News Briefs 2014

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  • Nicholi Vorsa, research professor and director of the Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, has been named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.
  • Tomas Molnar and Josh Honig (Plant Biology and Pathology) along with Shawn Mehlenbacher at Oregon State University received a two year research award totaling $500,000 from the AFRI Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production Program. The project is titled, "Securing and expanding the U.S. hazelnut industry through breeding for resistance to eastern filbert blight", Grant no. 2014-67013-22421.
  • Since she began teaching at Rutgers 13 years ago, botany professor Lena Struwe has seen growing student interest in learning about plants. But that desire often comes without the basic plant knowledge that previous generations of students arrived on campus with..."Many times, I have to teach from scratch. 'This is a petal. This is a leaf. This is a branch,' " said Struwe, who, like plant-science educators across the country, bemoans what has come to be known as "plant blindness" or plant illiteracy among not just college students, but adults and children, too. Read More about plant illiteracy on
  • James Murphy received a Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) Fellow Award at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA annual meetings.

    1. Fellow is the highest recognition bestowed by the CSSA. Members of the Society nominate worthy colleagues based on their professional achievements and meritorious service. Up to 0.3 percent of the Society's active and emeritus members may be elected Fellow.
    2. James Murphy is the Extension Specialist in Turfgrass Management at Rutgers University-New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in New Brunswick, NJ. Dr. Murphy received a B.S. from Western Illinois University and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He is internationally recognized as an authority on best management practices that enhance the stress tolerance, persistence, and environmental benefits of cool-season turf. He has authored 63 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Murphy provides leadership at the international, state, and local levels. In addition to his work for Rutgers-NJAES, he is active in the American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, International Turfgrass Society, and European Turfgrass Society. Dr. Murphy has numerous invitations to present his research at national and international conferences. Read More about Dr. Murphy
  • Rong Di (PI) received a grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Fund for a project entitled "Improvement of crop disease resistance and stress tolerance by CRISPR/Cas gene editing". Grant Duration: 12/1/2014 – 11/30/2019.

    1. Rong Di gave an oral presentation titled, "Mechanisms of deoxynivalenol toxicity in C. elegans" at the 8th Tripartite Workshop for Sustainable Technology Innovations held at the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center from November 14 to 16.
  • Nicholi Vorsa was featured in article, "The case for the cranberry, New Jersey's native Thanksgiving fruit." Director of Rutgers University's Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research in Chatsworth, at the heart of cranberry country, he's working on a way to make cranberries less tart, potentially allowing for the addition of less sugar.
  • Joan W. Bennett gave invited lectures:

    1. "Black clouds, silver linings and fungal volatiles" at Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, November 2014.
    2. "Girl geeks: doing science with two X chromosomes," at National Forage Seed Production Research Center, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Corvallis Oregon, November 2014.
  • Joseph Heckman gave invited presentations:

    1. "Role of Tree Crops and Pastures in Organic Farming (PDF)" at International Conference on Organic Food Systems in Long Beach, California, Nov 1-2, 2014.
    2. "Silicon Fertilizers for Plant Disease Protection", co-authored presentation with Lawrence Datnoff at 16th World Fertilizer Congress of CIEC, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
    3. "Agronomy and Orgonomy" at Institute for Orgonomic Science, Philadelphia.
  • Mark Robson, professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology and dean of Agricultural and Urban Programs, received the Sullivan Award from the New Jersey Public Health Association (NJPHA).
  • Thomas Molnar is in charge of the effort to increase hazelnuts in the Northeastern United States. Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella and spreads joy across the world, currently uses about one-fourth of the world's hazelnut supply. As prices rise, more farmers around the world have begun growing hazelnuts. But it wasn't possible to do so in the northeastern region of the U.S. - until now..."All the green leafy things you see here are hazelnut trees. But in the beginning, they all used to die from disease," says Thomas Molnar, a Rutgers plant scientist who is in charge of this effort. About 10 years ago, though, a plant breeder at Rutgers named C. Reed Funk embarked on a quest for hazelnut trees that could survive Eastern Filbert Blight.
  • Chas Schmid received 1st place honors in the Graduate Student Oral Paper Competition at the annual meeting of the Northeast Division of the American Phytopathological Society held in Portsmouth, NH on October 30, 2014. His presentation was entitled, "Soil and Tissue Potassium Sufficiency Ranges for Control of Anthracnose Disease on Annual Bluegrass Turf." Chas' advisers are Drs. Jim Murphy and Bruce Clarke.
  • Entrepreneurship Agriculture Day 2014 - Another Success! On Saturday October 18, 2014 Rutgers' School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) celebrated the second Entrepreneurship Agriculture (EA) Day on Cook Campus. This event was part of the Entrepreneurship Ag Program initiated at SEBS in spring 2013 and comprised the teaching of a Jr/Sr Colloquium class on Entrepreneurial Agriculture, a competitive student internship on Entrepreneurship Agriculture and the forming of a student club which primary target is to promote entrepreneurship in agriculture and food at SEBS. Forty-seven people were in attendance from within and outside Rutgers University.
  • Crouch, JA, O'Connell, R, Gan, P, Buite, E, Torres, MF, Beirn, LA, Shirasu, K. and Vaillancourt, LJ. (2014) Genomics of Colletotrichum. In: Genomics of Plant-associated Fungi: Monocot Pathogens, eds. AL Park, R Dean, C Kole. Springer Berlin Heidelberg DOI: 10.1007/978-3-662-44053-7_3
  • Hugo K. Dooner - Publications

    1. Dooner, H.K. and L. He. 2014. Polarized gene conversion at the bz locus of maize. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, early edition doi/10.1073/pnas.1415482111.
    2. Xiong, W., L. He, Y. Lai, H.K. Dooner, C. Du. 2014. HelitronScanner uncovers a large overlooked cache of Helitron transposons in many genomes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 28, 10263-10268.
    3. Hawkins, J.S., V. Delgado, L. Feng, M. Carlise, H.K. Dooner, and J.L. Bennetzen. 2014. Variation in allelic expression associated with a recombination hotspot in Zea mays. Plant Journal 79, 375-384.
  • Megan Muehlbauer's (Plant Biology) research paper was selected for the cover of the Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science. Muehlbauer, M.F., J.A. Honig, J.M. Capik, J.N. Vaiciunas, and T.J. Molnar. 2014. Characterization of eastern filbert blight-resistant hazelnut germplasm using microsatellite markers. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 139: 399-432.
  • On July 29-30, Rutgers held its annual Turfgrass Research Field Days at the Turf Research Farm – Hort Farm II, off Ryders Lane in North Brunswick, NJ. Over 800 industry professionals attended this record-breaking, two-day event, which has its roots in the 1920s, although regular turf field days in New Jersey did not occur annually until after World War II. In what may well be the largest "outdoor classroom" event at the university, the latest field research was passed on to industry practitioners in highly-interactive sessions in which the researchers summarized their research and the attendees listened and asked questions. Attendees also qualified for Golf Course Superintendents Association of America education points as well as pesticide applicator re-certification credits from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • On July 17, 2014, Rotarians with Rutgers faculty, staff, students and friends, initiated the planting of a rain garden at the Floriculture Greenhouse on Rutgers University Cook Campus. The Woodbridge-Perth Amboy Rotary Club had provided seed money through a district grant for the installation of the rain garden to correct a major drainage problem in the underdeveloped courtyard of Horticultural Therapy and Education space at the Floriculture Greenhouse. July 17 was the date of the first planting. After completion, the garden will be used to educate Rutgers students and the public about environmental, ecological and therapeutic aspects of landscape design. Groups will also be able to use the space for community programs.See the Green Knight News Letter (PDF)
  • The Architect of the Capitol announces the selection of Dr. Ari Novy as Executive Director of the United States Botanic Garden (USBG). He holds a doctorate in plant biology from Rutgers University. At Rutgers University, Novy conducted research on plant population genetics, invasive species, plant conservation, horticultural improvement, beekeeping management, plant evolution and agricultural economics. Novy also remains an active researcher, holding an appointment as research collaborator with the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Botany Department.
  • William A. Meyer is the recipient of the 2014 National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Impact Award. The Impact Award recognizes an individual active in the plant breeding field that has shown exceptional accomplishments in their research, teaching, and collaborations with others.
  • Joan W. Bennett is being awarded Stuart Mudd Award for Studies in Basic Microbiolgy from the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS), an organization that promotes education, research, and collaboration in microbiology on an international scale. This award honors the recipient's, "(...) outstanding, selfless endeavors and contributions in microbiology for the good of society." As the most recent recipient of this award, Professor Bennett –of Rutgers Department of Plant Biology and Pathology- will also have the privilege of delivering a special lecture focusing on her research on the physiological impact of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi at the upcoming IUMS International Congress next week in Montreal. Joan w. Bennett will be giving a lecture title, "Black clouds, silver linings and fungal volatiles" at the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) Congresses from July 27 – August 1, 2014.
  • Joseph Heckman is Co-Project Director on Grants and Fundraising: USDA-NIFA Organic Ag Research and Extension for $12,981. In the conference is titled, "Building Organic Research Knowledge and Community through an International Organic Agriculture Conference", several legislatively-defined goals will be addressed including: 1) Facilitating the development of organic agriculture production, breeding, and processing methods. 2) Evaluating the potential economic benefits of organic agricultural production and methods to producers, processors and rural communities. 3) Identifying marketing and policy constraints on the expansion of organic agriculture. 4) Examining optimal conservation and environmental outcome relating to organically produced agricultural products.
  • Publication: Xiang, X., Pan, G., Rong, T., Zheng, Z-L., and T. Leustek. 2014. A luciferase-based method for assay of 5'-adenylylsulfate reductase. Analytical Biochemistry. DOI: 10.1016/j.ab.2014.05.009
  • Plant Biology graduate students, David Jespersen and Ivelisse Irizarry received the "2014 Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education" from SAS being serving as GB/TA. Both David and were presented with the award at the SAS award ceremony on May 6, and were recognized for their accomplishments both within and beyond the classroom.
  • Cranbassadors: Mullica Township fifth graders learn all about New Jersey's number one cash crop. Working with researchers at Rutger's Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center, the "cranbassadors" become experts in all things cranberry. In October, they share their knowledge with visitors by leading bog tours during the Chatsworth Cranberry festival. Classroom close-up video for the cranbassadors is available here (keyword search: cranbassador). The Cranbassador Program was developed in response to a need for educating local middle school students on local agriculture. Program is helod at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, a substation of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University in Burlington County.
  • Brittany L. Graf (Plant Biology) granted a U.S. Student Fulbright IIE Award (10 month stipend and travel support) to conduct field and laboratory-based research on the medicinal properties of food crops in Ecuador from September 2014 - July 2015 in collaboration with the Universidad de las Americas, Quito, and Rutgers University. Ms. Graf was also awarded the Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany ($4,500) from the Garden Club of America to purchase research supplies for her investigation.
  • Lena Struwe - Published abstracts for presentations

    1. Blake-Mahmud, J., L. Struwe. 2014. Community assembly dynamics over small spatio-temporal scales: an example from fence posts in Costa Rica. Botany 2014, Boise, ID, July 26-30 2014.
    2. J.Struwe, L., V. Soza, S. Manickam, R. Olmstead. 2014. Enigmatic /Pteleocarpa/ finds a new home in Gelsemiaceae (Gentianales). Botany 2014, Boise, ID, July 26-30 2014.
    3. Jackson, A. W., L. Struwe, 2014. Physiological and morphological variation within the hard maple complex. Botany 2014, Boise, ID, July 26-30 2014.
    4. Frazee, L., S. Morris-Marano, L. Struwe 2014. Urban Environmental Education and Outreach using Edible, Wild, and Weedy Plants. Botany 2014, Boise, ID, July 26-30 2014
    5. Bhattacharjee, Aishwarya, J. Blake-Mahmud,L. Frazee, L. Struwe. 2014. Weeds Under Your Car: Island Biogeography in an Urban Setting. Botany 2014, Boise, ID, July 26-30 2014
  • Joan W. Bennett was an invited speaker at The School of Plant Sciences, Plant Pathology and Microbiology, University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona. She presented a talk on "Fungal scents make sense."
  • Nilgun Tumer (PI) and John McLaughlin (co-PI) received a two-year grant from USDA for $134,000 for a project entitled "Novel Plant Genes for Fusarium Head Blight Resistance."
  • Publications:

    1. McKinnie SM, Rodriguez-Lopez EM; Vederas JC, Crowther JM, Suzuki H, Dobson RC, Leustek T, Triassi AJ, Wheatley MS, Hudson AO. 2014. Differential response of orthologous L,L-diaminopimelate aminotransferases (DapL) to enzyme inhibitory antibiotic lead compounds. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 22: 523-30
    2. Zhang B, Pasini R, Dan H, Joshi N, Zhao Y, Leustek T, Zheng Z-L. 2014. Aberrant gene expression in mutants of the Arabidopsis sulfate transporter SULTR1;2 suggests a possible regulatory role for this sulfate transporter in response to sulfur nutrient status. The Plant Journal 77: 185–197
    3. Gao H, Subramanian S, Couturier J, Naik S, Kim S-K, Leustek T, Knaff D, Wu H-C, Vignols F, Huynh B, Rouhier N, Johnson M. 2013. Arabidopsis thaliana Nfu2 accommodates [2Fe-2S] or [4Fe-4S] clusters and is competent for in vitro maturation of chloroplast [2Fe-2S] and [4Fe-4S] cluster-containing proteins. Biochemistry 52: 6633-6645
    4. Heckman, J. 2013. Silicon: A Beneficial Substance. Better Crops with Plant Food. 97:14-16 (PDF).
    5. Walker, D. M., L. A. Castlebury, A. Y. Rossman & L. Struwe. 2013. Host Conservatism or Host Specialization? Patterns of Fungal Diversification are Influenced by Host Plant Specificity in Ophiognomonia (Gnomoniaceae: Diaporthales). Biological Journal of Linnean Society 111: 1-16. DOI: 10.1111/bij.12189
    6. Inamdar, A.A., Hossain M.M., Bernstein, A.I., Miller G.W., Richardson, J.R., and J.W. Bennett. 2013. Fungal-derived semiochemical 1-octen-3-ol disrupts dopamine packaging and causes neurodegeneration. PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1318830110
    7. Book Publication: Durner, Edward F. 2013. Principles of Horticultural Physiology. Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK. CABI
  • Lisa A. Beirn, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, was one of three students nationally to receive the 2014 Watson Fellowship. The Watson Fellowship, funded by a partnership between Toro and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America's philanthropic organization, the Environmental Institute for Golf, recognizes students working towards postgraduate degrees who have been identified as promising future researchers and teachers in the field of golf course management. Lisa was recognized at the 2014 Golf Industry Show in Orlando, Florida on February 6.
  • Joan W. Bennett was an invited speaker at University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, February, 2014. She presented a talk on "Toxic fungi, moldy odors, and model systems" for Food Research Educational Seminar Highlights.

    1. Joan W. Bennett was an invited speaker at Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, January, 2014. She presented a talk on "Horrible hurricanes, fetid fungi, and molecular models; Making sense of fungal scents" for the Department of Plant Biology.
    2. Joan W. Bennett was an invited speaker at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington on December 2013. She presented a talk on "Making sense of fungal scents" for the the Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory.
  • Joseph Heckman gave an invited lecture, "Nutrient Rich Foods Straight from Local Organic Farms" at ImpACT Conference, Leadership in Food on February 2014. Rutgers, Werblin Rec Center, Piscataway.
  • James A. Murphy received $5,600 NERA Planning Grant for the project entitled 'Organic Lawn Care Practices for the Northeast' ( NE1410). The team will engage in a thorough review of commonly practiced OLCPs, and organic practices employed in other agricultural systems. From this review, the team will design studies of OLCP's to evaluate their impact on soil properties, turf persistence, insect and microbial populations (beneficial and detrimental), stormwater runoff, and risk to water quality. To guide the research process, the team will design surveys to assess stakeholder perceptions and expectations for OLCPs. Potential barriers to widespread implementation of OLCP's will also be identified.
  • Bruce Clarke has been selected as recipient of the 2014 Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award.