Designing Babies?

by Ryan Jeon, Biological Engineering major

In the last few sections of class, we learned about biotechnology and how the science of genetic engineering is performed. While we only discussed the science in depth with plants, there is a lot of science being researched on genetically engineering humans. Designer babies are when parents get to literally “design” physical traits, such as gender, height, or eye color. It is not limited to physical traits however, as more and more evidence is being done that suggests that intelligence and athleticism is also encoded in our DNA.

I have watched a documentary on in vitro fertilization, where a procedure can be done to determine physical characteristics in a baby. First, what the scientists do is pull out a sum of eggs from a woman. This group of eggs are then sent to a lab, fertilized with sperm, and then further analyzed into test results that can finally show which fertilized egg had the gene for a desired eye color. The procedure can even extend to calculating susceptibility rates for genetic diseases. After a desired fertilzed egg is chosen, it is then implanted back into the mother’s uterus where it will develop as a normal human baby, except it was specifically chosen out of a larger pool of fertilized eggs. While we are far from having the ability to engineer more complex traits, imagine a world where we could, and it wasn’t extended to just eye color, but with specific personality, intelligence, and physical traits?

This is no cheap procedure, and I already know this would be limited to just the upper class who can afford the expense of having genetically designed, taller, smarter, hotter or more athletic children.  The advantages would become evident not at the age of a career, but in one’s primary education. Even at a youthful age, these would be the kids getting into the top colleges or being scouted for sports, already causing a disadvantage as early as age 16. There eventually would be an evident social divide, as some naturally born humans who are not athletic, aesthetic or intelligent may feel like a second-tier human. These designer babies would not only live longer due to more robust health, but they can also hold higher and more well-paying jobs as adults, being able to afford the expense of designing their own children, thus completing the cycle.

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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.

Cover crops: Tillage radish

By Gerrett Davison, Sustainable Plant Systems major

Cover crops have many benefits in many ways. Cover crops can benefit in many ways including preventing soil compaction. Tillage radishes, used as a cover crop, can go grow up to 3-foot-long and roots growing up to 3-foot long. This can be beneficial to the cash crop to help roots to expand and grow down for support.

Tillage radish also put nutrients back in the ground when they decompose. and can prevent wind and water erosion. The main purpose of cover crops is to build up fertility levels and prevent fertility levels from dropping off. Cover crops can be a tricky a crop to put out and be beneficial. Cover crops can mess up the fertility a lot if not grown correctly. If the cover crops are put out too late it will have no effect on the fertility of the soil. If put out to early it has the same effect they won’t build or prevent anything. Cover crops can be beneficial by building organic matter, and fracturing the compaction layers in the ground for roots to dig down deep. It benefits the environment as well by preventing erosion, and putting nutrients back in the soil which leads to less artificial fertilizer.

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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.

Stop Palmer Amaranth Before it’s in Your Backyard

Photo: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Keeley Overmyer, Sustainable Plant Systems major

Throughout our class discussion on invasive species, one species keeps coming to mind: palmer amaranth. I continually think of palmer amaranth because a grower, that is one of our constant thoughts. Will palmer amaranth make it to my part of Ohio? Will I have to battle it for years to come?

Palmer amaranth is an Amaranthus species and is in the same family as weeds such as water hemp and redroot pigweed. It has begun making it its way from the South to many areas throughout the Midwest. Palmer amaranth is a very problematic weed, and invasive species, that many growers are concerned about.

Like many other invasive species, palmer amaranth is characterized by its fast growth and ability to rapidly reproduce. Female plants can produce 100,000 to 500,000 thousand seeds. The plant has adapted well to a wide variety of growing conditions and it has a broad window of emergence. Once emerged, palmer can grow up to 3 inches per day.

Palmer amaranth greatly reduces the yield of any crop.

Not only is palmer amaranth an invasive species with unfavorable characteristics, but it is also resistant to herbicides including glyphosate (one of the most commonly used herbicides). This make prevention only that much more important.

Prevention includes sanitation to avoid the spread of palmer, good cultural practices, and removal of plants. Palmer amaranth was spotted in my county and was brought there by a piece of machinery that was bought out of state and was not cleaned before being brought into Ohio. There was still palmer amaranth seed on the machinery.

It is also important to educate the public on the potentially devastating effects that palmer can have. Educating the public is important to bring awareness to the techniques to prevent the spread of palmer amaranth.

My family is fearful of palmer amaranth like many other growers, but we need work together to prevent this invasive species from overtaking our farms and reducing our yields.

Resources:

https://u.osu.edu/osuweeds/files/2016/01/Palmer-fact-2016-18np83k.pdf

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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.

Save

Save the Bananas

by Abigail Newburger, Jewish Studies

People love bananas. Bananas rank fourth as a global staple food. The top three are wheat, rice, and corn.

Americans eat bananas more than any other fruit. They are now under attack. However, this is not the first time that bananas have been threatened.

Until the mid-twentieth century, the most widely consumed banana species was Gros Michel, or “Big Mike.” This species was wiped out by a fungus known as Fusarium Wilt or Panama Disease. The soil borne pathogen infected the roots and vascular system of the crop. The disease spread easily in soil, water and infected plants. Worse yet, the disease stayed in the soil for decades. This caused huge economic problems for banana producers and distributors.

The solution to the near extinction of Big Mike was finding a species resistant to this disease. While there are hundreds of species of bananas, Cavendish was found to be resistant to Panama Disease which led to its increased production solving the world’s banana deficit. Today it faces its own threat.

Today’s threat to America’s favorite fruit is a more potent version of the Panama Disease known as Tropical Race 4 (TR4). TR4 has already caused, “…thousands of hectares of Cavendish plantations [to be] wiped out in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.”

The reason these bananas are being threatened by disease so easily is because commercially produced bananas are all the same. They are effectively clones of each other. Removing variety makes crops more vulnerable to disease.

With the Cavendish being a species that is cloned, disease could not only wipe out the species, it could easily become a threat to global food security.

Scientists have been investigating methods to help make Cavendish bananas resistant to these diseases. One method being researched is genetic modifications. This means DNA from other banana species resistant to the diseases could be implanted into Cavendish bananas to protect them from the diseases.

Agricultural technology has improved greatly. The fungal genomes have been sequenced. This allows scientists to understand the evolution of this virulence. Hopefully an intervention can be developed. This is important not only to save the Cavendish but to protect the environment from large amounts of fungicides.

Hopefully people will not be singing “Yes, we have no bananas” anytime soon.

Abigail Newburger is a fifth-year undergraduate student at The Ohio State University. Originally from Potomac, Maryland she is hoping to move back to the Greater Washington D.C. area to work in the nonprofit sector.

Sources:

Drenth, A., Kema, G., & Stergiopoulos, I. (2016, October 23). With the familiar Cavendish banana in danger, can science help it survive? Retrieved June 18, 2017, from http://theconversation.com/with-the-familiar-cavendish-banana-in-danger-can-science-help-it-survive-64206.

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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.

Golf Course Invaders

by Max Rehfus, Professional Golf Management major

In comparison to traditional agriculture, I think the outside opinion would be that golf is not an agricultural industry. In reality, golf is not much different than the cash crop business. Farms utilize farmers to generate and cultivate beautiful food products and golf courses utilize a golf course superintendent plus staff to generate healthy turf and playing condition. Consumers pay high prices for the best fruits and vegetables and consumers pay high prices for the best turf and playing conditions.

Poa annua is a turfgrass found in abundance in coastal golf courses in a cool weather climate. It serves as a nice surface on putting greens and fairways when used as an independent plant, but when it is introduced with another species of turfgrass it causes many problems. In my opinion, Poa annua control is one of the most difficult battles a superintendent must fight.

Poa annua grass is a plant with shallow roots that consume more water and sunlight than surrounding plants, for example, creeping bentgrass. In addition to its battle for water and sunlight, Poa annua has over 30 different subspecies that make it difficult for herbicide to eradicate all the plants in an area. Once a Poa annua seed germinates it can produce up to 600 seeds in a year. These characteristics culminate to a plant that is unwanted and considered invasive.

Once Poa annua grass invades a putting green, it creates a bumpy surface for a ball to roll upon. An inconsistent putting surface is a blemish upon the reputation of a golf courses’ condition resulting in a decrease in revenue. Poa annua grass can be controlled, but it takes time, effort and money. These resources are limited at many golf courses, helping to accelerate the spread of Poa annua across the sport.

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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.

Asian Longhorned Beetle

by Lexi Dean, Animal Sciences major

Anoplophora glabripennis, also known as the Asian longhorned beetle, is an invasive species native to Asia. These beetles are notorious for destroying many hardwood forests. The species was first discovered in the United States in 1996 in New York City.

The beetles target species of maple from the Norway maple, silver maple, sugar maple, sycamore maple to boxelder trees in New York City. They target the trees for food and habitat for mating.Once the beetle larvae emerge they eat the bark of twigs and they mate on the branches and trunks. The female eats through the bark and usually lays one egg ranging from 5-7 millimeters long. The females lay about 25 to 40 eggs in their lifespan. The eggs then in turn hatch in one to two weeks. Full grown larvae reach 50 millimeters in length. Once they hatch the eat in the cambial region of the tree and then the enter the center wood. They tunnel upward for 10 to 30 centimeters. The females usually lay their eggs in the months from July to early November. The mating and eating of the tree ultimately destroys it.

These beetles can fly up to several hundred meters in order to find a new host and can live for more than forty days. Beetles can be accidentally moved around by arborists and people who sell firewood. The beetles probably came from Asia and China on infested wooden packing materials.  Asian longhorned beetles will use healthy trees, stressed tress and or recently cut logs to eat and use for mating purposes. Many trees and forests that have been infected with the Asian long horn beetle have to be replanted and closely watched. There are no U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved pesticides which effectively control the Asian long horned beetle. They do have new rules saying that all solid wood packing material from China has to be heat treated, fumigated, or treated with preservatives.

Haack, Robert A, Kenneth R. Law, Victor C. Mastro, H S. Ossenbruggen, and Bernard J. Raimo. “New York’s Battle with the Asian Long-Horned Beetle.” Journal of Forestry. 95.12 (1997): 11. Print.

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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.

Pups on Patios: A Health Code Violation

by Kaylyn Callahan, Animal Science/Global Public Health

There has been a recent law that has a large majority of Columbus citizens very distraught: no pups on the patio. Here’s the catch- the law is not really recent. Not allowing live animals in food related establishments is a law that has been set in place for ages.

Columbus, primarily the Short North Area has become very dog-friendly. Most shops in the area have had dog-friendly signs in their windows since it was likely a potential customer was already out walking their furry friend. Restaurants began hosting events with shelters or rescues and widening their consumer base. The popularity of these events is when the Franklin County Department of Health stepped in and sent out a reminder letter to food related establishments that they actually breaking the law. Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code Section 3717-1-6.4(O) to be exact.

Being a huge dog person who happens to have an interest in Public Health- I wondered how much of a danger dogs pose to my dinner. I’ve been eating in the same room as several animals, from dogs to goats, throughout the years and feel great. I think it becomes unsanitary if general health habits are ignored, like not washing your hands after petting a dog before digging in. But if I try to look at in from a business level, if this person who is not washing their hands after meeting a pet happens to be a server or cook, that’s when things get messy. It isn’t just limited to food, skin infections are a worry too. Not to mention bugs! Here are a few gross illness or diseases that can transfer to us humans:

• Salmonella, we all know this one. Causes vomiting, diarrhea
• Ringworm, caused by fungus. Transmitted through direct contact.
• Plague, including bubonic. Transferred through bodily fluids or flea bites. Causes fever, chills
• Pasteurellosis, a normal bacterium found in dog’s mouths. Could cause skin infections or affect nervous system in serious cases
• Giardia, a parasite. Transmitted through food or stool particles. Causes diarrhea, vomiting

Back to the server/cook analogy. Hands aren’t washed, germs are transferred to the food, plate is served to the customer. Customer gets sick, possibly chronically, and sues establishment. That is the worst case scenario. However, dogs are not likely to pose a threat if they are well-behaved, vaccinated, and have regular vet visits. Especially if they are in outdoor patios. We should trust our community and the businesses themselves to dictate on where dogs are allowed, though I do believe the Ohio Health Department should make guidelines.

#OHIO4PUPSONPATIOS

Works Cited

Morgan, Tara. “No Pups on the Patio Allowed at Restaurants.” WSYX. FOX28, 25 May 2017. Web. 18 June 2017.
“Healthy Pets Healthy People.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 July 2016. Web. 18 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.

Science and Spirituality

By: Megan Baisden, Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Major

When I was younger, I would have laughed at you if you tried to tell me that science and spirituality weren’t mutually exclusive. I was under the impression that spirituality and religion had the same definition and would have argued exactly so.

My New Year’s resolution was to take a deeper look into my opinions. To me, spirituality is something that is free from structure and is what we can use to dig deeper and extend ourselves, it’s multidimensional. It really involves personal, subjective experiences. I’ve concluded that science can be a source of spirituality.

Out amongst the stars, there are things we can’t even imagine or understand yet. The simple fact that matter cannot be created or destroyed and that we are the result of ancient stars dying is mind-blowing. I try to recognize my place in this and see the beauty of the passage of time between then and now.

Without everything that has happened to bring us to current times, we wouldn’t have music, art or literature. Without evolution, none of these things could have ever happened. When you take a second to appreciate all the small changes in DNA or the extreme weather events that have brought us to this exact moment in time, it will amaze you.

One of the most astonishing things is that with all the protests currently occurring all over the world, so many acts of courage are a result of billions of years of change. We can create thoughts and opinions and then go out and do something with them.

Saying that science and spirituality are separate really does a disservice to both. They’re both more complete with the presence of the other.

I think the world would be a much better place if we were all capable of stopping for a moment to examine the significance of our existence. It brings even the most different of people together and could make the problems of the world seem so much less important. We are more together than we think.

About the author:
I am a 23 year old recent college grad who is currently exploring different life paths and grad school options. I’m also going on adventures all summer and taking time to look at the stars and read some good books.

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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.

Rice Blast, Magnaporthe oryzae

by Grant Hodge, Sustainable Plant Systems majior

Rice Blast is a fungal disease of rice that causes brown lesions on the leaves. Rice blast is responsible for huge yield losses which affect millions of people world-wide. The lesions are diamond shaped and affect the ability of the plant to produce its maximum potential of seed. This disease is intensely studied around the world and damages the economies of rice-growing countries.

What does it look like?

A sign of rice blast is the diamond shaped lesions which can be found on all parts of the plant including the seeds.

What do we know?

There is lots of research currently being done on this particular disease and so there is lots of information out there on it. Rice blast is an ascomycete disease and has a pretty complicated disease cycle which is one of the reasons that this disease is so difficult to control. Rice blast can reproduce sexually and asexually so successful control options may be specific to each case.

Management

To manage this disease requires a complicated series of control measures for successful control. Most of this control is standard for the majority of diseases such as crop rotation, ensuring proper fertility, and planting disease free, clean seed. One unique management strategy is to make sure that the water level is maintained at the proper height so the rice plants are not stressed and are less susceptible to the disease. Now with genetic engineering there are not resistant cultivars of rice that have had great success at preventing the presence of the disease in the field. If the disease cannot be prevented and an outbreak occurs, there are fungicides that can be sprayed to keep the disease under control and protect the quantity and the quality of the rice being produced. This disease can be managed it just requires a lot of work and knowledge to be successful at it.

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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.

Thousand Cankers Disease

by Porter Vanderpuije, Economics major

The Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) is a relatively newly documented disease that occurs in the walnuts. It wasn’t until 2010 that the pathogen was recognized in the western United States. The disease is the consequence of massive outbreaks & large scale die offs that targets mostly walnuts, namely black walnuts. TCD in walnuts shows early yellowing leaves & foliage thinning.  As the disease progresses larger limbs are killed, in final stages the fungus may inhabit the trunk. Usually a tree dies near three years after symptoms seen in the crown of the tree.
The tree is killed by both the Geosmithia fungus and the walnut twig beetle. The climate of choice is cold, wet, and cloudy seasonal conditions. The walnut twig beetle borrows itself into the tree leaving cancers that coalesce to restrict the movement of water & nutrients. The Geosmithia fungus is physically transported on beetle after its been on surface. After the fungus spreads from within the beetle and its coalesced hoes have the tree.
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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.