Tag Archives: PPWS

Jacob Barney and Larissa Smith receive awards at Northeastern Weed Science Society’s annual meeting

Assistant Professor Jacob Barney in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science received the Outstanding Researcher Award and spring 2014 graduate Larissa Smith, Ph.D. was recognized as the Robert D. Sweet Outstanding Graduate Student at the Northeastern Weed Science Society’s 69th Annual Meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia on Jan. 5, 2015.

Jacob Barney and Larissa Smith with their awards

Jacob Barney, left, and Larissa Smith won awards at the Northeastern Weed Science Society meeting in January.

The outstanding researcher award was established to recognize members for their outstanding research contributions, in the public or private sector, that have had (or have the potential to have) a significant impact on weed management practices in the Northeast.

The Robert D. Sweet outstanding graduate student awards were established to recognize outstanding students at the M.S. and Ph.D. levels for their work and contributions to the field of weed science in research, teaching, extension, and to society.

Congratulations to both!

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Niki McMaster and Nina Wilson attend mycotoxin workshop in Italy

The U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative supported two Virginia Tech scientists, Niki McMaster and Nina Wilson, to attend a training course in Italy focused on detection techniques for mycotoxins in food and feed.

Niki McMaster is a research associate in David Schmale’s lab and Nina Wilson is a Ph.D. student in Schmale’s and Ryan Senger’s labs. The workshop was held Oct. 6-10, 2014, and was hosted by the Institute of Sciences of Food Production of the National Research Council of Italy, and the International Society for Mycotoxicology in Bari, Italy.

McMaster and Wilson attended lectures and participated in hands-on laboratory training for cutting-edge technologies for mycotoxin detection and quantification. Participants and instructors at the workshop included people from Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. The group was comprised of students and researchers from academia along with government regulatory agencies and extension officers.

Research at organizations is mainly focused on developing new methodologies for the detection of mycotoxins, toxigenic fungi, microbial pathogens and allergens in food and feed. The International Society for Mycotoxicology is focused on promoting research on mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi leading to reduced exposure to mycotoxins, enhanced food safety, and an increased public awareness of mycotoxins and toxigenic fungi.

Italy workshop

During the workshop, a number of key points were discussed in order to mitigate mycotoxin contamination in food. These included:

  • Good agricultural practices such as planting, preharvest, harvest, and transport;
  • Good manufacturing practices such as sorting, milling, and processing;
  • Good storage practices such as correct silo operation, and the control of temperature, moisture, and insects; and
  • Good hygienic practices such as washing hands and wearing protective clothing.

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From the Dean — December 2014

Alan Grant, dean

Alan Grant, dean

Greetings colleagues,

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving break. The holiday is always a good opportunity to reflect on the many things we are thankful for in our lives. It’s also a reminder that the end of the calendar year is right around the corner!

I’m sure many of you have seen the messages from President Sands and Provost McNamee describing the new InclusiveVT Program. The new distributed model allows our college to identify diversity and inclusion initiatives that are of high priority to the CALS community. The CALS Diversity Council and college leadership team have been working on identifying some preliminary initiatives that will be presented to the InclusiveVT Executive Council, which is chaired by President Sands. We anticipate opportunities for broad engagement from the college as the process moves forward.

In a previous issue of Insights, I mentioned that the search for a new entomology department head was progressing. The search committee, chaired by Beth Grabau, successfully recruited three candidates for on-campus interviews. Discussions are currently underway with the candidates and we expect to announce a new head after the first of the new year.

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Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science students win top honors

For over three decades regional weed science societies have hosted student competitions formerly known as Weed Contests. These contests function to prepare students for future careers by exposing them to weeds, herbicides and cropping systems found in their region of the country. In August 2014, Virginia Tech graduate students from the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science competed against 116 students at 11 other universities in both the northeastern and southern regions.

Virginia Tech graduate students compete in a number of events with learning objectives related to safe pesticide use, interpersonal relations with agricultural clients, and general knowledge in weed biology and ecology and herbicide biochemistry.

Virginia Tech graduate students compete in a number of events with learning objectives related to safe pesticide use, interpersonal relations with agricultural clients, and general knowledge in weed biology and ecology and herbicide biochemistry.

At the Northeast Weed Science Contest, held at Pennsylvania State University, Virginia Tech won top honors. Graduate student Team A (Sandeep Rana, Daniel Tekiela and Katelyn Venner) was the highest scoring team. John Brewer and Daniel Tekiela were the first- and third-highest scoring individuals, respectively. Rana had the highest score in herbicide identification and Tekiela had the highest score on the applicator calibration exam.

At the Southern Weed Science Contest, held at the Memphis AgriCenter, Virginia Tech (Rana, Brewer, and Venner) had the second place graduate student team. Rana and Brewer were the third- and eighth-highest scoring individuals, respectively.

These collegiate contests are extremely competitive and weed science students at Virginia Tech have been competing in the collegiate weed science competitions in both the Northeast and Southern Weed Science Societies for a number of years. In 2012, Virginia Tech became the only university that had a the highest scoring team at both the Northeastern and Southern Weed Contests in the same year. Students are trained by Shawn Askew and Jacob Barney with input from other Virginia Tech faculty.

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Chris Clarke wins USDA NIFA postdoctoral fellowship

Chris Clarke in the Westwood Lab recently won a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the USDA NIFA. The fellowship is for two years of postdoctoral research supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The research will be performed in collaboration with Jim Westwood, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science.

Parasitic weeds are a national and global threat to food security. Control options for parasitic weeds are extremely limited because the similarity and close association of parasitic weeds with host plants limits the effectiveness of chemical and mechanical control approaches. Breeding for resistance against parasitic weeds has only been accomplished for a few plants and has not been durable. In contrast to other classes of plant pathogens, little is known about the host plant immune pathways that control the outcome (i.e. resistance or susceptibility) of parasitic weed infection. The overall objective of the project is to apply the tools and concepts of modern molecular plant pathology to elucidate the roles of the plant immune system in defending against infection by the parasitic plant Phelipanche aegyptiaca. The project will query host immune responses activated and suppressed during infection of P. aegyptiaca using global and gene-specific approaches. Additionally, the ability of P. aegyptiaca to secrete immunity-suppressing compounds into host tissue will be assayed.

Congratulations, Chris!

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Virginia Ag Pest Advisory gets a face-lift

Screenshot of the Virginia Ag Pest Advisory WordPress blog.

Screenshot of the new advisory format.

The Virginia Ag Pest Advisory system has been delivering time-sensitive crop pest updates to Virginia farmers and agriculture industry representatives for more than 15 years. Prior to the advent of the advisory, information was primarily being sent to growers via newsletters, which was not very efficient. For the information to be helpful, the user needs to receive it as quickly as possible.

Under the guidance of Ron Stinner, who at that time was director of the Southern Region IPM Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, a system was developed whereby our Virginia Tech/Virginia Cooperative Extension entomologists, plant pathologists, and weed scientists created short updates during the week. All of the updates were collected, and the list was emailed once a week to more than 350 growers, agricultural industry representatives, Extension agents, and other faculty members across the state and region. The updates were tagged by author, short title, pest group (insects, weeds, or diseases), and commodity (potatoes, cotton, vegetables, peanuts, etc.) so the email recipients could select only those updates that were most relevant to them.

Over the years, this advisory has provided subscribers with in-season, real-time pest alerts; pest survey results; the status of emerging and migrating pests; pesticide resistance issues; notifications of pesticide labeling changes; and reminders of economic thresholds, sampling procedures, and best management recommendations.

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Henry P. Wilson and Margaret C. Merrill honored with emeritus status

Henry P. Wilson, professor of weed science, and Margaret C. Merrill, college librarian, were recently honored with emeritus status by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The title of emeritus may be conferred on retired professors, associate professors, and administrative officers who are specially recommended to the board of visitors by Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands. Nominated individuals who are approved by the board of visitors receive an emeritus certificate from the university.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1985, Wilson was the principal or co-principal investigator on more than 130 competitive and non-competitive grants researching new herbicides and herbicide-resistant weeds. He wrote or co-wrote more than 400 peer reviewed journal articles, extension publications, and abstracts.

Wilson served as director of the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Painter, Va., for more than 13 years. From 1967-85, he was a plant physiologist at the Virginia Truck and Ornamentals Research Station, which became the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1997, Merrill supported both students and faculty not only in the college but also those associated with the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Virginia Cooperative Extension.

She advised numerous faculty members on changes in scholarly communication and helped them secure references for scholarly publications. She also increased student awareness of how to find and evaluate information and was dedicated to enhancing student information literacy.

For more information on their careers and backgrounds, you can visit the Virginia Tech news stories on both Wilson and Merrill online.

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Judy Fielder and Lloyd Hipkins recognized for their service

Judy Fielder and Lloyd Hipkins

Lloyd Hipkins, left, and Judy Fielder were honored for years of service.

The Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science employees Judy Fielder and Lloyd Hipkins were honored on April 21 at a banquet held for university service award employees at the Inn at Virginia Tech.

At this dinner, Fielder was honored for 35 years of service and Hipkins was recognized for 30 years.

“The department greatly values the contributions made by Lloyd and Judy over the years. Much of the success of our departmental programs is due to their dedication and commitment,” noted Elizabeth Grabau, department head and professor.

Judy is the program support technician and assistant to the department head. Lloyd is a senior research associate in industrial vegetation management at Virginia Tech’s Glade Road Research facility.

In other departments, those with 40 years of service include Diane Bourne in food science and technology, Gary Bradley in animal and poultry sciences, Peter Schultz at the Hampton Roads AREC, and James Warren at the Alson H. Smith Jr. AREC.

Congratulations to everyone, and thank you for all your hard work!

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Plant pathology, physiology, and weed science department awards graduate student poster competition winners

The Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science Graduate Student Minisymposium and Poster Competition was held on April 16. This annual event features a department-wide poster competition from students representing the areas of plant pathology, plant physiology, and weed science/invasives.

Poster competition winners were Delasa Aghamirzaie, Dan Tekiela, and Gunjune Kim. Each was awarded a $750 travel scholarship. Congratulations to all the winners!

Gunjune Kim at poster competition

Gunjune Kim

Following the competition, students, faculty, and members of the campus community attended a presentation by keynote speaker Jeffrey Dukes of Purdue University. His topic focused on the response of invasive species and ecosystem processes to climate change.

Speaker Jeffrey Dukes

Jeffrey Dukes

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Save the date

May 3: Solar Water Heating: Introductory workshop

  • Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Location: Rockingham County Administration Center — Fire & Rescue Training Room, 20 East Gay Street, Harrisonburg, Va. 22802
  • Price: $20
  • Contact: Josh Ignosh (jignosh@vt.edu | 540-432-6029)

May 5: Dean’s Open Forum

  • Time: 1-2:30 p.m.
  • Location: Fralin Auditorium
  • Contact: Sheila Norman (snorman@vt.edu | 540-231-4152)

May 8: Virginia Cooperative Extension Centennial Showcase

  • Time: 1:30-4 p.m.
  • Location: Ag Quad (between Price and Seitz Halls)
  • Contact: Joe Hunnings (hunnings@vt.edu | 540-231-9409)

May 17: Solar photovoltaics: Introductory workshop

  • Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Location: Northern Virginia 4-H Educational and Conference Center, 600 4-H Center Drive, Front Royal, Va. 22630
  • Price: $20
  • Contact: Josh Ignosh (jignosh@vt.edu | 540-432-6029)

July 24: CALS Faculty/Staff Awards Picnic

  • Time: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Contact: Sheila Norman (snorman@vt.edu | 540-231-4152)

October 11: Hokie BugFest

  • Time: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Location: Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center
  • Contact: Mike Weaver (mweaver@vt.edu)  | 540-231-6543)
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