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Montana State University lab gives early warnings about biological invaders
Date:2/1/2008

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Montanans don't think a lot about "Homeland Security," but one Montana State University unit that serves both ag producers and home gardeners also serves to keep us safe from other biological invaders.

The Schutter Diagnostic Lab on the Bozeman campus recently received a five-year grant for roughly $40,000 per year from the USDA, largely because the lab provides an early warning system of biological invaders, whether those invaders arrived here accidently or because of someone's intention.

"What has been put in place is the ability to detect early, to diagnose correctly and then to communicate information to those with the authority to respond," says Jim Stack, the current director of the Great Plains Plant Disease Diagnostic Network and, until recently, director of the National Plant Disease Diagnostic Network.

Mary Burrows, a plant pathologist and supervisor of the Schutter Diagnostic Lab, says a specific pest identification protocol developed by the national network is used frequently. It allows the lab both to identify more traditional agricultural pests and keep the system ready for emergencies.

"We are sent mystery samples," says Burrows. The team identifies whether the samples are true invading pests or harmless look-alikes. Part of the national funding has purchased a Web-enabled microscope, which allows the diagnostic team at MSU to confer with USDA specialists in Beltsville, Maryland, or anywhere in the world, while they all look at the same microscopic image.

The MSU diagnostic team also includes Nina Zidack, a plant pathologist, Will Lanier an insect and information technology specialist, and Cathy Seibert, a weed identification specialist. Barry Jacobsen and Bill Grey, plant pathologists with row crop, mycotoxin and seed certification expertise, also contribute to diagnoses.

The MSU lab leads the regional system's training and education program, with Lanier and Zidack serving o
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Contact: Evelyn Boswell
evelynb@montana.edu
406-994-5135
Montana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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