Research Areas and Highlights
- Integrated Pest Management： Programs have been developed for the integrated control of major fungal, bacterial and nematode diseases of various crops around Taiwan, with special emphasis on the incorporation of soil amendments and the integration of chemical, biological and resistant crop strategies. The SH, LT-M, and FBN-5A mixtures formulated in the Department have been shown as effective soil amendments in improving plant growth and reducing incidence of various soilborne plant diseases. In addition, a plant nutrient formulation developed by the Department faculty, CH100, has been shown to be effective in the control of Chinese leek rust, Japanese apricot scab, and plum powdery mildew. The success of these formulations has earned the Department a solid international and national reputation. Development and application of “Expert Consultation System” for the diagnosis and management of important plant diseases is a recent addition to this area of research.
- Etiology and Taxonomy ：Researches include the investigation of species and genetic diversities, identification and taxonomy of fungi, bacteria, nematodes, viruses, or phytoplasma, development of biochips or gene-chips for molecular diagnostics of plant pathogens including bacteria, fungi, nematodes and viruses.
- Molecular Virology：Researches include the identification of virus diseases, the production of monoclonal and polyclonal antisera for virus detection or characterization, the development and application of mild strain or defected viral genome for the protection of major crops from natural viral infection, the establishment of a tissue culture system and a clean seed program to prevent disease dissemination, development of broad-spectrum and specific tools for diagnosis of important plant viruses, and exploitation of virus-induced gene silencing system(VIGS) for plant functional genomics. Major accomplishments of molecular studies on important plant viruses include the elucidation of the complete genomic nucleotide sequence, the determination of the genetic map, and the generation of the infectious in vitro transcript of papaya ringspot virus (PRSV). Several PRSV mild mutants that caused symptomless infection were developed. These mild mutants have been used in large-scale applications of conventional cross protection for PRSV control in Taiwan for over ten years. The research toward controlling PRSV has been upgraded by the use of recombinant DNA techniques, transgenic approaches, and the expression of foreign genes by virus vectors. Coat-protein transgenic papaya lines have been generated and proved to be highly resistant to infection by PRSV under field conditions.
- Molecular Plant Pathology： Research topics include the determination of the role of pathogen-produced toxins, enzymes, and phytohormones in disease development; the water relation of diseased plants with wilting symptoms; the influence of disease on photosynthetic and respiratory activities of host plants, molecular basis of necrotic symptom development with emphasis on the involvement of activated oxygens and NO free radicals, signal transduction relating to defence gene expression, and the biotic or abiotic factors contributing to the elicitation of the resistance response of host plants. The physiological disorders caused by air pollutants are also actively researched.
- Ecology and Epidemiology ：Studies are centered on the biology and ecology of microbial pathogens on or around the infection court and their correlation with the incidence of diseases on various vegetable, fruit, and ornamental crops determining. Research is focused on the factors that lead to the suppressiveness or conduciveness of disease development.
- Genetics and Molecular Biology ：Research interests include analyses of the sexual and asexual propagating behavior of fungal or bacterial plant pathogens; isolation, cloning and transferring of specific genes among different pathogens including viruses; analyses of the expression of genes involved in virulence; the engineering of antagonistic microbial organisms for disease control; isolation and expression analysis of resistance-related genes for plant diseases.
- Microbial Biotechnology and Industrial Application： Major research focuses are aimed for the development of biorational microbial products for plant production. Actively researched topics include the screening and exploitation of useful microbial resources native in Taiwan, establishment of the mass production and formulation biotechniques, elucidation of the mode of action of disease control efficacy, formulation improvement for better efficacy and shelf-life, and the cloning and genetic engineering of the antagonistic genes for crop improvement. A liquid fermentation pilot plant equipped with sophisticated production and processing facilities was established for the intended research and student expertise training (including on-job training for personnels of cooperated biotech industries). A photodynamic biocide patent was developed during the past decade; the know-how has been successfully transferred to private industry and registered as the first biorational fungicide of the country. With the aid of the pilot plant core facility, the success of microbial biopesticide development has earned the Department a reputation as the center of microbial biopesticide research and development in Taiwan.
- Exploitation of Natural Resources： Researches include the breeding and the physiological aspects on the commercially cultivated mushrooms; utilization of agricultural wastes for controlling plant diseases; using medicinal plant materials as an alternative strategy in sustainable agriculture for plant health.
- Non-pesticide Integrated management of Root Diseases of Vegetables： The study include grafting control of Fusarium wilt of bitter gourd, integrated disease management of soft rot of ginger by yield increasing bacteria and management of root diseases of vegetables under structure. The results indicated that using clean seeds and cultural substrate, employing bitter gourd seedling from seed, instead of shoot, as scion to be cleft-grafted or cleft-inarched on loofah to produce graft seedlings growing at 20℃ are the selected methods highly recommended. The growth of the grafts in the field several years has resulted in gradual disappearance of Fusarium wilt and the better yields of bitter gourd reached 80-100 t/ha, as compared to the average yield of 16 t/ha for the non-grafted bitter gourd in Taiwan. This study was earned an Outstanding Agriculture Research Award issued by Council of Agriculture
- The Departmental goals are to offer superior education in plant pathology and plant-microbe interactions and to broaden the perspectives of plant biology in undergraduate, and graduate education.
- The Department will continue to develop new and innovative ways, such as biopesticides and disease-resistant transgenic plants, to keep plants health and maintain food safety.
- The Department will establish a Plant Quarantine Education Center for offering national and international teaching, and extension activities about plant protection.
- The departmental research, teaching, and extension programs will continue to be cooperative efforts with other Departments and industry nationally and internationally.