1. Staff
  2. Researchers

Mycology Lab

The Mycology Laboratory focuses on plant-microbe interactions by studying beneficial symbionts (grass endophytes) and the plant pathogens Fusicladium effusum (pecan scab) and Phymatotrichopsis omnivora (cotton root rot). Each of these microorganisms can impact sustainable plant production.

Epichloë species are used as value-added symbionts to benefit the production of forage grasses. These fungi are well known for the production of secondary metabolites that provide protection to their hosts. We are interested in endophyte discovery and exploring the diversity of these symbionts, among and between host species. Young has developed molecular tools to rapidly screen large grass populations to define the endophyte diversity within. Combining this with genomics, we are able to describe the evolutionary history and unravel the life strategy of a given isolate. Of particular interest are hybrid Epichloë species with common ancestral progenitors that have arisen from independent hybridization events. In addition, we work with grass breeders and agronomists to develop endophyte-infected tall fescue cultivars. This work combines development of elite grass cultivars with Epichloë isolates known to aid with host persistence.

In contrast to the beneficial symbionts, pathogens can dramatically reduce quality, yield and stand longevity. Phymatotrichopsis omnivora is a devastating soil-borne pathogen of many dicotyledonous plants in the southwestern USA that greatly reduces the stand life of alfalfa. We study the spatial and temporal development of the disease caused by P. omnivora using aerial imagery, supported by ground validation. Fusicladium effusum is the causal agent of pecan scab, a disease that impacts the quality and quantity of pecan production. We have recently utilized genomics to identify the mating type genes within F. effusum and discovered the sexual cycle of this pathogen in vitro.

Projects in the Young laboratory span basic research to study the fungal-host systems as well as applied research to address the problems of sustainable plant production. Research in the Young laboratory utilizes standard molecular biology, mycological, microbiological and microscopy techniques, multi-omics approaches such as genomics and transcriptomics, analysis of secondary metabolites, as well as aerial imagery with drones.

Nikki Charlton, Ph.D.
Nikki Charlton, Ph.D.

Senior Research Associate 2

Mycology

Na Li
Na Li

Research Technician

Mycology

Chakradhar Mattupalli, Ph.D.
Chakradhar Mattupalli, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

F365-Cotton Root Rot-CY

Ginger Swoboda
Ginger Swoboda

Research Associate 1

F365-Endophyte Tall Fescue-CY

Mihwa Yi, Ph.D.
Mihwa Yi, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow

Mycology