Faculty Directory

Alejandro Rojas

Alejandro Rojas

Assistant Professor

Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food & Life Sciences

(PLPA)-Plant Pathology

Phone: 479-575-2445

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Soil microbial ecology is an important aspect to understand the development of diseases, and how environment, host and/or the microbial community interact resulting in a detrimental output in agriculture.  My research focuses on the interaction of plant and root-associated microorganisms and their effects on plant growth and health.  These include the interaction between fungal and oomycete pathogens, fungal endophytes and other guilds that are present in agricultural and natural ecosystems.  We are focused on the biology and genetics of soilborne fungi and oomycetes and how we can modulate or manage the impact of these organisms in agricultural crops.  The management of soilborne pathogens requires a balance between environment, host and microbial community, therefore we are using an ecological approach to identify the factors required to achieve an equilibrium.  Our goal is to understand the biology, ecology, and epidemiology of soilborne and plant-associated fungi and oomycetes to minimize their negative impact on food production and promote plant health, which in turn results on higher crop yields.  The specific questions that we have are 1) What are the dynamics of microbial communities in the soil and how to leverage these communities to promote plant health; and 2) how pathogens evolve under stress and what are the factors driving the dynamics of these pathosystems.   Overall, the goal is to understand the diseases in the field and the factors that drive these outbreaks.  To answer this questions, we combine field, bench, and computational approaches, addressing factors such as management practices, climate,  host genetic background, pathogen biology and genetics, and the interaction between plant-microbe and microbe-microbe.   

  • Dual Ph.D. Plant Pathology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.  2016
  • M.Sc. Plant Pathology. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.  2011.
  • M.Sc. Biological Sciences (Major in Microbiology).  Los Andes University, Bogotá, Colombia. 2007
  • B.Sc. Microbiology (Minor in Chemistry).  Los Andes University, Bogotá, Colombia. 2005

Peer reviewed publications

Del Castillo Múnera, J., Quesada-Ocampo, L. M., Rojas, J. A., Chilvers, M. I. & Hausbeck, M. Population Structure of Pythium ultimum from Greenhouse Floral Crops in Michigan. https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-03-18-0394-RE PDIS–03–18–0394–RE (2018). doi:10.1094/PDIS-03-18-0394-RE

Liao H., Hameed K., Rojas A., Bonito G., and Rytas Vilgalys.  Mortierella elongata promotes Populus trichocarpa growth while altering molecular mechanisms of plant growth, lipid signaling and defense.  MPMI (Accepted)

Rossman D. R., Rojas J.A., Jacobs J. L., Mukankusi C., Kelly J. D., and Chilvers M. I. Pathogenicity and Virulence of Soilborne Oomycetes on Phaseolus vulgaris. Plant Disease PDIS–02–17–0178 (2017). doi:10.1094/PDIS-02-17-0178-RE

Rojas, A., Miles, T. D., Coffey, M. D., Chilvers, M., & Martin, F. N.  Development and application of qPCR and RPA genus and species-specific detection of Phytophthora sojae and Phytophthora sansomeana root rot pathogens of soybean. Plant Disease (10.1094/PDIS-09-16-1225-RE)

Rojas, JA., J. Jacobs, S. Napieralski, B. Karaj, C. A. Bradley, P. D. Esker, L. Giesler, D. Jardine, B. D. Nelson et al.  Oomycete species associated with soybean seedlings in North America - Part I: Identification and pathogenicity characterization.  (10.1094/PHYTO-04-16-0177-R)

Rojas, JA., J. Jacobs, S. Napieralski, B. Karaj, C. A. Bradley, P. D. Esker, L. Giesler, D. Jardine, B. D. Nelson et al.  Oomycete species associated with soybean seedlings in North America - Part II: Diversity and ecology in relation to environmental and edaphic factors.  (10.1094/PHYTO-04-16-0176-R)

Rojas, A., and W. W. Kirk. Phenotypic and genotypic variation in Michigan populations of Phytophthora infestans from 2008 to 2010. Plant Pathology (2015).

Rojas, J. A., Kirk, W. W., Gachango, E., Douches, D. S., & Hanson, L. E. (2014). Tuber blight development in potato cultivars in response to different genotypes of Phytophthora infestans. Journal of Phytopathology, 162(1), 33-42.

Céspedes, M.C. ‡, Cárdenas, M.E., Vargas, A.M., Rojas, A., Morales, J.G., Jiménez, P., Bernal, A.J. and Restrepo, S., 2013. Physiological and molecular characterization of Phytophthora infestans isolates from the Central Colombian Andean Region. Revista Iberoamericana de Micología, 30(2), pp.81-87.

 

Plant Disease Notes and Extension publications

Rojas, A. and Chilvers, M. North Central Soybean Research Program Research Highlights: Oomycete Species Associated with Soybean in the North Central region. Research and Information Initiative NCSRP. February 1, 2018. (https://goo.gl/j8qikP)

Rojas, A. Diagnostics Tools for Identification of Soybean Root Rot Diseases. USDA-NIFA Outreach Webcast. July 2016 (https://goo.gl/9th6xX)

Gachango, E., W. Kirk, L. Hanson, A. Rojas, P. Tumbalam, and K. Shetty. 2011. First report of in vitro fludioxonil-resistant isolates of Fusarium spp. causing potato dry rot in Michigan. Plant Disease 95(2):228.

Gachango, E., W. Kirk, L. Hanson, A. Rojas, and P. Tumbalam. 2011. First report of Fusarium torulosum causing dry rot of seed potato tubers in the United States. Plant Disease 95(9):1194.

Miles, T. D., C. I. Woelk‡, A. Rojas, and A. M. C. Schilder. 2011. First report of Pythium sterilum causing root rot of blueberry in the United States. Plant Disease 95(5):614.

Manuscript Editor/Reviewer

  • Plant Disease – Associate Editor (2017 – Present)
  • Plant Disease
  • New Phytologist
  • Mycologia
  • Frontiers in Microbiology
  • Plant Pathology

Professional committees

  • APS Evolutionary genetics and Genomics (2011 – present) (current Vice Chair)
  • APS Mycology (2012 – present)
  • APS Soil Microbiology and Root Diseases Committee (2012 – present)

Professional Affiliation

  • American Phytopathological Society (2008 – Present)
  • Mycology Society of America (2011 – Present)
  • The Genetics Society of America (2016 – Present)

 

  • 2016. Mitchell Meritorious Research Travel Award
  • 2015.  APS H. David Thurston Student Travel Award
  • 2015. Everett S. “Tex” Beneke Mycology Graduate Student Fellowship
  • 2015. North Central APS meeting – First place poster presentation
  • 2015. MSU Graduate school travel funding fellowship
  • 2013. Oomycete Molecular Genetics Conference Travel Award
  • 2013. MSU Graduate Student Research Enhancement award
  • 2012 - 2015. Paul Taylor scholarship, MSU Department Plant Pathology
  • 2011, 2014. Root rot meeting travel award
  • 2010, 2012. A.L. Rogers Endowed Research Scholarship MSU
  • 2008. Banco de la República Fellowship.  Foundation for Research and Technology Promotion
  • 2008. Oomycete Bioinformatics Training Workshop travel fellowship. Virginia Bioinformatics Institute - Virginia Tech
  • 2007. Elizabeth Grose Award of Applied Microbiology.  VI Latin-American Biodeterioration and Biodegradation Symposium 6-LABS.  Best oral presentation - Applied Microbiology Research