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Rebstock only undergraduate presenter at World Alfalfa Congress

December 19, 2022

Travis Rebstock was the only undergraduate presenter at the World Alfalfa Congress in November in San Diego, Calif.

Rebstock shared a poster with attendees featuring the most recent results of ongoing alfalfa research conducted by DSU biology students and Dr. Andrew Sathoff, Assistant Biology Professor.

“Travis did an excellent job presenting and was great at networking with some of the scientists we met,” Sathoff said. “He fits right in talking with expert alfalfa researchers for the US Department of Agriculture, Dr. Joshua Gamble, and Dr. Deborah Samac.”

His poster, “Assessing Commercial Biological Control Agents for Activity Against Alfalfa Root Rotting Pathogens,” shared results from months of lab testing on the efficacy of commercial biological control (biocontrols) treatments against alfalfa pathogens.

Newly seeded and alfalfa seedlings are susceptible to pathogens like Aphanomyces and Pythium that cause seed and root rot. Biocontrols involve using another microbe to defend the plant against disease. Rebstock and fellow students determined the most effective biocontrols through lab testing.

“We showed which biocontrols are most useful for Pythium species and Aphanomyces species,” Rebstock explained. “The Pythium biocontrols had better results, so a lot of people were interested in that.”

The findings Rebstock presented were:

  • Southern Ag, Serenade ASO, and RootShield could be incorporated into a Pythium seed and root rot management strategy in alfalfa. Biological controls showed varying activity against isolates of Aphanomyces.
  • These results indicated that biocontrol active ingredients should be tested with commercial fungicides for possible use together.
  • Based on the results, these biocontrols should be incorporated into organic integrated disease management strategies to increase alfalfa yield.

“One biocontrol agent can work against six different species of Pythium,” Sathoff explained, “and it works with just one application.”

In addition to presenting the research, Rebstock and Sathoff were able to attend a variety of sessions on the alfalfa industry and the current issues facing the industry, such as water usage.

Rebstock enjoyed learning about how different farming is in California. After attending a field tour, Rebstock and Sathoff described the farm as a ‘large garden’ because it’s such a pampered field and very manicured.

A biology major from Redwood Falls, Minn., Rebstock, will continue alfalfa research before he graduates in the spring and submit another paper for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, BIOS.

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