Plant Pathology’s Kanyagha Fight against Bacterial Wilt a Final Milestone in Long-Term CFAES Program in East Africa

The East Africa Vegetable Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM-IL), administered by Virginia Tech and managed by the Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), is celebrating the graduation of Plant Pathology student Hellen Kanyagha. It marks the culmination of a major multi-year vegetable integrated pest management (IPM) project with the goal of preparing the next generation of agricultural scientists, leaders and food system institutions in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia) through graduate degree training, collaborative research, and human and institutional capacity development (HICD). This month Hellen Kanyagha, advised by Dr. Sally Miller of Plant Pathology, defended her dissertation “Characterization of Ralstonia pseudosolanacearum in Tanzania and Potential Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Bacterial Wilt in Tomato.” Dr. Kanyagha will return to work as a laboratory scientist at Sokoine University of Agriculture. Bacterial wilt disease caused by soilborne bacterium Ralstonia spp has emerged as one the biggest recent agricultural problems in East Africa. The bacterium is very versatile, inhabiting a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Dr. Kanyagha’s research demonstrates the efficacy of anaerobic soil disinfection (ASD) treatment (an alternative to chemical fumigation) to reduce bacterial wilt disease incidence and will be an important tool for smallholder farms. She describes her research: “One of the most seriously misunderstood and misinformed plant disease management approaches that farmers use is in the control of tomato bacterial wilt, caused by Ralstonia solanacearum. After five years of observing this disease and tracking pesticide (mis)use in bacterial wilt management in farmers’ fields, I thought of developing low cost and environmentally friendly techniques for managing this devastating disease in tomato. My long-term intent is to contribute towards managing tomato wilt disease on smallholder Tanzanian farms while increasing productivity, reducing operating costs, and protecting human health and the environment, all of which are components of IPM.” In addition to her work on ASD, Kanyagha’s team conducted surveys at 229 farms from 2017 to 2019 to identify preferred tomato varieties. Her study demonstrates the potential to use resistant eggplant EG190 and tomato MT56 as rootstock for grafting for bacterial wilt resistance into preferred tomato varieties in the key tomato producing regions of Tanzania. Acknowledgements Kanyagha’s doctoral program and research were funded by the East Africa Vegetable Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM-IL) project, which is sponsored by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Bureau of Food Security under the Cooperative Agreement No. AID-OAA-L-15-00001 as part of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management managed by Virginia Tech. The grant is led by Dr. Luis Canas at the Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). SAC Members Dr. Sally A. Miller, Distinguished Professor (Advisor) Dr. Melanie L. Ivey, Assistant Professor Dr. Pierce A. Paul, Professor Dr. Matt Kleinhenz, Professor Dr. Jonathan Jacobs, Assistant Professor IPM-IL Project members in US and Tanzania Mtui, H; Maerere, A; Mgembe, E; Godwin, R ; Mamiro, D; Miller, S; Canas, L and Cardina, J IPA: Erbaugh, M and Thorton, P Dr. Francis lab: Francis, D Miller Lab: Francesca, R; Ram, K; Andres, S; Anna, T; Angie, N; Claudio, V and Jhony M SUA members: Deogracious, M; Mulungu, L; Kichuki, M; Lugole, J and Kasanga, C See Also:
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A Tanzanian small-stakeholder farmer checks his tomato plants for signs of bacterial wilt.  Hellen Kanyagha, Ph.D.