She’s a doctor for plants

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“The objectives of the research in my laboratory are to improve disease resistance and persistence of alfalfa stands.”

Photo courtesy Deborah Samac

Plants get sick just like people do. And like people, plants sometimes need extra help resisting infections. Deborah Samac specializes in fighting plant diseases. She’s a plant pathologist — someone who fights plant diseases, and figures out ways to keep plants healthy in the first place.

Diseases in plants can be caused by some of the same things that make people sick: viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. While most plant diseases aren’t directly harmful to humans, the damage they do to their hosts can impact us significantly.

Dutch elm disease has had a devastating effect on elm trees across North America. Caused by a fungus that is spread by bark beetles, the disease is so difficult to treat that infected trees are often just cut down. Dutch elm disease could leave an elm-shadowed street like this one totally barren.
Dutch elm disease has had a devastating effect on elm trees across North America. Caused by a fungus that is spread by bark beetles, the disease is so difficult to treat that infected trees are often just cut down. Dutch elm disease could leave an elm-shadowed street like this one totally barren.
Courtesy daryl_mitchell via flickr.com