I am a plant pathologist with broad experience in fungal and bacterial diseases of fruit and nut trees and an increasing interest in subtropical plant diseases caused by a variety of plant pathogens. My research areas during my master’s, Ph.D. (Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, Iran) and two postdoctoral fellowships (Cornell University and Virginia Tech), were rather diverse and focused on fungal and bacterial diseases of nut and fruit trees. In my M.S. research, I worked on aflatoxin-producing fungi contaminating pistachio. The first part of my master’s project was focused on isolation, morphological and molecular identification, and the genetic variability of the aflatoxin-producing fungal species in pistachio nut samples collected from storages. The second part used the High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) coupled with molecular detection using aflatoxin biosynthetic genes including aflR for differentiation of toxigenic and non-toxigenic isolates and detection of aflatoxin B1 and B2 released from Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus species. In my Ph.D. research, I worked on the interaction between walnut and bacterial blight disease caused by Xanthomonas arboricola pv. juglandis (Xaj). I used walnut as a model to clarify the roles of polyphenol oxidases (PPO) in defense responses to Xaj using different molecular techniques and evaluated the susceptibility of walnut cultivars to pathogen, gene expression and enzyme activity of PPO and pathogenesis related proteins in walnut-bacterium interaction. Given that the modification of PPO expression in transgenic plants provides an opportunity to study the contribution of PPO to plant disease resistance, I transferred the JrPPO1 gene from walnut into tobacco to determine the reaction of transgenic tobacco plants against Pseudomonas syringe pv. tabaci. Part of my Ph.D. was conducted at University of California, Davis. In my postdoc at Cornell University and Virginia Tech, I conduct wide-spectrum basic and applied research in the fields of bacteriology, mycology, genomics, plant pathology and plant disease management focusing on Colletotrichum species (bitter rot of apple), Erwinia amylovora (fire blight), and Diplocarpon coronaria (Apple Leaf and Fruit Blotch). We used viability digital PCR (v-dPCR) in several key projects aiming to improve accuracy of exiting fire blight disease prediction models, elucidate fire blight biology, epidemiology and management and identify key stress factors that could aid in management of E. amylovora. I identified, described, and characterized for the first time a new Colletotrichum species that causes apple bitter rot and belongs to C. gloeosporioides complex of species. We named it C. noveboracense and it was first found on apple as a host.
The purpose of my research program in UC, Riverside is improving knowledge and understanding of plant pathogen diagnostics and detection, plant-pathogen interaction, biology and population dynamic of pathogens that could facilitate development of new disease management strategies on subtropical trees especially citrus and avocado. The three areas of my research focus are: 1. Identification, characterization and developing molecular methods to detect fungal, bacterial and viral diseases affecting citrus and avocado including but not limited to avocado branch canker and dieback caused by Botryosphaeria species, Phytophthora Root Rot, Sweet Orange Scab caused by Elsinöe australis, avocado sunblotch viroid, and other problematic pathogens on citrus and avocado in California; 2. Studying the citrus, avocado defense responses and molecular interaction with above pathogens; 3. Fungicides and bactericide efficacy trials in vitro and in the field and developing new strategies, tools and programs for disease management. The purpose of my extension program is to provide growers and industry with disease diagnostics and disease management recommendations specific to each fruit crop in cooperation with other Cooperative Extension Specialists and Farm Advisors throughout California. My activities and recommendations are delivered at growers and extension meetings, during on farm visits and tours, via phone cell phone and emails, workshops and my blog webpage: https://subtropicalplantpathology.com/category/blog-posts/.