Jeffers Research Lab

Research Objectives

Our research focuses on the biology of species of Phytophthora, a group of fungal-like organisms known to cause disease on forest trees and agricultural crops. We investigate the role of these organisms in the natural ecosystem and in ornamental landscape plants by studying distribution, survival, and detection in soil and plant media, and occurrence in streams and irrigation waterways.

In collaboration with USDA-APHIS and USDA-Forest Service, we are responsible for detecting Phytophthora ramorum, the causal agent of Sudden Oak Death, in plant nurseries and natural ecosystems and are investigating mitigation strategies to control this exotic and invasive pathogen. In addition, we are investigating the distribution of species of Phytophthora in forest streams of the southern Appalachian Mountains, and evaluating the efficacy of commercial algaecides to eliminate propagules of Phytophthora from water.

In addition, we examine the susceptibility or resistance of ornamental and landscape plants to species of Phytophthora such as P. nicotianae on vinca and petunia, and P. cinnamomi on American chestnut.