Plant disease under the homeland security microscope

AMARILLO -- Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, questions on plant diseases have added significance, said Dr. Charles Rush, plant pathologist with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Amarillo. Plant pests, including weeds, insects and diseases, cause extensive yield losses to crops every year.

"Intentional or unintentional introduction of exotic pests or pathogens could directly increase these losses,"Rush said.

Protecting the country's agriculture is vital to food safety, said Rush, who has joined other land-grant university scientists in a national system of diagnostic laboratories charged with protecting homeland agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provided funding for the National Plant Disease Diagnostic Network through the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. Five regional university coordinators have been setup: Cornell University for the northeast, Michigan State University for the north central, Kansas State University for the Great Plains, University of California at Davis for the west, and the University of Florida for the southern region. The National Agricultural Pest Information System operated by Purdue University serves as data collection archive.

The Texas A&M University System Agriculture Program connects with the NPDN via the Great Plains and Southern networks. Texas is the only state with two regions.

Production in the High Plains is vastly different from that to the south. Rush's program fits best with the Great Plains Diagnostic Network and its coordination through KSU. In addition, Rush is an adjunct professor with Texas Tech University, which marks GPDN's southern boundary.

Other GPDN cooperators include: Colorado State University, Montana State University, North Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University, South Dakota State University, Texas Tech, University of Nebraska, and University of Wyoming. A common software platform allows

Contact: Pam Dillard
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications

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