Tree fruit and wine grape diseases

Dr. Achala KC at Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC) newly planted research vineya

Achala KC | Assistant Professor | Botany and Plant Pathology

Data-Driven, Solution-Oriented

I am a plant pathologist at the Oregon State University Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC) in Central Point, OR. I, along with my research team, study the economically important diseases of tree fruits and wine grapes in the region. We seek to understand the plant pathogens involved in causing diseases that increase the economic burden on our tree fruit and wine grape growers. Our research also seeks to provide solutions for disease management so that the growers will benefit by minimizing losses due to diseases, and saving the cost of production via minimal use of pesticides. We also educate growers on environmentally-friendly solutions for disease management by integrating cultural, biological, and chemical control strategies, tracking pesticide resistance development in pathogen population and ways to mitigate these problems, and utilizing disease forecasting models for informed decision-making regarding necessary pesticide application.

Losses due to fire blight disease in pears. Growers cut back the trees infected with bacterial pathogen Erwinia amylovora to remove the infected tree trunks and encourage new, pathogen-free branches.
Undergraduate research assistant, Narmada Dhakal and OWRI undergraduate research intern Mackenna Greene assisting with pear harvest in a research block at SOREC.

Growing Together

My passion for plant health started when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Agricultural Science back in my home country, Nepal. Knowing I was an agriculture major, the growers would always inquire with me about plant diseases and shared that those diseases were one of many problems they could not manage or even understand. It was then triggered in me that I could make a difference by learning more and, in turn, helping the growers learn more about plant diseases and their management. I enjoy researching more into the details of plant diseases, sharing groundbreaking results with the scientific community, and extending research-based knowledge to the growers and stakeholders.

Losses due to post-harvest rots and disorders. Culled fruits after storage at a packinghouse in southern Oregon.

Preserving Productivity

Our research will give insight into how pathogens develop over time, which are the susceptible stages on tree fruits and wine grape development that the pathogens take advantage of, and what environmental factors at those stages play roles in disease development. Based on this information, we will develop disease management programs to target the reduced-infection ability of specific pathogens, protect crops at their most vulnerable stages, and help growers make disease management decisions based on environmental variables and utilize pesticides only when it is absolutely necessary. Our ultimate goal is to increase the productivity for long-term food security while keeping environmental safety in mind.

OSU-Branch Experiment Station undergraduate research assistant, Carrie Juchau screening the pathogen population for resistance against commonly used fungicides and bactericides.
Harvested pears getting ready to be treated with fungicides for management of post-harvest decays.

Power of the People

My research team consists of postdoctoral research associate Dr. Monica Hernandez, biological science technician Joseph DeShields, and undergraduate research assistant Katelin Kutella. I collaborate mostly with SOREC colleagues: viticulturist Dr. Alexander Levin, Entomology Senior Faculty Research Assistant Richard Hilton, and Agriculture Extension Specialist Dr. Gordon Jones. In addition, I partner with local and statewide growers and stakeholders plus in- and out-of-state plant scientists.

Dr. Achala KC holding a grapevine trunk infected with grapevine trunk disease in a Bilingual Training program organized in collaboration with the Rogue Valley Winegrower’s Association.
Dr. Monica Hernandez changing a spore trap sampler to monitor the spores released by grapevine trunk disease pathogens in a southern Oregon vineyard.