is known about the mechanisms of resistance in corn or about the mechanisms of virulence in the pathogen. A thorough understanding of the molecular basis for host-pathogen interactions will be important to achieve effective and durable control of gray leaf spot. Northern leaf blight remains a persistent disease problem throughout the world. Studies of this host-pathogen system afford the opportunity to explore aspects of gene-for-gene interactions in a cereal crop in which single genes in the corn host confer resistance to single specific races of the pathogen.