Vaccinating Plants

by Sierra Mayle, Animal Sciences major

Over the course of history and its evolving agricultural techniques, plants have adaptedlike humans- to resist pathogens and harmful entities that try and take over its defense systems. With humans learning to fight plant disease through pesticides and herbicides though, comes the risk of plants being able to defend themselves less due to a lower tolerance created with the offset of chemicals running through its system (that is, resistance to pesticides).

Andrew Fogg, the author of this article, explains that plants have a mechanism inside them for naturally resisting invading pathogens. He describes it as a lock and key scenario. Basically, the resistance protein acts as a “lock” and it will only correspond to its proper pathogen “key”. If this so called combination does not correspond, the plant will not detect the pathogen.

Let’s keep in mind that plants only have the disease resistance genes they were given from their parents.  Humans can produce new antibodies and are better adapters to begin with. With that being said, breeding a variety of plants is a key factor in dispersing a variety of pathogenic resistance.

One way scientists have been fighting back is through GM foods, and essentially using a technique called genome editing to incite new resistance genes within plants. In popular opinion it has been noted many consumers would rather eat food that has been treated with an added gene versus the implementation of chemicals in plants.

Note that chemicals placed onto crops must not be too harmful for human consumption, but has this statement been scientifically studied and evaluated enough? People everywhere seem to have different adaptation mechanisms based on genetic variation, and that is why some are more or less resistant to certain types of sickness, but is there the possibility of the chemicals sprayed on our crops causing mutation within our bodies to give some a lesser or greater advantage at survival and immunity mechanisms in general?

https://theconversation.com/can-we-vaccinate-plants-to-boost-their-immunity-54698

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Agricultural technology

by Deniz Ozkardas, Psychology major

Genetically modified food is a controversial topic about which many Americans are confused (Hallman et al, 2013). Is it a villain or superhero which could help feeding 10 billion guests on Planet Earth?

First : USDA defines Genetically modified foods as “the production of heritable improvements in plants or animals for specific uses, via either genetic engineering or other more traditional methods.: (USDA,2017)

In the last post, I explained a potential threat to exportation of pear crops in Turkey known as fire blight, a bacterial disease which causes plant to look like it burned its leaves and can lead to the death of the plant.

If fire blight can be crucial in commerce, could it be a global threat instead of a local concern?

To start with, I will compare two countries which is known for their pear industries; China and Turkey (Britannica,n.d).

A key difference between these countries is the difference of exportation.

China  is in global rise of fresh pear exportation whereas the recent reports suggest a declining trend in Turkey which was shown in the previous post.

China exported  6.706 tons of pear with 11.04 million USD revenue  in 2016 (Producereport,2016) whereas Turkey’s exportation declined from 677.843 to 419.445  kg in one year (April 2016-April 2017

From the 1980’s and onwards, agricultural biotechnology (using organisms in technology) become important in China to improve food security, farmers income, environment and human health (Huang &Wang,2002).

Technology could be one of the reasons behind China’s success in pear exportation since fire blight is also related to temperature (icenucleation + bacteries).

Moreover, fire blight resistant varieties which are currently developing  (Broggini et al,2014) demonstrates importance of technology in agriculture.

According to cabi.org, which combines multiple databases worlwide, fire blight is absent in China whereas in Turkey it is widespread and regarded as invasive species. One problem is though the authors suggest that some cases might have been hidden by the authorities for protection of international trades.

However, technology in China might be the reason behind their success. Since fire blight is a big problem in pear production of Turkey such approach could mean a new economic avenue.

As a sidenote, it should be noted that trading is strongly the primary reason of introduction to USA.

For more information visit www.cabi.org.

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I am a rising Sophomore studying Psychology with Architecture and Landscape Architecture minor. I am taking PP4597 class to learn more about plants and their impact.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Bibliography

Broggini, G., Wöhner, T., Fahrentrapp, J., Kost, T., Flachowsky, H., Peil, A., . . . Gessler, C. (2014). Engineering fire blight resistance into the apple cultivar

‘Gala’ using the FB _ MR 5 CC ‐ NBS ‐ LRR resistance gene of Malus  ×  robusta 5. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 12(6), 728-733.

Cabi.org. (n.d.). CABI.org. www.cabi.org

Huang, J., & Wang, Q. (2002). Agricultural biotechnology development and policy in China. AgBioForum, 5(4), 122-135.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2017). pear | tree and fruit. https://www.britannica.com/plant/pear

Hallman, W., Cuite, C. and Morin, X. (2013). Public Perceptions of Labeling Genetically Modified Foods. [online] Available at: http://humeco.rutgers.edu/documents_PDF/news/GMlabelingperceptions.pdf [Accessed 15 Jun. 2017].

Usda.gov. (2017). Agricultural Biotechnology Glossary | USDA. https://www.usda.gov/topics/biotechnology/biotechnology-glossary

All in a name?

by Alec Miller, Sustainable Plant Systems major

Organic is such a fancy word when you go to the grocery store. Big signs that standout screaming “Hey, overpriced food right over here!!” Social media spreads this hype while putting down conventional farming. When people don’t know anything about a topic they grew up far from, it’s easy for them to criticize. What bothers me is some states offer funding to grow organic crops. Where’s my check for putting out my conventional crops? Why are we promoting a type of farming that won’t be able to feed half the word? It’s ruining our conventional market. In the last 10 years, organic farming has grown significantly. I understand if a small farmer wants to be able to survive these tough times that they are going through but it’s the market stores that are killing us. They display the foods in a way that organic will stick out better. We also made up a scary name for conventional crops labeling them as GMO’s. That’s not an appealing word to anyone. Yes it’s the correct term but people who grew up far from it have no idea what it means.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Edible Gold

by Ethan Dolby, Economics major

Sadly, there is much negativity surrounding genetically engineered crops in this day and age. Misleading news articles and a general lack of education regarding the subject casts a cloud that looms over potential genetic engineering breakthroughs. Golden Rice is one marvel of genetic engineering that has been able to break through the cloud of negativity in route to improving the lives of millions of people.

Golden rice is a genetically modified strain of rice that has been altered to promote the synthesis of vitamin A within the seeds of the plant. Although vitamin A can be found in the leaves of traditional rice plants, there are no naturally occurring strains that contain vitamin A inside the seeds.

Why is vitamin A important?

  • Promotes healthy vision
  • Aids cell division
  • Essential for reproduction
  • Supports bone, skin and immune health

Vitamin A is one of the most important micro nutrients that humans intake through their diet. Vitamin A deficiencies cause blindness and even death. The problem is especially prevalent in populations of malnourished children who are more susceptible to the problems associated with vitamin deficiencies. Children’s immune systems are already weaker and thus lack of vitamin A causes them to contract many harmful diseases.

Each year nearly twelve million children die of vitamin A deficiencies worldwide. Many of those children come from the four hundred million rice consuming poor. Golden rice provides an unparalleled opportunity to save the lives of millions.

Economic Sustainability

What makes golden rice the best solution for rice consuming countries is the sustainability. Many of the countries facing these vitamin A problems are either too poor or too large to incorporate large scale government programs to provide relief to their populations. It would cost small countries like Nepal two million dollars annually to provide vitamin A supplementation.

Golden rice doesn’t require any complicated or reoccurring logistical problems once they have been implemented into the countries crop production. While many countries have adopted the crop, other are still holding back due to cultural or personal reservations.

What people need to understand is that there has been no documents illnesses derived from genetically engineered crops. Not only are they safe to eat but they clearly can provide some wonderful health benefits. Genetically engineered crops have the potential to solve many of the world’s problems. Golden rice is a great example.

Bio:

Growing up spelunking, hiking and camping I developed a love for nature and science. Driving a hybrid car and conscientious resource management is how I make sure I am doing my part to help the environment. I initially went to Ohio State to become either a chemical or environmental engineer. Through my classwork however I discovered a love for economics. I love getting the chance to combine two of my passions.

Citation:

Courtesy Www.openwebdesign.org / Modified: Jorge Mayer. “Golden Rice Project.” Vitamin A                          Deficiency. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Garden on Mars

by Sam Walter, Sustainable Plant Systems major

The current world population is shy of 7.5 billion and is climbing. As the population increases, the available water, land, and resources are diminishing quickly. Scientists are urgently looking for ways to accommodate the growing population on limited land. Recently, professors at Florida Tech along with NASA have been researching something that could possibly help solve this issue: growing plants on Mars. If Mars can sustain life and grow plants humans will be able to live on Mars. Water and building materials will need to be transported to the Red planet reducing costs and improving efficiency.

Successfully growing vegetation on Mars will not be easy. The average temperature of Mars is -80 degrees Fahrenheit but has a wide range from -195 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The substance that covers mars surface is called regolith and is similar to volcanic rocks. Scientists are waiting on a sample from Mars that is estimated to be 15 years from now. For the experiment, scientists will use volcanic rock from Hawaii. The regolith contains toxic metals that may be taken up with the water and fertilizer.

Drew Palmer, a biochemistry and chemical ecology professor at Florida Tech, and Brooke Wheeler, an ecologist and professor in the College of Aeronautics at Florida Tech, conducted a three-and-a-half-week pilot study growing lettuce in 3 variations of growing media using only stimulant, stimulant with added nutrients and the control is potting soil. The experiment began with 30 samples but only half made it to the conclusion of the study. The scientists tested the level of toxic metals in the lettuce and found very low levels of metals. The lettuce grown in the stimulant tasted the same as that grown in the potting soil but the stimulant grown lettuce did not have as strong of roots as the potting soil grown lettuce.

In September, NASA and Florida Tech came together to conduct a 9-month experiment testing radishes, swiss chard, kale Chinese cabbage, snow peas, dwarf peppers, and tomatoes. NASA scientists are taking charge with the stimulant choice and setup of the experiment while Florida Tech students will conduct the experiment. After the experiment, NASA will help Florida Tech analyze plant health.

I think that NASA will make it possible for life on Mars, but I don’t think it will happen for another 30+ years. The extensive research needed to fully compose a plan for human life to take place and thrive on Mars will take numerous years. Before life is established there will need to be multiple test runs and experiments to ensure that human life is possible. There are many factors that still need to be assessed and thoroughly investigated before humans will live on Mars.

Review of Sources or Literature

www.worldometers.info/world-population/ 

www.nasa.gov/feature/can-plants-grow-with-mars-soil

www.nasa.gov/feature/farming-in-martian-gardens

phys.org/news/2016-10-explore-possibilities-mars.html

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

COOL

by Grant Hodge, Sustainable Plant Systems major

A very debatable topic a few years ago was the country of origin labeling laws (COOL) for food products. This law was passed back in 2002 and was revised in 2008. Then a couple of years ago, in 2015 this law was repealed. Hearing about it on RFDTV I did not fully understand the law at the time but the argument here is that some people want their food, particularly meat to be labeled with the name of the country that it originated from.

If you are like me, your first thought is wondering what the big deal is here? It should not be a big deal to add a couple of words to a food package that already contains hundreds of words already. In fact as many of us know, this is a common practice for many other electronic, plastic, and household goods that usually contain the words “Made in China” and so why can’t our food be labeled with something similar?  As I researched farther into this topic I discovered that there is a lot more that goes into those few small words.

To start off with, money is a huge part of it. To implement this labeling and the added record keeping required, the USDA estimated this could cost up to $3.9 billion in the first year. The second big argument is that this labeling will hurt other countries products. They fear that the label will imply that the quality is not as good, even though the meat must pass the same quality standards as domestic meat (Country of Origin Labeling 2017).

I personally support COOL because I think it allows our meat produced in the U.S. to stand out competitively. In this modern world the trend has been for consumers to know more and more about what goes into their food and this labeling helps satisfy that want. I think the labeling can create more demand for U.S. meats and hopefully more profit for the producers and result in a happier consumer.

Works Cited

“Country of Origin Labeling.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 June 2017. Web. 15 June 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_of_Origin_Labeling>.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Will crops created with CRISPR have to undergo the same rigors as GMO’s?

by Jonathan LaBorde, Sustainable Plant Systems major

Here in America it seems that scientists have already made the consensus that CRISPR created crops should not be treated as if they are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). In the United Kingdom (UK) and much of Europe this is not the case. As the United States has approved the use of CRISPR created white button mushrooms and corn, the UK is still dealing with the ethical issues of using this new technology.

CRISPR is essentially being able to find and edit existing genes in DNA sequences. Unlike GMO’s where one is taking foreign DNA from a separate organism and inserting it into the desired organism, CRISPR only involves the gene(s) of choice.

Since this is still modifying the DNA, much discussion is going on about how this new technology should be categorized. By only using the genes present and editing them using CRISPR proteins, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between these crops and the traditionally bred ones.

Penny Maplestone, chief executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders has voiced her concerns saying, “It is very frustrating that we have no guidelines whatsoever from the European commission, despite the length of time it has had to consider what is, after all, an enormously important issue.” (US moves to sell gene-edited mushrooms fuel doubts over British ban on GM imports)

While it seems that there will in fact be restrictions in much of Europe on this new technology, many plant breeders and scientists are still researching the potential that CRISPR has to offer. Some examples include researchers that have created a strain of barley using CRISPR that can create its own ammonium fertilizer, a help to areas with poor soil nutrition. Or a group that is researching a beet that can produce L-Dopa, a drug that is used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

As scientists around the world embrace this new technology, those that fall under the European commission still wait to hear if commercial cultivation of their products will ever be allowed. As with GMO’s, this technology will likely gain criticism by much of the public throughout the world.

Source of Information:

The Guardian. McKie, Robin. April, 2016 > “US moves to sell gene-edited mushrooms fuel doubts over British ban on GM imports.”

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Global Warming

By Abigail Hill, Sustainable Plant Systems major

The melting of glaciers, the rise of the oceans, and the potential depreciation of land are all serious concerns surrounding global warming.  The evidence of global warming is showing proof through the extinction of various species and populations, along with the changes in the weather.

The effects that the warming could have on land include changes in favorable countries and increased growing seasons. If the glaciers melt, the oceans will rise, flooding beaches and land along the coast. Already warm regions, will become inhabitable, leading to an increase of population in other regions. This influx of people, will create the need for more living areas, as well as more food.  In agriculture, this global climate change reduces freezes, creating a longer growing period.  This longer season, allows for increase in growth and production.

The warming of the environment will cause the glaciers to melt, causing the sea level to rise. The biggest fear related to climate change and water is that rainfall will shift from the agricultural regions to the oceans and deserts. This will decrease production and increase food prices. This lack of fresh water might lead to dehydration and starvation due to decreased production in agriculture. According to the treasury office of the UK, if we do not adapt, global warming could reduce the gross domestic production from the world economy by 20 percent. These adaptations include trying to find ways to slow, or manage, warming. This also includes finding new ways to deal with the new climate in everyday life.

The land available for agriculture could be affected in many ways.  For one, the land used in agriculture today, might not be favorable for crops if global warming continues, but other regions may become more favorable for growth.  Secondly, if there is a lack of water and longer growing period, plant production might suffer. The variety of crops the world produces might also have to adapt depending what will grow in the new climate.

One cannot deny that the world is warming, and we as the agriculture industry need to start developing new ways to grow crops.

About the Author:

Abigail Hill is a student at The Ohio State University, majoring in Sustainable Plant Systems: Agronomy, with a minor in Agricultural Systems Management. She is the Vice President of the Ducks Unlimited club on campus. She was born and raised on a family farm in central Ohio.  She is currently working as an Ohio State Extension Intern in Pickaway and Madison Counties.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Redwoods at Risk

redwood trees

Fig. 1. Healthy redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens). Brian Lockhart, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

by Kori Goldberg, Master in Environment and Natural Resources graduate student

Introduction: The recent decision made by the Trump administration to exit the Paris agreement has disappointed many environmentalists though it has reignited a conversation about the threats of climate change and the urgency with which we must respond. With this on my mind, I was curious about the links between plant pathology and climate change and found one particularly interesting example in California.

Background: Some scientists have started to predict the effects that climate change will have in the coming years on plant disease. Predictions include: increased susceptibility of major crops as a result of, droughts, floods, and reduced soil quality, larger geographical distributions of pests and disease, and earlier spread of pests and disease each season as a result of warmer weather (Elad and Pertot, 2014; Pautusso et al., 2012).

California’s northwest coastline is known for the famed redwood trees, sequoia sempervirens, some of the largest and tallest trees in the world reaching up to 378 feet tall (Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, 2017). The trees of the Redwood National and State Parks are considered old-growth, with most trees averaging 500-700 years old and some possibly up to 2,000 years old (National Park Service, 2017).

Redwood Susceptibility: As average global temperatures continues to rise, the risk of severe forest fires also increases by creating favorable conditions for forest fires and extending the forest fire season (Schlossberg, 2016). Redwoods are known to be relatively resilient against forest fires. However, a recent study published in the journal Ecology found that redwoods are four times more likely to die from forest fires if they are infected with sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) (Dybas, 2013). As this disease spreads through California killing millions of coast live oaks and tanoaks, dead trees left in its wake act as fuel to strengthen and spread wildfires that may otherwise be less severe. Redwoods cannot survive the increased intensity of these fires, especially if they themselves have succumbed to sudden oak death.

Concluding Thoughts: The beauty and diversity of the natural world, both today and in the future depend on the decisions and actions we are making right now. Although the consequences climate change will have on plant health can only be estimated now, research suggests that we should not wait to see the consequences but must start taking aggressive action to mitigate climate change, not reverse the work that has already been done.

For more information on the study, visit:
California’s iconic redwoods in danger from fire and infectious disease (NSF)

Kori Goldberg is a student at The Ohio State University pursuing her Master’s in Environment and Natural Resources. In her free time she loves to be outside, whether climbing, kayaking, or enjoying green spaces in Columbus.

Works Cited (MLA)

Dybas, Cheryl. “California’s iconic redwoods in danger from fire and infectious disease.” National Science Foundation. NSF, 21 Aug. 2013. Web. 8 June 2017.

Elad, Yigal, and Ilaria Pertot. “Climate Change Impact on Plant Pathogens and Plant Diseases.” Journal of Crop Improvement 28.1 (2014): 99-139. Web. 6 June 2017.

Fig. 1. Redwood Trees. 2015. Pixaby, Yosemite National Park.

“Frequently Asked Questions.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, 2017. Web. 10 June 2017.

“Giant Redwoods and Sequoias.” Giant Redwood Trees | Giant Redwoods. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, 2017. Web. 10 June 2017.

Pautasso, Marco, Thomas F. Döring, Matteo Garbelotto, Lorenzo Pellis, and Mike J. Jeger. “Impacts of climate change on plant diseases—opinions and trends.” European Journal of Plant Pathology 133.1 (2012): 295-313. Web.

Schlossberg, Tatiana. “Climate Change Blamed for Half of Increased Forest Fire Danger.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Oct. 2016. Web. 8 June 2017.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

Herbicide Resistance

My name is Austin Pelyak.  I am an Agronomy graduate and I want to share some information about herbicide resistance. Herbicide resistance has been a growing problem among growers throughout the United States and the world. In the United States alone, we have 155 known species of resistant weeds. This is becoming a pandemic across the US as farmers use more and more of the same herbicide on the same weeds. This is how resistance builds up and becomes an issue. The herbicide has a specific mode of action (MOA) and after repeated sprays with the herbicide, the weed builds resistance to it rendering the herbicide virtually useless.

How can we stop this from happening you might ask? How can we prevent more weeds from becoming resistant? It’s simple, rotation. Rotation of herbicides with different MOAs is essential in curbing resistance. Another rotation that should be used is the rotation of different crops in the field, like corn to soybeans then soybeans to wheat and wheat to soybeans then back to corn for agronomic crops. Different crops shade out or outgrow different weeds.

Tillage is also an effective method of destroying weeds and burying potential seeds that will sprout in the spring. Cover crops alone can reduce weed pressure by 50%.  It is the simple things growers can do to make resistance a thing of the past and allow future generations to not worry about resistant weeds.

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This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.