Ohio State Prof Travels to Senegal to Teach About Invasive Species Threatening Crops

Sally Miller (here in Bangladesh) has years of experience helping to fight vegetable diseases in the developing world.

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Sally Miller, a plant pathologist with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, will be speaking May 12-15 in Senegal at a workshop on invasive species in the tropics.

The four-day workshop, Invasive Species Identification and Management in the Tropics, is hosted by the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program managed by Virginia Tech. Miller is principal investigator for the International Plant Diagnostic Network, a sub-unit of the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program.

The workshop will gather scientists and Extension professionals in the capital city of Dakar to focus on two serious challenges to agriculture in the developing world: bacterial wilt, a soil-borne disease, and papaya mealybug, an insect pest.

“Farmers in developing countries often haven’t had the chance to learn about appropriate methods of dealing with plant diseases,” said Miller, an Ohio State University Extension vegetable pathologist and scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of the college.

“What we have found in our research is that simple interventions can have a huge impact on a farmer’s productivity.”

Bacterial wilt, found all over the tropics, is very harmful to many important crops, including solanaceous vegetables -- which include the economically important eggplant, tomatoes and pepper. In infested soil, these plants will grow almost up to the flowering stage, then die.

Bactericides and fungicides fail to rid the soil of the bacterium that causes the disease. Farmers traditionally have had to abandon their crops on an infected tract of land and, if possible, move to another area.

But the technique of grafting has changed farmers’ prospects, Miller said. “By using the relatively low-tech practice of grafting, farmers can still grow highly productive crops on infested soil,” she explained. In this practice, a farmer grafts scions -- young shoots cut specifically for this purpose -- on top of resistant rootstock, allowing the farmer to overcome the disease.

The workshop will review grafting methods as well as the latest in other sustainable, organic techniques. It also includes lab work and practical training in disease identification.

The event is expected to draw scientists and Extension professionals from the host country, Bangladesh, the Congo, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nepal, and Tanzania.

“What we hope is that the workshop attendees will learn from each other and go back to their countries and share what they’ve learned,” Miller said.


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Sally Miller