Project Details


This proposed research is a multidisciplinary study on fungi associated with grasses, including wild grasses in nature and domesticated turfgrasses. It integrates basic fungal biology study, molecular diagnostic technology development and application. Despite two centuries of study, most of fungal biodiversity on Earth remains unknown. Where are all the undescribed fungi? Our preliminary results indicate that grass (Poaceae) roots in pine barrens are one of the major reservoirs of novel fungi with about 47% being undescribed species. Importantly, we observed that Acidomelania panicicola, a new species we described from switchgrass in the New Jersey Pine Barrens significantly increases root hair growth of switchgrass and rice plants in acidic and low nutrient conditions. Given these observations, the goal of my proposal is to obtain a holistic understanding of fungal biodiversity by studying the phylogenetics, taxonomy, genetics and functions of fungi associated with grass roots. Fungi also constitute the majority of pathogens that infect and damage turfgrasses. Early detection and accurate identification are essential for developing efficacious control strategies and turfgrass breeding. Traditionally, diagnosticians use direct observation or culturing of specimens to identify turfgrass pathogens. DNA macroarray and real-time PCR are molecular tools, which offer fast, culture-independent alternatives for the detection of microbes. The objectives of this proposal are two-fold: (1) study fungi associated with grass roots in the pine barrens ecosystem, specially on their biodiversity, systematics, genomics and functions; and (2) develop molecular techniques for rapid detection of turfgrass pathogens. This project will further the NJAES goals of enhancing the vitality, health, sustainability of New Jersey agriculture by delivering solutions to the challenge of achieving early pathogen detection, characterization and effective turfgrass and other crop management. The project will further the national goals for agriculture through studying the naturally occurring symbiotic fungi with switchgrass.
Effective start/end date7/1/156/30/20


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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