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 Professor
Office: Science Center #200
Lab: Science Center #212
Plant Pathology, Environmental Microbiology, Microbial Biodiversity
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.
Kunz G., Roschatt C., Schweigkofler W. (2010). Biodiversity of planthoppers (Auchenorrhyncha) in vineyards infected by the Bois noir phytoplasma. Gredleriana, 89-108.