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US: Students honored at ASHS Annual Conference

Two students whose research projects have been supported by the American Floral Endowment (AFE) were recognized during the 2016 American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Annual Conference held from Aug. 8 – 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Ga.

Clemson University student Katie Bennett received the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Presentation Award and Krishna Bhattarai of the University of Florida was awarded second place in the Graduate Student Poster Presentation.

Katie Bennett and Dr. James Faust

Bennett worked with Associate Professor Dr. James Faust at Clemson University on a project to reduce the incidence of petunia flower meltdown, a problem caused by Botrytis. Her research demonstrated that spraying petunias with calcium chloride twice weekly for two weeks prior to shipping reduced the severity of Botrytis infection by 80 percent.

"Katie exceeded all of my expectations while working on this project," said Dr. Faust. 

"This was a master's level project, and she knocked it out of the park. Because of her efforts, this was the most well-executed undergraduate research project that I've had in my lab over my 16 years at Clemson," he said.

Bennett is beginning her final semester in floriculture and plans to continue working with Dr. Faust while obtaining her Master of Science degree.

Bhattarai, a doctoral student working with Dr. Zhanao Deng at the University of Florida, presented results of his research to identify genetic markers responsible for downy mildew resistance in impatiens.

Downy mildew has become a devastating disease of Impatiens walleriana. Bhattarai has identified disease resistance and defense-related genes that are expressed in downy mildew-resistant New Guinea impatiens.

"The support from the Endowment is highly appreciated for this research," Bhattarai said.

Dr. Faust and Plant Pathologist Guido Schnabel are working on a new AFE-funded research project at Clemson University investigating methods to reduce Botrytis during production. The results of this project will be made available free on AFE's website in 2017.

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