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Soybean board awards fellowship; backing charcoal rot research

CANTON and STARKVILLE — With classes back in session at Mississippi State University (MSU), the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board (MSPB) is investing in possible solutions to a major soybean disease as well as the education of a student who could be bringing production solutions to Mississippi soybean farmers long into the future.

MSPB recently awarded the Blaine Doctoral Fellowship to Tessie Wilkerson, a Ph.D. candidate at MSU, who plans to study the incidence of charcoal rot in soybeans and possible solutions to the disease.

Charcoal rot is a soil-borne fungal disease that favors hot and dry conditions, like those often found during summers in Mississippi. Because the disease can cause detrimental economic losses for soybean farmers in the state, Wilkerson hopes her research will shed some light on the disease and how farmers can minimize those losses. She plans to test how the addition of nutrients to the soil may prevent or lessen the damage caused by the disease.

Although she spent the last several years working with plant diseases in a different role, Wilkerson says she has always harbored a long-term goal of receiving her Ph.D. “I always knew that if I went back to school, it would be to study plant diseases,” Wilkerson said.

MSPB named the fellowship in honor of Alan Blaine, Ph.D., a former state soybean specialist with the MSU Extension Service, to recognize his many years of service to the state’s soybean farmers.

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