Thousand Cankers Disease Hits Ohio

Curtis Utley, CSUE,

Image: Curtis Utley, CSUE,

by Stephen Marinkov, Communications major

Being from Ohio it is important for the natives to be educated on invasive species that can harm the state.  Thousand Cankers Disease is an invasive species caused by the fungus Geosmithia morbida.  The fungus is carried by the walnut twig beetle that bores into the trees, killing walnut and butternut trees in Ohio.

This fungus causes thousands of small cankers to form under the bark of the tree; the cankers eventually close up.  When this happens, nutrients and water intended for the branches and stem are cut off, killing the trees.
The Black walnut and butternut trees are most susceptible to the disease and natives should be informed of the symptoms.  Homeowners (?) should be aware of yellowing foliage where the leaves turn yellow and thinning in the upper crown of the infested tree.

Major spread of this disease is caused by human movement of wood products.  Natives need to be aware of the infected trees and limit the movement of potential infected trees.  The Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) smart phone app is available as a free download.  This app contains images of Thousand Cankers Disease that users can look at to investigate possible infected trees.

As an Ohio native I want to spread awareness about invasive species that could harm this state.  If natives work together and combat diseases head on we can limit the deaths of so many trees.

More info > Ohioline Thousand Cankers Fact Sheet

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.

Microbes and You: Home Brewed Bacteria Health Drink?

by Peter Flynn, BA Psychology

Health crazes, fads, and exotic diets have grown in popularity since the 21st century.  People desire to be healthy and will go to pretty extreme measures to attain good health.  But how far would you go?

Would you be willing to drink sweetened black that tea, that has been fermenting in room temperature for about nine days in a pool of microbnes?  Well if you answer yes to this question, then Kombucha is right for you.  This sweetened tea has been transformed into an evanescent, lightly carbonated, semi-sweet beverage, chock full of probiotics and antioxidants.

How?  Through the introduction of a SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  The brown, rubbery, frisbee shaped microbes live off the simple sugars in the sweetened tea, eating them and converting them into probiotics and antioxidants beneficial to detoxification, joint care, digestion, gut health, and immune boosting.

But perhaps this long list of terminology has made you feel like Romeo longing for his far off Juliet, making you think this desirable elixir is too far off.  Well don’t buy into that lie!  This potent potion can easily be made in your own kitchen for the price equivalent to that of a fast food burrito.  All one needs is a gallon glass jar, a gallon of water, a cup of table sugar, twelve tea bags, and a starting bottle of Kombucha that one can purchase at any health foods store.

Don’t wait any longer!  Grab your ingredients and grow the culture, capable of bringing you years of healthful living!

> More Info
(this is for information purposes only; this product is unknown to us and we do not endorse 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

Just in time for spring mushroom season

A new update of the Ohioline fact sheet, Wild Mushrooms, is now available.  The fact sheet includes several color photos of common mushrooms found in Ohio, basic information about mushroom biology, and answers to common questions about mushrooms in the wild.

The publication also dispels common wives’ tales about edible and poisonous mushrooms.  Now . . . for the record, eating mushrooms found in the wild is not recommended and comes with an “eat at your own risk” tag.

Nonetheless, mushrooms can be enjoyed for their unusual and natural beauty, fascinating biology and importance in our natural ecosystems.

More info

Wild Mushrooms (SE Williams, B Bunyard and W Sturgeon)
Download > OSU Extension Fact Sheet (pdf)

Mushrooms and Macrofungi of Ohio and the Midwstern States: A Resource Guide
> Purchase a eStore


You don’t realize how important something is until it’s gone

white nose fungus on bats

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Nearly 7 million bats – and counting – have succumbed to a fungus that has been spreading throughout the eastern U.S.

White nose syndrome, named for the visible white fungal growth on the noses of affected bats, has spread throughout the eastern U.S., including Ohio.  First documented in eastern New York in 2007, the fungus appears to infect hibernating bats, with a mortality rates 90 to 100%.

The fungus is believed to be an introduced species, in part because North American bat populations seem to have very low levels of immunity, or genetic resistance.  In contrast, European bat species and the white nose fungus appear to have evolved over time to co-exist.

In addition to tremendous ecological ramifications,  impacts include economic losses (estimated losses in agriculture: billions), public health (bats eat mosquitoes and other insects that may vector disease), and loss of tourism (cave tours and hiking contribute millions of dollars into area economies > here’s an example).

Working with the unknown – even in this day and age – presents several challenges.  Recent research at the University of Akron is helping put together some of the puzzle pieces.  Hannah Reynolds, lead author on this study featured in Science Daily, is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Pathology.
> Read more

Learn more about bats and white nose syndrome >

Noticing the Brown-Tipped Evergreens

diplodia tip blight

Wallis et al. Ohioline Fact Sheet Diplodia Tip Blight

Winter is really the season for the evergreen trees.  There’s nothing like the beauty of snow-covered pines, spruces, firs – they are the stuff of winter landscape!

This brings me to a common disease of pines – Diplodia tip blight, caused by the fungus, Diplodia pinea. Austrian pines are particularly suspectible.  If you’ve seen an Austrian pine tree, you’ve probably seen clumps of brown needles – that’s likely the work of the fungus.  Austrian pines are often planted as street trees in this part of the country because they are tolerant to the road salt used for winter ice/snow control.

PhD candidate Patrick Sherwood and Professor Enrico Bonello in the Department of Plant Pathology are using the Diplodia-pine system as a model to study plant defense against pathogens.  They are delving down to the biochemical and molecular levels to study the complex, intriguing interactions between plant and fungus.

Many students are surprised to discover that plants indeed mount a defense response against pathogens. It’s not the same as the immune system of humans and animals, but there are key similarities as well as differences.

The use of disease resistant plants or crops is a cost-effective, environmentally sound management strategy.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – that’s especially true for plants.

Related article:
Diplodia tip blight > Ohioline Fact Sheet

Santa Claus and Flying Reindeer – A Magical Mushroom Connection?

fly agaric mushroomSome (many) fungi produce potent toxins and hallucinogens.  It’s really serious, ranging from aflatoxins (potent carcinogens) and ergotamine (a tie to the Salem witches?) to potential mycotoxins produced by pathogens of corn, wheat and other staple food crops (More info).

Some think the story of Santa Claus and his flying reindeer may have ties to the shamans of Siberia and Arctic, long ago.  Amanita mushrooms, the well-known red and white magical (hallucinogenic) mushrooms of the forest, were known to be consumed by the tribes people of the region and delivered by the shamans as gifts around Christmas (note: these mushrooms are toxic, do not consume these or any fungi you find outdoors).

Hmmm. Shamans delivering gifts of red and white magical mushrooms at Christmas?  Flying reindeer – were they just high on mushrooms?

Well, there’s more to this intriguing story.  Read all about it in this article, “Magic Mushrooms May Explain Santa & His ‘Flying’ Reindeer” > LiveScience

This article has a nice collection of mushroom-themed Christmas items
> View images

“The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?”

The rich colors of the autumn leaves in this photograph (taken on campus) reminded me of an article by the National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network series: “The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?”

Several changes are afoot. Chestnut blight (a plant disease) has wiped out the majestic chestnut trees, which used to blanket forests with bright yellows and golds in the autumn. Hemlocks are threatened by the woolly adelgid, an invasive insect.  Drought and land use are also changing the forest landscape, exacerbated by a changing climate. 

There really isn’t any good news here, but it’s important.  These crises (plural) need our attention > Read full NSF article

Here’s a related article about current genetics and breeding research on chestnuts > APSnet article


Spring 2014: Molds, Mushroom and Mankind (PLNTPTH 2000) General Education course for non-science majors, Natural Science > Biological Science, w/o lab > More info


Turkey Tail, the Fungus

Turkey tail fungusTrametes versicolor.  It’s better known by its common name, turkey tail.  Looking at the colors and pattern of the fruiting bodies, it’s easy to see the resemblance, making it the perfect way to say “Happy Thanksgiving” from Plant Pathology.

Turkey tails are found in Ohio, and throughout North America, on logs and wood (they are important decomposers > More info).  This fungus is also a bit famous for its anti-cancer properties. An internet search for “turkey tail funugs” will return several articles in this regard.

These mushrooms can even be made into jewelry > Yes look here

Intrigued? The Department of Plant Pathology offers several courses that cover fungi.  In Spring 2014, Molds, Mushrooms and Mankind (PLNTPTH 2000) is a general education course for non-science majors (natural science – biological science w/o lab) > Read more