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Wolfgang Schweigkofler, PhD

Dr. Schweigkofler joined the department in 2012 as a research scientist and became a Research Assistant Professor in 2013. He holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. As a member of the NORS-DUC team (National Ornamental Research Site at Dominican University of California), his research focuses on pathogens of ornamental plants, esp. Phytophthora ramorum, the causal agent of Sudden Oak Death and ramorum blight. Working both in the laboratory, as well as in a state-of-the-art research nursery developed to study quarantine pathogens, major goals of his work are:  i) to detect and identify plant pathogens, ii) to study the life-cycle, biology and spreading pattern of the microbes and iii) to control plant pathogens using environmental friendly and sustainable methods.

Research Assistant ProfessorWolfgang Schweigkofler

Office: Science Center #200
Lab:  Science Center #212

Academic Areas

Plant Pathology, Environmental Microbiology, Microbial Biodiversity

Educational Background

  • PhD, Microbiology, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria.
  • MSc, Microbiology, University of Vienna, Austria

Teaching & Research

Plant pathogens (fungi, oomycetes, bacteria and plant viruses) play a major role in terrestrial eco-systems. They attack and degrade plant tissues and help with the recycling of nutrients; they are a major force for evolutionary change and shaping the environment. Plant pathogens contribute to microbial biodiversity and are the source of many interesting secondary metabolites, but they can also cause severe diseases of crop plants and reduce food production and quality.  The invasive species Phytophthora ramorum causes Sudden Oak Death, a serious disease of Coast Live Oaks and tanoaks in coastal California, resulting in the death of ten thousands of trees and considerable ecological damage.  P. ramorum also infests many other host plants, among them important ornamentals (like Rhododendron, Viburnum and Camellia), on which it causes only minor leaf symptoms. Federal and state regulations require the destruction of nursery plants infected by P. ramorum and treatment of contaminated soil. Infected nursery plants are a major factor in the long-range spread of P. ramorum. The National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University of California (NORS-DUC) was founded in the year 2009 by a Farm Bill grant to study P. ramorum in a sophisticated research nursery that reflects an authentic commercial nursery setting. NORS-DUC goals are to develop practical solutions for containment, remediation, and eradication of quarantine pathogens in nurseries, reducing the risk of long-range spread of pests through infested nursery stock shipments. Research at NORS-DUC is conducted by a team of permanent staff as well as by P. ramorum experts from other institutions who can apply for grants to work at NORS-DUC. The research site offers a unique opportunity to study different aspects of P. ramorum diseases of ornamentals that has not been accomplished previously. First results from research on the eradication of P. ramorum from soils using steam sterilization, solarization and bio-control indicate they were effective; and these methods are being reviewed by USDA APHIS as approved for soil treatments in infected commercial nurseries. Ongoing research is focusing on the disease epidemiology in nurseries, the genetic plasticity of P. ramorum on different host plants and the effects of fungicides and physiological stress on symptom development.

Recent Publications

  • Schweigkofler W., Kosta K., Huffman V., Sharma S., Suslow K., Ghosh S. (2014). Steaming inactivates Phytophthora ramorum, causal agent of Sudden Oak Death and ramorum blight, from infested nursery soils in California. Plant Health Progress doi:10.1094/PHp-RS-13-0111.
  • Kunz G., Roschatt C., Schweigkofler W. (2010). Biodiversity of planthoppers (Auchenorrhyncha)  in vineyards infected by the Bois noir phytoplasma. Gredleriana, 89-108.
  • Berger J., Schweigkofler W., Kerschbamer C., Roschatt C., Dalla Via J, Baric S. (2009). Occurrence of Stolbur phytoplasma in the vector Hyalesthes obsoletus, herbaceous host plants and grapevine in South Tyrol (Northern Italy). Vitis 48, 185-192.
  • Garbelotto M., Smith T., Schweigkofler W. (2008). Variation in rates of spore deposition of Fusarium circinatum, the causal agent of Pine Pitch Canker, over a 12-month-period at two locations in Northern California. Phytopathology 98, 137-143.               
  • Schweigkofler W. (2006). Ascomycota: Introduction to Biodiversity, Evolutionary Genomics and Systematics. In: Sharma A.K., Sharma A. (eds.) Plant Genome: Biodiversity and Evolution, Volume 2B: Lower Groups. Science Publishers Inc., Enfield, NH, pp.189-240.
  • Schweigkofler W., Otrosina WJ, Smith SL, Cluck DR, Maeda K, Peay KG, Garbelotto M. (2005). Detection and quantification of Leptographium wageneri, the cause of black-stain root disease, from bark beetles (Coleoptera: Scolytidae) in Northern California using regular and Real-time PCR. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 35, 1798-1808.
  • Schweigkofler W., O'Donnell K., Garbelotto M. (2004). Detection and quantification of airborne conidia of Fusarium circinatum, the causal agent of Pine Pitch Canker, from two California sites using a Real Time-PCR approach combined with a simple spore trapping method. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 70, 3512-3520.

Recent Presentations

    • W. Schweigkofler, K. Kosta, V. Huffman, T. Pastalka, S. Sharma, and K. Suslow (2014). Environmental-friendly Control Methods can Inactivate the Invasive Plant Pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, Causal Agent of Sudden Oak Death, in Nursery Soils. Northern California Botanists 2014 Symposium, Chico, CA, January 13-14 (poster presentation)
    • W. Schweigkofler, K. Kosta, K. Suslow, V. Huffman and S. Ghosh (2013). Eradication of Phytophthora ramorum from infested soil using steam treatment at the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University of California. 59th Annual Conference on Soilborne Plant Pathogens, Corvallis, OR, March 26-28 (oral presentation)
    • W. Schweigkofler, K. Kosta, K. Suslow, T. Pastalka, V. Huffman, S. Sharma and S. Ghosh (2013). Research on the quarantine pathogen Phytophthora ramorum at the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University of California (NORS-DUC). Annual Conference of the American Society of Horticultural Science, Palm Desert, CA, July 22-25 (oral presentation)
    • W. Schweigkofler, K. Kosta, K. Suslow, V. Huffman, and S. Ghosh (2013). Steaming is a sustainable method to eradicate the quarantine pathogen Phytophthora ramorum from infested nursery soil. Joint meeting of the American Phytopathological Society and the Mycological Society of America, Austin, TX, August 10-14 (oral presentation).



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