Newsystemstotrackdiagnosepa.cfm New systems to track, diagnose pathogens minimize damage
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New systems to track, diagnose pathogens minimize damage

Some new systems that track the movement of plant diseases and pests help to predict and check their spread, said a University of Nebraska-Lincoln plant pathologist.

Stephen Wegulo described a disease tracking system that works especially well for diseases spread by airborne spores over long distances. This system is particularly effective in keeping track of rust diseases like wheat and soybean rust. These diseases overwinter in the south and are blown north in the spring. Pathologists use the tracking system to monitor their movement so producers can be prepared to deal with them.

The National Plant Diagnostic Network is a system of diagnostic laboratories across the country that are connected by the Internet and e-mail, Wegulo said. The diagnosticians are always in communication. So if one diagnostician has questions on identifying a particular disease, he or she can post pictures or information on the website or e-mail someone who may be more familiar with the pathogen. Others on the network can then help identify the disease much more quickly. Once the pathologists know what the disease is, they can put measures in place to prevent its spread.

"In the United States, we have been concerned about exotic pathogens and pests, diseases and insects coming from other countries, that may not occur here," Wegulo said. "Usually we don't know how much damage these exotics can do, so we want to detect them as early as possible."

"First Detectors" consists of a system of people who would notice an unusual pest or disease and immediately report it to the relevant authorities so measures can be taken to contain that pest or disease, Wegulo said. Anyone who works in agriculture-related activities can be a first detector.

Anyone who wants to be a first detector should get training. Extension educators have had extensive training, Wegulo said, and they train Nebraska's first detectors. Another online training resource is available at the National Plant Diagnostic Network Website, There are six modules that will allow first detectors to get certified and entered into a national database. The advantage of this is that the ag worker gets certified, and he or she also helps to detect these problems and prevent them from doing damage.


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