The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute today announced that world-renowned plant pathologist Jaimin Patel, Ph.D., has joined the center, further strengthening the LRC’s horticultural lighting and plant pathology program. Dr. Patel will collaborate with Dr. David Gadoury of Cornell University’s Division of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and Dr. Mark Rea of the LRC on a $1.7 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the novel use of light to suppress a broad group of plant pathogens affecting sustainable production of organically grown crops.
“In stark contrast to conventional wisdom, which points to the favorability of temperature and relative humidity as primary drivers of pathogen epidemics in controlled environments, our research indicates that both visible and UV radiation have heretofore unappreciated roles as epidemic drivers,” said Patel. “This discovery opens new possibilities to suppress plant pathogens by selective manipulation of light.”
Right now, more than 7 billion people are competing for Earth’s dwindling supply of natural resources. By 2050, there will be 9 to 10 billion. To meet increasing demand, efficient and sustainable crop production and energy systems are needed.
Solid-state lighting has the potential to change the way crops are grown in controlled environments, and even the type of crops grown there. An expanding list of spectrally tuned SSL is available to modify morphological and chemical characteristics of plants, enabling growers to extract greater value from crop production. The technical developments of lighting for horticulture applications have fueled an expansion of controlled environments for crop production. However, controlled environments also present substantial challenges for pest and disease management. The research team at Cornell University and the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer seeks to understand and exploit light-dependent mechanisms for the purposes of suppressing plant pathogens in these challenging environments.
“The advancements in solid-state lighting offer unprecedented opportunities to manipulate wavelength, pulse duration, synchrony, and novel spectral combinations to produce suppressive effects on pathogens, while maintaining plant health and productivity,” said Patel.
Patel is the author of more than 40 scientific articles, and serves as the Associate Editor of Plant Health Progress, a peer-reviewed journal of applied plant health. Prior to joining the LRC, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the Tropical Research and Education Center at the University of Florida, where he collaborated with scientists from around the world to study multiple crops and a variety of plant pathogens. His professional research career has provided advanced knowledge for the management of plant diseases through his many publications, presentations, and outreach activities for growers, consumers and other stakeholders.