Probing Plant Infections (

Probing Plant Infections

Sometimes the pathogens that infect plants also affect people—through our pocketbooks. Which is why plant pathologist Erica Goss, a University of Florida professor with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, spends a lot of time studying microbes that infect tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.

These are the state’s top three grossing vegetable and berry crops, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. And a lot of microbes like them just as much as we do.

In 2019, the Florida tomato industry produced 39% of the US market for fresh tomatoes, worth about $426 million, while Florida’s fresh pepper crop was valued at $235 million. Which is why growers are worried about pathogens that cause dark dried-out looking blemishes on tomatoes and peppers.

“We lump several different bacterial species under this disease called bacterial spot of tomato and pepper,” said Goss, who is also a faculty member of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute. “But different species and even individual strains have different plant hosts and geographic ranges.”

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