Recent scientific contributions by faculty and associates demonstrate the diversity of departmental programs. A few examples:
- The development and release of elms resistant to Dutch Elm Disease resulted from over 35 years of dedicated research.
- Continuing research on cabbage and related brassicas has led to the development of the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program (seed to seed in 28 days), which are now being used for instruction in biology, as well as for research on the genetics and physiology of higher plants.
- Members of the Department were the first to demonstrate that genes controlling disease resistance in whole plants are also expressed in plant tissue cultures, and that certain bacteria serve as ice nucleation centers on plants. The latter phenomenon causes frost damage to plants.
- The development of an efficient transformation system for the fungus Ustilago maydis provides one of the first opportunities to study the molecular genetics of plant pathogenic fungi.
- Studies on the molecular genetics of RNA plant viruses have led to the determination of specific functions encoded by viral nucleic acids, and investigation of the mechanism of cross-protection in plant viruses has brought about an improved understanding of this intriguing form of disease resistance.
- Major efforts by several faculty focus on the genetics, physiology, and epidemiology of bacterial pathogens. These studies have resulted in an understanding of their ecology and the mechanisms of virulence and disease resistance.
Research in this department has a long tradition of supporting grower needs. Many faculty are using the plethora of research tools available, including molecular biology and systematics, to answer questions that are directly applicable to grower groups.
New programs include:
- the use of computer modeling in the development of disease forecasting and crop management systems
- efforts directed toward the isolation of plant genes which control induced disease resistance
- the development of biological control agents
- the development of systems for studying the molecular genetics of pathogens and for understanding factors that determine the specificity of interactions between plants and their parasites
- the elucidation of concepts applicable to understanding the ecology of microbial pathogens. Projects cover major aspects of diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, nematodes, and fungi.