Groundbreaking for Plant Pathology & Microbiology Building

Dr. Sandy Pierson’s remarks

–Welcome to an exciting day! Many thanks to all of our distinguished guests, especially Regent Elaine Mendoza, Chancellor John Sharp, Vice Chancellor and Dean Mark Hussey, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Director Craig Nessler, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Director Doug Steele.

–I also want to echo the thanks to the College, Facilities, Planning and Construction, Randall Scott Architects, FLAD architects and SpawGlass Construction for their professional dedication to this project.
–A large thank you to the faculty, staff and students in PLPM for their hard work and efforts, and I especially thank the members of the BESC Professional Board for attending.
–Finally, thanks to all of you (audience) for attending.

–As you heard, our department is focused on three major Grand Challenges: ‘Feeding Our World, Improving Our Health,’& ‘Protecting Our Environment.’
–The American Phytopathological Society motto is “Healthy Plants, Healthy Planet.” This simple message is extremely relevant today, as the world must produce more food & more fiber using less land, less water, and fewer agronomic inputs.
–Plant pathology has focused on plant microbes since its beginning. The great Irish potato famine in 1846 might be one of the best recognized events, but realistically mankind has battled plant disease for centuries. Modern plant pathology understands that all forms of higher life developed in the presence of microorganisms, and this microbial community, collectively called the ‘microbiome’, critically influences all aspects of human, animal and plant development and health. One of the department’s goals is to use a better understanding of this microbiome to improve plant yield and quality while simultaneously reducing disease in an environmentally sustainable manner.

–PLPM faculty perform research on a diverse range of plant-microbe interactions– including plant immunity, biocontrol, pathogenicity, epidemiology, plant signaling, volatiles, mycotoxins, PCD, and biofuels. We utilize all ‘–omics’ approaches (genomics proteomics, metabolomics) to address these questions. Through these approaches, we can better understand how the microbiome determines crop health and the ability of the plant to resist stresses, such as disease, drought, poor water quality & nutritiously poor soils. Unlike animals and humans, plants are even more dependent on their microbiome because they are not motile. Because of this, when the plant microbial community is out of balance (known as “dysbiosis”), the negative effects on plant yields and quality can be significant, costing the grower and consumers money and wasting resources. Our graduate program immerses students in modern theories & methodologies in plant-microbe interactions.

–Our undergraduate Bioenvironmental Sciences (BESC) major prepares environmental professionals responsive to industry needs in the 21st century. Our majors enter careers in industry, local, state and federal government, & law where they develop & implement solutions, including identification & remediation of environmental hazards, microbial threats, toxic wastes, and other ecosystem damages. A large part of the success and rapid growth of our major is directly due to the efforts of our BESC Professional Board. These 24 environmental professionals from across Texas play a critical role in training our BESC students. As an additional note, tomorrow the department will host our annual BESC symposium in the AgriLife Center from 1:30 -5 PM). Our keynote speaker will be Craig Bonds, Director of Inland Fisheries of Texas Parks and Wildlife. These events will be followed by our annual BESC tailgate sponsored by Mr. Doug Anderson of Gruene Environmental Companies.

–Our department has great and dedicated faculty members with expertise across diverse areas. However, the complexity of science issues we face requires strong faculty interactions. Moving PLPM to west campus will enhance our collaborative efforts with the Institute for Plant Genomics and Biotechnology (IPGB) & other College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (COALS) departments, including Entomology, Horticulture, Soil and Crop Sciences, Biochemistry and Biophysics, Ecosystem Sciences and Management, and Wildlife and Fishery Sciences.

–A central theme to the new building is “Science on Display”. When completed and equipped in May 2019, this building will greatly increase our ability to compete & perform world-class research in plant pathology. It will also enhance our student’s educational experiences— from the 300-seat 21st century lecture hall, to the PLPM teaching laboratories, to the BESC experiential learning laboratory.

To read from The Agrilife Today click here

To read from The Eagle click here

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