In many contexts and times, diseases have reshaped life, whether it be human life, animal life, or plant life. Here we share a podcast interview of ongoing research about the consequence of plant disease.
In many contexts and times, diseases have reshaped life, whether it be human life, animal life, or plant life. Here we share a podcast interview of ongoing research about the consequence of plant disease. We talk with Jean Ristaino, Ph.D., a leading expert who is also known as the “Sherlock of Spuds,” on the pathogen that caused the Irish Potato famine. Jean shares her own experience with plant pathology, her global travels to track outbreaks and then talks about her efforts to understand the history of the potato famine and why it is relevant to controlling emerging pathogens of all kinds today.
Jean Ristaino’s lab works on emerging plant diseases that threaten global food security. A major focus of their research is to understand the factors that contribute to disease emergence including the epidemiology and population genetics of Phytophthora infestans, which caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. The pathogen is a reemerging threat to global food security. They study the migrations of both historic and present day strains of the pathogen. Her lab was part of a multi-investigator group that sequenced the genome of the pathogen. They are now using the genome sequence to develop novel strategies for managing disease in the field. The team developed a web portal called USAblight.org that, much like the COVID -19 tracking sites, can be used to track recent outbreaks of disease using geospatial analytics. Dr. Ristaino serves as the director of the “Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security” cluster at NC State, has served as a Jefferson Science Fellow for the US Department of States Bureau for Food Security, and was a recent recipient of a Fulbright European Research Scholar Award to work with the University of Catania on late blight in Italy in 2018. In 2020, she was elected a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society.
Dr. Ristaino’s seminar “Tackling the Global Challenges of Emerging Plant Diseases” for the Genetic Engineering and Society Center colloquium
The University of Maine’s Identifying Late Blight
Dr. Ristaino’s talk at RTP 360 Crop Diseases that Threaten your Breakfast
Suggested further reading:
Ristaino, J. B., Schumann, G.L. and C. J. D’Arcy. 2018. Late blight of potato and tomato. The Plant Health Instructor. DOI: 10.1094/PHI-I-2000-0724-01.
Ristaino, J. B. and Pfister, D. 2016. “What a painfully interesting subject”: Charles Darwin’s studies of potato late blight. Bioscience 62: 1035-1045. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biw114.