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David Sparks Ph.d Beating Nematodes
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: September 04, 2017

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Invisible to the naked eye, cyst nematodes are a major threat to agriculture, causing billions of dollars in global crop losses every year. A group of plant scientists, led by University of Missouri researchers, recently found one of the mechanisms cyst nematodes use to invade and drain life-sustaining nutrients from soybean plants. Similar research is being conducted on potatoes and sugar beets. Understanding the molecular basis of interactions between plants and nematodes could lead to the development of new strategies to control these major agricultural pests and help feed a growing global population.

Soybeans are a major component for two-thirds of the world’s animal feed and more than half the edible oil consumed in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Cyst nematodes jeopardize the healthy production of this critical global food source by “hijacking” the soybean plants’ biology.

“Cyst nematodes are one of the most economically devastating groups of plant-parasitic nematodes worldwide,” said Melissa Goellner Mitchum, a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center and an associate professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at MU. “These parasites damage root systems by creating a unique feeding cell within the roots of their hosts and leeching nutrients out of the soybean plant. This can lead to stunting, wilting and yield loss for the plant. We wanted to explore the pathways and mechanisms cyst nematodes use to commandeer soybean plants.”

About 15 years ago, Mitchum and colleagues unlocked clues into how nematodes use small chains of amino acids, or peptides, to feed on soybean roots.

Praying for rain is certainly something farmers want for their crops but it would also benefit our forests. To that end, Secretary Perdue has outlined the U.S. Forest Service’s assets and responses to a recent outbreak of extreme wildfires over large parts of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies.  The fires, affecting forests and grasslands, are burning across Western Montana, Idaho, Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. 

Perdue said.  “We will make sure firefighters have all the necessary tools at their disposal in order to save lives, property, and our forests.  We will also work hand-in-hand with our federal partners, particularly the Department of Interior, during this aggressive fire season.”

Many different types of equipment and firefighting resources are available to fire managers. As of August 21, 2017, the resources available for wildland fire suppression included:

• 18,300 total personnel, across all jurisdictions, assigned to fires.

• 412 crews, 833 engines, and 146 helicopters across all jurisdictions assigned to fires nationally.

• 27 air tankers assigned to fires nationally.

• Five military aircraft (three MAFFS and two RC-26s) supporting wildland fire operations.

• Ten Type 1 Incident Management Teams assigned.

• 22 Type 2 Incident Management Teams assigned.

• The National Preparedness Level raised to 5, the highest level, on August 10.

Wildland firefighting is a partnership among federal agencies, state agencies, and local fire departments, with the U.S. Forest Service taking on an important leadership and coordination role. Federal resources are provided for fires across the country, whether fires are on federal, state, tribal, or private lands. So far this season, firefighting agencies have responded to about 42,809 fires across about 6.4 million acres.  The Forest Service, in partnership with state and local agencies, will continue to vigorously respond to wildfires with an array of assets.  The National Interagency Fire Center is constantly reviewing fire conditions in order to position available resources to ensure the fastest response possible.

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