January 17, 2021

North Dakota State University. Plant Pathology

My major research programs focus on Fusarium head blight (FHB) and biology of cereal fungal pathogens important in North Dakota. Fusarium head blight has been the most important disease of wheat in ND. Use of host resistance is the major strategy for disease management. One of our research objectives is to screen various sources of resistance to FHB in wheat and identify novel quantitative trait loci (QTL) for FHB resistance in collaboration with other scientists at NDSU and USDA-ARS in Fargo. We also study aggressiveness and population structure of the FHB pathogen, F. graminearum, in order to develop wheat varieties with broad resistance to the dynamic pathogen population. Cochliobolus sativus is the causal agent of three important diseases in cereal crops: spot blotch, common root rot and black point. We use the barley/wheat-C. sativus pathosystem to develop an understanding of the genetic, biochemical, and molecular interactions between the pathogen and hosts. We have developed genomic resources and tools for functional genomics of C. sativus, constructed a bacterial artificial chromosome library with 25× genome coverage, generated cDNA libraries and a large collection of expressed sequence tags, and developed a high throughput fungal transformation and RNA-mediated gene silencing system. In collaboration with the Department of Energy-Joint Genome Institute (DOA-JGI), we finished a draft sequence of the whole C. sativus genome. We are using the genomic and functional genomics tools to study the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenicity and virulence in C. sativus. Such information could ultimately lead to the development of novel strategies for controlling the diseases of cereals. In addition, we study the virulence and genetic diversity of C. sativus and identify new sources of resistance to new pathotypes of C. sativus in barley and wheat.

Shaobin Zhong