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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Stenger, Drake C
Research Leader
(559) 596-2922
9611 S. Riverbend Avenue
Parlier CA 93648

The mission of the Crop Diseases, Pests and Genetics Research Unit is to (1)develop unique and improved methods to minimize production losses in horticultural crops in California caused by citrus tristeza closterovirus (CTV) and introduced plant pathogens and insect pests, primarily Xylella fastidiosa (Xf) and Homalodisca coagulata, the glassy-winged sharpshooter (GWSS); and (2) develop improved almond, stone fruit and grape cultivars for fresh and processing markets. Current research on Xf and the GWSS is focused on Pierce's disease of grapevines and almond leaf scorch disease. The research is conducted under National Programs 301 (Plant, Microbial and Insect Genetics), 303 (Plant Diseases) and 304 (Crop Protection and Quarantine). The overall goals are to develop economically, socially and environmentally acceptable integrated disease and insect pest management strategies based on improved understanding of disease epidemiology, pathogen biology and ecology, insect vector biology and ecology, complex host plant-pathogen-vector interactions, and host plant resistance; and improve perennial fruit crop varieties, quality and disease resistance through breeding and marker-assisted selection. Research approaches include development of induced and genetic host resistance to diseases and pests; characterization of pathogen populations; determination of the biotic and abiotic factors that affect insect vector behavior; elucidation of the mechanisms by which insect vectors acquire and transmit Xf and CTV; and determination of the physiological and biochemical responses of host plants, including the genetic and molecular bases of these responses. Predictive models will be developed to describe, forecast and assess the risk of potential invasive plant pest introduction, spread and establishment.

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