Kenneth Frost


Program leader: Ken Frost, Assistant Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist
Plant Disease Diagnostician & Laboratory Manager: Robert Cating

Faculty Research Assistant: Victoria Skillman

The primary goal of the plant pathology program at HAREC is to develop practical, economical, and environmentally sound disease management programs that will minimize disease outbreaks and enhance the profitability and efficiency of vegetable crop production. Together with cooperating extension specialists, agricultural agents, pest management practitioners, crop consultants, and other agribusiness stakeholders, the plant pathology program seeks to formulate novel research approaches to address the stated needs of Oregon vegetable producers, focusing on current and emerging disease management challenges.

The goals and the mission of the plant pathology extension program is to generate and provide research-based information that leads to significant improvements in vegetable disease management. Examples include improved efficiency of pest management inputs, increased compatibility with naturally occurring biological controls, and improved safety to the user, environment and consumers. To effectively help make these positive changes, we work with other research and extension faculty and communicate regularly with members of agricultural community. We welcome all opportunities to discuss pest management with members of the agricultural community.

The Plant Pathology Diagnostic Laboratory at the HAREC also represents an outreach component of the plant pathology program. This clinic is capable of performing state-of-the art plant disease diagnostic services to provide timely and accurate information about pathogen identification and disease management. This clinic is heavily used by vegetable growers in Oregon and other states allowing my program to be highly connected with agricultural producers and understand the pest management problems they are currently encountering. The benefit of this clinic is realized every time a diagnosis that informs a management decision is made.

Research conducted in the plant pathology program focuses on the ecology, epidemiology, and management of pathogens causing disease of high value irrigated crops grown in the Columbia Basin of Oregon. Current, research projects develop knowledge about:

Potato tuber necrotic virus and disease management (i.e. disease cause by potato virus Y, tobacco rattle virus and potato mop-top virus) including aspects of vector management, potato cultivar resistance, PVY disease symptom characterization, and virus strain characterization.

Soil health, with a focus on the development of management practices that promote crop health and foster microbial communities that will reduce the impacts of soilborne plant pathogens such as Pythium spp., Fusarium spp., Verticillium dahliae and Colletotrichum coccodes. This area of research includes examining how soil microbial communities respond to pesticide applications, including soil fumigants, and examines efficacy of alternatives to the currently used pesticides and soil fumigants.

The influence of crop rotation on pathogen biology and crop health, specifically examining abiotic and biotic attributes of soil that correlate with healthy potato production, including increased yield and quality. We are also examining cropping histories/sequences that result in increased exposure of pathogens to pesticides and are more likely to have pathogens that are insensitive to pesticides.

Molecular diet analysis of phytophagous insect pests that vector plant pathogens. Our goal is to learn how non-crop habitats may influence disease occurrence and progression in crop plants. By identifying plant species in the landscape that are directly utilized (e.g., for feeding) by insect vectors captured in the crop field we hope to identify non-crop plant species that have the greatest epidemiological importance as sources of virus inoculum or insect feeding hosts.

Development of tools for efficient detection of individual or multiple plant pathogens. Specifically, we are developing real-time and multiplex PCR assays for quick assessment of common pathogen problems associated with potato production. These assays will aid in the correct, rapid identification of pathogen or pathogen complexes affecting vegetable crops.

Evaluation of pest management products (i.e. pesticides, biocontrols, biorational pesticides) for their ability to suppress disease, including new product and use pattern evaluation.

Oregon potato seed lot trial, which specifically measures the overall quality of seed being grown in commercial fields in Oregon and provides that information to growers. This is trial is particularly useful when questions arise about the quality of the seed that was planted by a grower in a particular field. Each year, all information from this trial is provided to growers who submit samples of their seed to be included in its planting.

Research conducted of the plant pathology program has been supported by a combination of competitive grants from the following sources:

USDA-AFRI Critical Agricultural Research and Extension program (CARE)

USDA-Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI)

USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Farm Bill section 10007 Funds)

USDA-ARS state partnership program

USDA-National Needs Fellowship (NNF) program

Wester IPM Center

Northwest Potato Research Consortium

Oregon Potato Commission

Washington Potato Commission

In-kind funds from multiple industry partners

The plant pathology program is interdisciplinary, necessitating effective collaborations to be successful. We currently or have, in the past, collaborated with people from the following groups/institutions:

  • Washington State University
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Colorado State University
  • Cornell University
  • Montana State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Minnesota
  • North Dakota State University
  • Three Mile Canyon Farms (RDO)
  • Washington State Potato Commission
  • Oregon Potato Commission
  • Columbia Basin Grass Seed Growers Association

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