Oak Wilt Disease: How will our wildlife respond?

white oak

White oak (Quercus alba). Photo by David Stephens, Bugwood.org

by Erik Hull, Sustainable Plant Systems-Agronomy major

Oak Wilt is a major disease in Ohio affecting our oak trees. I chose this topic as my local plant disease because I am very interested in the effects it puts on wildlife.  The oak wilt fungus infects the vessels of the plant, and can plug them up stopping the uptake of water and nutrients, leading to death.

One of my favorite animals, whitetail deer, are a huge consumer of the white oak acorns.  The acorns provide lots of nutrients such as protein for the animal to grow healthy. Discussing the importance of the effects of oak wilt is important to me. Around my area, hunting is a big thing for us. It brings a lot of revenue for the county. Lots of people come from different states to hunt where I live. The increase of oak wilt in white oaks could have a huge impact on more than just the whitetail population, but on the county.

Going back to the disease, it is important for forest managers or land owners to recognize when they have this disease present. Oak Wilt can start at one tree, and infect many others in a short amount of time. The deadly fungus can spread from diseased to healthy trees in just two days. A beetle, called the Oak Bark Beetle could be the cause of this, transferring the pathogen from tree to tree.

In conclusion, I think it is very important that we know how to detect the early signs of oak wilt disease and know how to eliminate it. Acorns are a very important crop for our wildlife, and with oak trees being the host of the acorns, it is important to be able to identify these things.

About the author:

I am a senior at The Ohio State University, studying Sustainable Plant Systems with a specialization in agronomy. I have a love for wildlife, as my minor is wildlife management. I grew up in an old farmhouse about an hour north east of Columbus, where my dad taught my brothers and I the importance of the land and how to respect it.




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.

Fence Eaters

bald faced hornet and nest

Photos: Nic Petrykowski

By Nic Petrykowski, Plant Pathology major

Over the summer I spotted a hornet like insect appearing to eat the wood off the fence surrounding my vegetable garden. As the summer progressed many hornets began to eat the wood off the fence it began to look like someone had powerwashed certain sections of the fence. At this point I became intrigued about the insect and typed in the following description “Black and white hornet Ohio” into Google and found a result that showed what appeared to be the same insect. This insect is the bald-faced hornet. The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is not actually a true hornet but is actually a yellowjacket. The “hornet” is a large, black and white eusocial wasp that is found in North America.

It turns out that the wasps were not eating the fence; bald-faced hornets live in large colonial nests. All members of the nest are descendants of the queen. The nest is constructed from wood that is chewed up and mixed with saliva. This forms a grey papery material. The maximum occupancy of the nest is 100 to 400 wasps. The nest starts off small and gradually gets larger throughout the summer.

At this point of my research I discovered that bald-faced hornets ovipositors function as stingers. These stingers can be used to repeatedly sting potential predators without causing damage to themselves as a well. the venom is capable of stimulating pain receptors of the potential predator. It was the following detail that I found the most concerning, hornets can eject venom from their ovipositors into the eyes of humans or any potential predator that disturbs the nest. Fortunately, the nests are located high in the canopys of trees, and only attack when the nest is disturbed. This quelled my concern. I am curious where the nest is and would like to obseve if from a safe distance. There may be more than one nest judging by the amount of hornets I see on the fence every day!

About the author

Hi, I’m Nic Petrykowski and I am a Plant Pathology Major. I recently presented a research poster “Horizontal gene transfer of nitrate assimilation genes may facilitate shifts in fungal ecology” at the Richard J. and Martha D. Denman undergraduate research forum. I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school.






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.


Pesticide Resistance and Controlling it

by Randy Hutton

Pesticide resistance: everyone has heard of it, and it’s a fairly self-explanatory term. However, what most people don’t realize, is how much of a threat it really could be to our agriculture in the coming years.

Pesticides, like antibiotics, are chemicals used to combat harmful pests that can damage or kill crops like wheat, fruits, and vegetables. Also, similarly to antibiotics, the harmful agents these pesticides are manufactured to kill can develop a resistance to the chemicals, rendering the pesticides essentially useless.

This same concept can be applied to pesticides as well. According to Michigan State University, what happens is that when pests come into contact with a pesticide, they die. But, when a pest who happens to have a genetic alteration that allows them to thrive even in the presence of a pesticide, that pest can then reproduce and the chances are that eventually the resistant gene will be passed on to the offspring, furthering the aggregate resistance of the entire population of pests.

To combat this basic natural selection, farmers can manage the resistance of pests or delay it by selectively applying pesticides, using them sparingly only as needed. Additionally, rotating different chemicals into the pesticides can help in delaying resistance by essentially keeping basic natural selection guessing. Another method that has been used to try to ease the load on pesticides is genetically modifying crops to be toxic for the pests, causing them to stop damaging or even going near the crops, as it will kill them.

I find the pesticide resistance problem to be not only important but in its infancy as an issue, causing it to go under the radar for a lot of people. However, I think that advancements in genetically modified crops are going to be instrumental in the pesticide problem in the coming years. Further, I believe that the technologies and methods that go into genetically modified crops could feasibly be translated into humans, eventually helping us with pathogen resistance.


My name is Randy McNeal Hutton, and I’m a fourth-year senior at Ohio State with a firm belief in science. I stand firm with scientific findings on most issues. Most notable of which are religion, medicine, and food. I find that we as people must buy into the scientific community if we want to progress as a species and avoid our eventual peril.

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.

A Brief Example on How Developing Countries are More Easily Affected By Plant Disease: Cochliobolus miyabeanus

by Nathan Bundy, Sustainable Plant Systems – Horticulture major

There are over 800 million people in the world that do not have enough food. Even crazier is that 10% of global food loss is due to plant diseases (http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.phyto.43.113004.133839).

Cochliobolus miyabeanus or Brown Spot is a fungal disease that affects rice; which falls into this food loss statistic.  The Great Bengal Famine in 1943 caused an estimated two million deaths due to Brown Spot.

Even though crops in the US were infected at that time as well, we did not suffer from widespread famine. This is likely since the US population had a better infrastructure in place for combating famine producing plant diseases. In fact, during World War II, the United States government used Brown Spot as a biological weapon to attack Japan and kill their food supply (http://extension.missouri.edu/eden/Lesson_1/PDF_Readings/L1_Responding_to_the_Threat_excerpts.pdf).

As a result, one can draw a conclusion that diseases in these bulk crops are even more dangerous in developing countries where large populations rely heavily on these cereal grains for nutritional sustenance.  Aside from weaponry, one reason this plant disease is still existent is due to the globalization of agriculture that has allowed crops to grow in new areas far from their origin.

May areas are exposed to new diseases and are not equipped to fight the local pathogens. The scarier part is that this cycle is affecting less developed countries because they lack the infrastructure to treat things, like Brown Spot.

Furthermore, Cochliobolus miyabeanus is an example of a disease that thrives during droughts. Changing climates in areas that typically have bountiful rainfall may potentially allow Brown Spot to proliferate. Again, this will likely affect developing countries that do not have the means to treat drought properly.






Nathan Bundy is a junior at The Ohio State University majoring in Horticulture with a minor in Plant Pathology. Food security issues and their solutions are key motivators in his career choice. Nathan hopes to continue his education and service in the Midwest where he aspires to work in the greenhouse vegetable industry post- graduation.

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.

Vomitoxin on the Rise

by Marshall Downing, Agricultural Systems Management Major

Vomitoxin has been an issue for farmers for many years. Depending on weather conditions, vomitoxin seems to show up in a different location each year. In the 2016 growing season, vomitoxin was found all throughout the corn belt in the United States and has caused many problems close to home.

Vomitoxin is a type of mold that typically develops on wheat heads when there is wet weather while the plant is flowering or on corn ears when there is wet weather causing moisture to collect inside the husks around the ears. This mold causes symptoms like those of food poisoning when contaminated grains are eaten by humans or animals.

I live on a grain farm in northwest Ohio where we grow wheat, soybeans, and corn. The higher-than-normal levels of vomitoxin in corn last year caused many problems around the area where I live. I saw firsthand how vomitoxin affected our farm. It greatly limited where we were able to sell our corn because we had rather high levels of the mold. We had estimates of up to 17 parts per million (ppm) of vomitoxin in some of our corn, and an ethanol plant near us began docking the price of sold grain when the level of vomitoxin was above 2 ppm. As you can expect, this caused a lot of stress when it came to selling grain and trying to make a good profit for that year.

I quickly learned a major reason why vomitoxin was so stressful to deal with. Vomitoxin is usually not a visible disease. You cannot look at a field and see that it is contaminated. The only thing that a farmer can do is to keep the weather in mind while the window is open for vomitoxin to contaminate the plants. Farmers can only predict and guess if they will have vomitoxin based on the growth stages of their crops and the weather at later stages. Even then, a farmer cannot predict how much vomitoxin a field will contain. The only real solution is to test their harvested grain at an elevator and hope for the best.

The issue of vomitoxin made me realize how much I really wanted to be a farmer. Most people would never choose a career that involved gambling their income almost completely on the weather, but that only motivated me more to become a farmer like my family has been for generations.

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.

Chili Peppers Might Not Be So Hot in Australia

by Kourtney Sprague, Animal Science major

Four new pathogens have been discovered in Australia. This was a huge shock considering there were only thought to be two.

These pathogens cause a disease called anthracnose and influences many different types of plants we eat. The disease reduces production yield and creates black spots on the fruit or vegetables. This is an issue because many consumers will not buy produce with any type of flaw on it.

This problem isn’t just isolated to the chili peppers since pathogens can host on many plants. So, this poses a huge problem for Australia’s horticultural industry.

These pathogens can attach to any fruit or vegetable, but tropical fruits are more susceptible to them.

These pathogens might be new to the chilies, but a research team found that three of the pathogens have been present before in Australian avocados and papayas.

The never before identified species is C. cairnsense and the other three that have been identified before in other plants are: C. siamense, C. simmondsii and C. queenslandicum.

According to Professor Taylor “This disease is particularly hard to control because of the number of pathogens that make it up.”

Currently the problem is being managed with fungicides, but further work will be needed.

With that being said, scientists are trying to create disease resistance in chili plants so that production can increase.

C. scovillei, a pathogen that has spread in southeast Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan, luckily hasn’t been detected in Australia’s chilies. Scientist are trying to prevent C. scovillei with further research.

Professor Taylor says “Identification and monitoring of pathogens is the only way to mitigate chilli disease in Australia. ”

Solving the problem is more difficult because of the lack of tools and personal in the industry.


New Chili Pathogens Discovered in Australia ? EurekaAlert

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.

Ear Rots in Corn

by Justin Haerr, Agricultural Systems Management major

Ear rots are fungal diseases that have stressed corn in every locality in which it is grown. Main diseases are Diplodia, Fusarium, Gibberella, and Aspergillus, with the later three producing mycotoxins that are toxic to both humans and livestock. Here in the Eastern Corn Belt, the symptoms of these fungal diseases show up in the ear around the milk stage of corn reproductive growth, or the R4 growth stage, sometime in Mid-August until the corn is harvested. In the cases of the Diplodia, Fusarium, and Gibberella pathogens, they are most viable in wet, humid conditions around the time of silking and around three weeks after silks have emerged as well. In the case of Aspergillus, the opposite holds true as the pathogen favors hot, dry weather at the time of silking up to three weeks after. In many cases, bird and insect damage open pathways for the pathogens to enter the ear and infect the host. These environmental factors play a role in how to plan on scouting for these diseases and also play a big role in how to manage potential fungicide applications, future hybrid selections, crop rotation, etc.

The financial impact is prevalent in yield loss and in some cases poor application of product, but the impact it could have on food security is a true issue. The end product cannot have a large amount of these mycotoxins in them, for they can have an impact on the health of livestock and of humans. Testing for the rots at elevator probes penalize the producers for the poor quality of that grain, and in certain situations, when need be, loads can be rejected from entry into the elevator to keep our food supply safe. In certain years, such as the 2016 crop year with high alfatoxin testing at elevators, the diseases are prevalent in every load. Environmental conditions for the area can impact the local market, and that can be seen in the price for corn at elevators.

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.

Notes on Invasive Species and Classmate Presentations

by Kyle Scott, Agribusiness and Applied Economics major

Even though I have been doing a lot of writing and talking about invasive species, but I also wanted to take the opportunity to discuss how my classmate’s presentations also got me thinking. I wrote my paper on whether or not invasive species could potentially be good for certain environments. Obviously, only a few invasive species, if that, deliver benefits to species around them. I do not believe I have witnessed these relationships but while I am on the job outside I come across plenty of Reed Canary Grass and Phragmites and Japanese Knotwood.

Recently, I was walking along a bridge and THROUGH the pavement, reed canary grass was beginning to grow. Not just a small weed here or there, but literally stalks growing up to my knees. It was invading a bridge through pavement! I could not believe how many sprouts were able to grow through and I figure that if they are not disturbed they would continue to grow just like normal. Sometimes it almost feels like the plant knows it is invasive and wants to show off how much it can take over.

However, enough about invasive species I want to also discuss just a few thoughts I had while listening to and reading my classmate’s presentations. I was absolutely shocked to hear about a few facts Joey Conway was talking about in his Animal Agriculture presentation. For example, the fact that for one hamburger to be consumed, it requires 660 gallons of water before the hamburger reaches your plate. This is way too much water and this is a major problem we are dealing with. Humans use way too much water for many activities and it is showing. In Ethan Dolby’s presentation on the Aral Sea, we can specifically see, these pictures represent the rapid loss of water Earth is going through (below). The general public needs to be more efficient with our use of water before even more drastic events take place. I am very happy we got to share our presentations with each other. I learned a lot about things I never even knew about.

Aral Sea


Managing and Optimizing Organic Crop Yield

by Richard Vanderpuije, Economics major

For this blog post I chose to expand the discussion on my research paper. Feeding a growing globe with organic agriculture, bringing attention to organic farming and methods to sustainable mass yields. The underlying presumption when comparing both organic and conventional horticulture with respect to yield; generally organic yields range between 25-33% less than its counterparts harvest weight. It is worth mentioning that usually what is found in the aftermath of the study is that the soil contents in both farm systems have drastic differences in nutritional quality. According to research it seems that on average the acidic levels are not in optimal levels to promote vigorous growth in addition to nitrogen compound deficiencies, tillage, and plant cycling.

To say the least in essence we’ve learned that managing and optimizing organic crop yield requires more sophistication. Soil fertility is by far the most important element that dramatically brings closer the yields of the two systems. Systematic crop rotation of nutritional plants provides the soil with not only more nitrogen but aides in pathogen resistant properties. The usual slow releasing nitrogen fertilizers is not enough for organic farming, rather using nitrogen releasing crop rotation plants like legumes could supply roughly 25-75 pounds of nitrogen per acrr. It’s been found in studies that some 35% of nitrogen is supplied by way of cow manure in organic farming, which is far below the standards for what is required in the natural growth cycle of most crops.  Its natural alternative like this rather than conventional cow manure that changes the potential in yields of organic farming to close the gap in feeding a growing globe.

Source: Crop yields and supply of nitrogen compared in conventional and organic farming systems – AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SCIENCE BY: M. Alaru et al. (2014)


My name is Richard Wulff Vanderpuije. I am finishing up my undergraduates degree in economics; I should be graduating fairly soon, I am pushing to graduate in the spring semester of 2018. My hobbies include staying current with worldly trends, this includes but not limited to finance, medicine, government policies, business, and technology.

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.

Organic Farming

by Jessica Skidmore, Sustainable Plant Systems – Agronomy major

Organic farming is one of the many ways farmers are trying to increase farm income these days. From higher feed or seed prices, to higher and dangerous fertilizers and chemicals, it is not always easy for farmers to stay ahead of things and have a self-sufficient farm.

One way I have seen this in my community is in our dairy industry. Local farms are going organic mainly because they are able to make a profit this way. With the rising demand for our society”s ‘health kicks’, organic milk is toward the top of that list. Not all farmers fully believe in organic or that it is better for the environment, but they do know it is better for their income and does not take too much extra work. It seems every few weeks when I drive down a different road in my county there is another farm that is trying to go organic. Milk production wise, things seem to be going well.

For crop producers it does not seem to be quiet that easy. The organic corn in this area is shorter than conventional corn and still has awhile before it will be tasseling.  Although I said that going organic is not that much more work, that can depend on the year and weather. There are some fields that are covered in weeds and will be hard to control since there are crops in the ground and they would need to till the ground in order to control the amount of weeds that are in the field. This may be one of the struggles that organic farmers have, but once they get past their bad years they could see as much as a five to seven percent increase in their income than from conventional farmers (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/03/organic-agriculture-more-profitable_n_7497018.html). Going organic just because that’s what the market wants may seem like it’s not a good reason, but sometimes we have to make a sacrifice just to continue that family farm.


About the Author

Jessica is currently a senior at The Ohio State University studying Agronomy. She hopes to continue working as a crop consultant after graduation and to continue her family’s apiary.

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.