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Opening ceremonies slated for pathogen research facility

PUYALLUP, Wash. — Elected officials will join leaders of the state’s forest products, nursery and Christmas tree industries on Monday to tour and dedicate a new research biocontainment facility for plant pathogens at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center.

Ceremonies will be held on Monday, April 24, with tours of the isolation unit beginning at 1 p.m. and opening ceremonies beginning at 2 p.m. in the D.F. Almendinger Center on the Puyallup Center campus, 7612 Pioneer Way East.

WSU financed and installed the $250,000 isolation facility to expedite research on Sudden Oak Death, a deadly and easily spread plant pathogen. The fungus-like pathogen was identified in 2000 after killing thousands of trees in California and causing leaf blight on rhododendrons in Europe. It has been found in 14 California counties and in one county in Oregon.

In Washington, SOD-infected plants have been found and destroyed in nurseries since 2003. Numerous plants common in Washington landscapes are susceptible, including rhododendron, viburnum, grand fir, Douglas fir, madrone and big leaf maple. An outbreak in the natural environment would have major negative impacts on the state’s forest products and nursery industries.

Since 2002 WSU researchers have been traveling to Oregon State University in Corvallis to conduct cooperative research at their biocontainment facility. The new WSU isolation facility will enable WSU researchers to focus on the susceptibility of Washington plants to SOD, especially conifers, and on disease controls specific to our state’s environment.

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