SAN RAFAEL - Dominican University of California is receiving a $989,798 grant from the 2008 Farm Bill to establish the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University.

Scientists from the national and international research community will conduct studies focused on understanding and controlling Phytophthora ramorum, the plant pathogen known to cause Sudden Oak Death and ramorum blight on nursery stock.

The research site will be the first in the United States dedicated to the study of diseases of ornamental plants in a simulated nursery setting.

The grant is administered through the United States Department of Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine, and the Center for Plant Health Science and Technology. The grant is the largest that the Center for Plant Health Science and Technology has ever awarded to a single organization in one year. While the grant provides one-time funding, Dominican can re-apply each year through the 2008 Farm Bill for additional funds.

“The positive economic impact that research conducted at this site will have on the nursery industry cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Sibdas Ghosh, associate dean for academic development in Dominican’s School of Health and Natural Sciences. “This site will provide valuable data that will aid in reducing long-range spread of Phytophthora ramorum through infested nursery stock shipments.”

A number of international, national and state groups are collaborating with Dominican and the USDA, including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Marin County Agricultural Commissioner, the National Plant Board, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the United Kingdom’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food and Environment Research Agency, the California Oak Mortality Task Force, the Nature Conservancy and the Society of American Florists.

First identified in Marin County, Phytophthora ramorum poses a threat to woodlands across the United States and internationally. The host list has since grown to more than 100 plants, and federal regulations restrict the movement of nursery stock from the west. Research at the facility will provide measures designed to prevent infested nursery stock from being inadvertently outplanted into susceptible environments that have not yet been exposed to the pathogen.