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Of her typical day, Amy Replogle, a graduate student in the Division of Plant Sciences, responds: “When I am not in class, I am in the lab doing research.” Replogle focuses on plant microbiology and pathology with professor Melissa Mitchum in the Bond Life Sciences Center. Specifically, she is working on the interaction between the plant parasitic cyst nematode and its host plant the soybean. These plant cyst nematodes are microscopic round worms that live in the soil and feed off the roots of plants. When they feed, they cause damage to the roots so that they can no longer uptake the water and nutrients needed for proper development. When a high percentage of soybean cyst nematodes reside in the soil, they result in yield losses for the farmer, a huge problem for Missouri soybean farmers.
Replogle demonstrates some of the steps involved in her experiments—from hatching the eggs and germinating soybean seeds to examining the infected roots with an inverted microscope. Replogle describes the life cycle of the soybean cyst nematode, which begins with the adult female cyst, which contains hundreds of eggs, and which may lie in wait in the soil for thirty years. “That is just one of the reasons it is so hard to control,” she says. When hatched, the nematode seeks a root, enters it, and penetrates the cell walls, “spitting” secretion into the root to induce the breakdown of cell walls and the formation of a feeding site.
“This is where my research project comes in,” Replogle explains. “I am actually studying one of the particular proteins that the nematode secretes that enables it feed from the plant for the rest of its life.” Through this research, Replogle seeks to better understand this problem in order to propose better solutions.