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UT Tyler Biology Professor Receives Grant for Research

May 9, 2007

Dr. Blake Bextine, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at Tyler, has received a single-year $114,990 research grant from Texas A&M University’s agriculture program, Dr. Alisa White, UT Tyler College of Arts and Science interim dean, announced.

The renewable sub-award is through the United States Department of Agriculture-Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

The proposed research is anticipated to be part of a highly integrated activity with other investigators, mainly Dr. Forrest Mitchell of TAMU – Stephenville. Under the direction of Dr. James R. Supak of TAMU, the “Texas Pierce’s Disease Research and Education Program,” will investigate several aspects of the Pierce’s Disease system which is the limiting factor of grape production in Texas.

“We have identified six vineyards for special focus in different regions of Texas. Using a sensitive and specific DNA analysis technique, we will analyze the backlog of insect samples that have been collected over the past four years to determine the presence of the disease-causing agent,” said Bextine.

Selected samples from the insect, glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis, will be removed and assayed for the presence of Xylella fastidiosa (Xf), a bacterium known to cause Pierce’s Disease.

“This information will be interpreted relative to time of year and compared between vineyards to enhance our epidemiological understanding of the PD system. We also plan to perform transmission tests to determine if competitive exclusion between Xf strains impacts transmission of the Pierce’s Disease strain,” Bextine said.

Collected information will be placed in a database and on the APHIS Web site for access by other researchers and for individual access by growers.

“In addition to supporting collection of this information for integration into a Pierce’s Disease epidemiological model, we will continue to develop diagnostic tools that improve the quality of information collected; specifically, advancements in DNA technologies and protocols,” Bextine added.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of nearly 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

Beverley Golden
The University of Texas at Tyler
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