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Why are the foods that you love the most in danger from rusts, blights, molds and mildews?

Dr. John McDowell

January 24, 2015
An interactive session led by Dr. John McDowell

Virginia Tech professor

Did you know that grapes, chocolate, and bananas can get sick? And that these diseases are caused by microscopic organisms that are relatives of germs that can make humans sick? We will discuss a few of the most important crop diseases and threats for the future, including potential effects of climate change. We will also discuss how scientists are using information from genomes of plants and plant germs to figure out how germs cause disease and how plants can fight back against them. Did you know that plants have immune systems that are very similar to our immune systems? Our discussion will illuminate this surprising similarity and will also reveal how “plant doctors” use this information to breed healthier plants and reduce pesticides.

John McDowell is a professor at Virginia Tech. He is intensely curious about how plants and germs fight each other. The students who work in his lab are searching for information about plant genes and germ genes that tip the balance of the fight towards disease or immunity. They hope to use this information to reduce crop losses.

After the interactive session the students will be escorted by their parents to have lunch and then to the hands-on portion of the event. There the students will enjoy the experience of interacting with various exhibits from the Virginia Tech community.