CSI-Cultivated Squash Investigator: Murder in the Pumpkin Patch

Hannah Rivedal, PhD student in Botany and Plant Pathology, started working with plants before college in her neighborhood greenhouse and plant nursery. She loved growing and caring for plants that were destined to brighten her neighbors’ yards. Hannah believes, “You can’t be in a bad mood when you are holding a bunch of Petunias!” College-decision time neared and as a well-mannered Wisconsin go-getter, Hannah began college at University of Wisconsin, Madison seeking a degree in Genetics with a minor in Japanese which would lead nicely into medical school. All the while, she would travel back to her hometown on holidays and school breaks to work at the greenhouse where she first fell in love with Botany.

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Hannah preparing an experiment in the greenhouses at OSU.

Mid-college Hannah has a revelation after taking a Horticulture class and doing a little volunteer work at the hospital that Pre-med is not the path for her. In total “Hannah-fashion” she takes the reins and sets up informational interviews with eleven academic advisors at UW Madison to try and figure out what she was going to do, and she knows three things: 1) she LOVES plants, 2) she enjoys the challenge of diagnostics, and 3) she loves the reward of getting her hands dirty and working toward a solution. She decided to switch her major to Plant Pathology because it had all of these elements and more! She loves that Plant Path allows her to work directly with growers.

Hannah got her feet wet in “the biz” through undergraduate research in many different labs in the Plant Pathology department, and completed a senior capstone project in a plant disease tolerance lab focused on potatoes. When her college career was nearing an end, Hannah knew that to become a fully-grown Plant Pathologist she would need to continue with a graduate degree.

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Hannah in her natural habitat among her squash seedlings.

Hannah is currently working on many angles of this case under the supervision and guidance of her major advisor, Ken Johnson. Hannah hopes that her research with in Plant Pathology will lead to a position as a Plant Pathologist at an extension station working with growers and conducting research that is tailored to their unique situation.

That brings us to this breaking report: We have a Squash Killer on the loose! Willamette Valley growers want to know what is killing their Winter Squash. Plant Pathogens beware: Hannah Rivedal- CSI (Cultivated Squash Investigator) is on the case!

Victim: Cucurbit species, specifically Winter Squash (Cucurbita maxima), important pumpkin relative responsible for supplying the Willamette Valley and the surrounding region with ‘pumpkin’ soup, seeds, and pie filling. Did you know good’ole Jack-o-lantern pumpkin seeds are not the ones you find in the store? Those are most-likely Winter Squash seeds!

Symptoms: Wilting, crown rot, and root rot. Could cause a 100% yield loss.

Suspects: a soil borne disease that could be Fusarium oxysporum (Wilt pathogen), Fusarium solani (Rot pathogen), Plectosphaerella cucumerina (General wilt pathogen), or a combination.

Here all about it, this weekend on Inspiration Dissemination!


Hannah posing with some big beautiful Winter Squash Summer 2015.

Tune in on Sunday, March 13 at 7 pm to hear more from our own OSU Squash Sleuth, Hannah Rivedal, or stream the show live at www.kbvr.com/listen.

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Winter squash collected and awaiting diagnosis!

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