Texas Researcher Honored for HLB Work

Daniel CooperAwards, Research, Texas

Kranthi Mandadi works with his patented microbial hairy root system technique.
Photo by Sam Craft, Texas A&M AgriLife

Texas A&M researcher Kranthi Mandadi has received the 2024 American Phytopathological Society (APS) Syngenta Award given to select scientists working in areas of crop protection and plant pathology. Mandadi is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. He was selected for the award primarily for his breakthrough research on fastidious, or unculturable, plant pathogens.

The award is provided and given by Syngenta Crop Protection to an APS member for outstanding recent contributions to plant pathology through teaching, research or Extension.

Amir Ibrahim, associate director and chief scientific officer of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, said Mandadi spearheads a highly successful and impactful research program. “Notably, Dr. Mandadi serves as the project director of a $7 million USDA-NIFA (U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture) multistate, coordinated agricultural project and a designated center of excellence aimed at assessing new citrus greening therapies,” Ibrahim said. “This initiative entails collaborations among multiple universities, states, federal agencies and the citrus industry.”

Mandadi’s breakthrough research was an innovative technology called the microbial hairy root system, which helped resolve the bottlenecks associated with culturing pathogens difficult to grow in labs. The patented technique uses infected plant tissues to make hairy roots that can serve as biological vessels for the complex pathogens, allowing scientists to grow and study them in the lab.

Mandadi has leveraged this technology through multi-institutional, interdisciplinary collaborations. He has identified multiple immune-related genes, antimicrobial peptides, CRISPR targets and small molecule-based treatments to effectively kill the Candidatus Liberibacter bacterial species associated with citrus greening.

In 2015, Mandadi was hired as an assistant professor in plant pathology and microbiology at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco. He was promoted to associate professor in 2020.

Mandadi has published more than 64 peer-reviewed manuscripts in high-impact scientific journals. He is committed to the translation and commercialization of his discoveries through public-private partnerships with industry partners. Those partners include Bayer, Southern Gardens Citrus and U.S. Sugar as well as producer/stakeholder groups such as Texas Citrus Mutual, the Citrus Research and Development Foundation and the Texas International Produce Association.

Source: Texas A&M AgriLife

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