Institute of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Extension
Non Technical Summary
The rhodiola (Rhodiola spp), a perennial, herbaceous, medicinal plant, is the newest, non-traditional agricultural crop in Alaska. The rhizomes/roots of rhodiola are in high demand because it is reputed to be as effective as adaptogen, anti-depressant and is believed to have anti-cancer properties.Rhodiola is an important remedy in the traditional pharmacopeia of European and Asian countries. It is also important in modern medicine of Russia, the Scandinavian countries, central Asia and Mongolia (Brown, et al. 2002). In China, utilization of rhodiola in treating human ailments was recognized thousands years ago by Tibetans, Han Chinese, Liu and Yi peoples. Tibetans also use rhodiola to treat injuries and diseases of animals.Until recently, most of the raw materials (roots) are taken from their native populations. Increasing demand and high price led to overharvesting from wild habitat and seriously endangered the native population of rhodiola in many countries, including Russia and China. To curtail the rapid depletion of biodiversity and promote active preservation of endangered rhodiola species, strict rules were established by Russia, China and other countries forbidding/limiting wild harvesting. To meet the world market demand, domestication and cultivation of rhodiola are absolutely essential.Establishing an agricultural industry in Alaska is very difficult and the rhodiola industry is no exception, especially because domestication and cultivation of rhodiola is still very new in the world. The first rhodiola farm was established in 2008. Presently there are approximately 12 rhodiola farms, at various degrees of development, in the State. To produce a rhodiola crop is very time consuming. A rhodiola crop usually takes 5-7 years from seed germination to harvest. How to produce healthy rhodiola rhizomes (raw materials) efficiently (in 3 to 4 years) and economically, is the major concern.No information of diseases on rhodiola is available in Alaska. There are more than 11 diseases reported in the world, including seed decay, seedling blight, root rot and winter kill, leaf blight, stem rot, winter kill, etc. With expanding cultivation and production, disease incidence on rhodiola is expected to rise. Recommended control of diseases is seed treatment and chemical spray. This conventional, chemical-dependent, agricultural practice could have especially serious consequences for environments and human health in the far North, because of the persistence of pesticides in cold soils and subsequent bioaccumulation in plant tissues. Biological-based and environmentally-benign products should be examined.Among all the biocontrol products commercially available, Plant Helper®, formulated Trichoderma atorivide, is the only one proven to be efficacious in controlling plant diseases in cool soils. T. atorivide is a cold adapted, versatile, broad-spectrum mycoparasite discovered in Alaska (McBeath, 1992, 2002; Wang and McBeath, 1999). T. atroviride can also improve the conditions of the soils by parasitizing and lyzing the sclerotia (for overwintering and survival) produced by Sclerotinia sclerotiorm, Rhizoctonia solani, and Botrytis cinerea, which are important pathogens present in the Alaska environment. Chemical pesticides are ineffective on sclerotia. Another important characteristic of T. atrovoride is its ability to enhance nutrient uptake and result in the development of large, mature plants. This feature is vastly beneficial to the rhodiola industry, because it reduces risks by producing large, mature rhizomes for early harvest.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The utmost goal of this project is to assist rhodiola farmers in Alaska to grow large, healthy, mature plants which produce high quality rhizome, using environmentally-responsible means of disease control and plant development enhancement. Specific objectives of this proposed project are as follows:Establishment of baseline information of rhodiola farms;Diagnoses of diseases found during yearly disease surveys conducted on the farm;Evaluations of the nutrient levels in rhodiola tissues, using ICP-OES technology;Evaluation of the performance of Plant Helper on root disease control and growth enhancement;Initiate studies on microbial communities in the rhizosphere of rhodiola and vegetation in and around the rhodiola farms; andDiscovery, identification and characterization of beneficial microbe in Alaska.
There are both applied research and basic research components of this proposed project.The first action of this proposed project is to conduct a questionnaire survey (see Section 4.A. of project proposal) to acquire information from each participant rhodiola farm (ibid). This information provides the starting point for the subsequent field survey and disease diagnosis activities (ibid, Section 4.B). The disease situation will be monitored through yearly field disease survey and diagnostic activities (ibid, Section 4.B).This project will enlist the participation of rhodiola farmers, who serve as "citizen scientists" and are frontline observers of the project. The first alert sent by these citizen scientists will enable the PI to make rapid responses.Another applied research action is to use knowledge and commercially available products in disease control and growth enhancement. Field testing of Plant Helper (formulated cold tolerant Trichoderma atroviride), will yield information on the suppression of root diseases, on improvement of nutrient uptake, and on enhancement of the growth of the rhizomes, etc. (ibid, Section 4.D.) To acquire accurate evaluation of efficacies of these products on rhodiola plants, nutrients in the tissues of rhodiola will be used as an indicator. Nutrient data of rhodiola tissues, acquired using microwave assisted acid digestion and ICP-OES (ibid, Section 4.C.), will be evaluated along with traditional evaluation by visual observation.This is the first rhodiola project to apply cutting edge technologies in the study of the interactions of plants, diseases, microbial communities and agricultural practices in Alaska. Protocols used in this research are detailed in Section 4.E of project proposal.The PI has more than 30 years experience in the isolation, identification, selection, fermentation, formulation and commercialization of biological control agents. It is highly likely that a large number of beneficial microorganisms will be produced in this project, through conventional methods and advanced technologies (ibid, Section 4.D.). These beneficial microbes will be identified and characterized. These isolates displaying novel abilities will be evaluated for their commercialization potential.