Febina Mathew, associate professor of AES plant pathology at North Dakota State University and broadening participation faculty fellow in the NDSU Office of Research and Creative Activity (RCA), recently earned the 2023 International Plant Pathology Research Achievement Award from the American Phytopathological Society (APS) Office of International Programs (OIP). The award recognizes early career scientists for their research conducted in countries outside the United States.
Mathew’s research program focuses on the biology of pathogens that cause soybean and sunflower diseases and on developing disease management strategies. APS recognized her work for contributions to the knowledge about the fungal plant pathogen Diaporthe and the resulting Phomopsis stem canker disease. In sunflowers, Phomopsis causes browning and wilting of leaves and blight in young shoots along with sunken canker areas on infected stems. Mathew developed strategies to manage the disease in Argentina that included selection of disease-resistant varieties and use of foliar fungicides.
Mathew collaborated with researchers in Argentina to identify pathogens causing sunflower Phomopsis stem canker. This collaboration led to three peer-reviewed publications including a Spanish translation of the APS Plant Disease Lesson on Phomopsis stem canker of sunflower. She also hosted research scholars from Argentina at North Dakota State University to train them in identifying potential candidate genes for resistance to Diaporthe species in sunflowers.
Mathew is currently involved in international research focused on evaluating the diversity of Diaporthe species responsible for Phomopsis seed decay in Brazilian soybean crops. She is also evaluating fungicide effectiveness and timing in combatting Diaporthe-associated diseases in soybeans (Brazil) and sunflowers (Argentina). “I am grateful and honored to have received the award from the APS on behalf of my team.”, Mathew said. “The sunflower projects were teamwork involving my graduate students as well as collaborators from the U.S. (NDSU Professor and Plant Pathologist Sam Markell and University of Nebraska Extension Plant Pathologist Bob Harveson) and from Argentina (Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata and Advanta Seeds).”