Health care is improving for plants in the Mississippi Delta with the addition of a new Extension plant pathologist at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, Miss.

Tom Allen, who received his Ph.D. in plant pathology from Auburn University in 2003, will diagnose and recommend treatments for sick plants in the Delta ranging from garden ornamentals to cotton, rice and soybeans.

“With the introduction of soybean rust into this country, adding an Extension plant pathologist will be extremely beneficial in developing programs to support the needs of our soybean producers,” said Joe Street, head of the DREC.

“Tom also will be a tremendous asset to Extension agents and to producers who have disease problems in their crops. He will serve the homeowner with the diagnosis of diseases of ornamentals and turf as well.”

Before joining the DREC in May 2007, Allen was a research scientist and manager of the plant disease diagnostic laboratory at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Amarillo, Texas.

“The DREC is a good group of folks,” Allen said. “And with the Delta being one of the major agricultural producing areas of the United States, this is a great place to work.” “It is also a bonus that the Delta is home for my wife,” Allen said. “She was born in Greenville, Miss., and I am familiar with this area.”

Allen will specialize in diseases of corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, soybeans, sorghum and wheat. “Any questions growers have on plant diseases, I'll be able to address their needs,” said Allen. “I'll also help them with any fungicide recommendations and questions about soybean rust.”

“We haven't had an Extension plant pathologist in the Delta for 15 years,” said Gabe Sciumbato, DREC research plant pathologist. “There is a real need for this position, especially in row crops.”

Sciumbato will continue his research into disease resistant soybean, rice and cotton varieties, as well as his screening of fungicides and nematicides. Allen will provide plant disease diagnoses and recommendations to growers.

Producers may contact Allen at (662) 686-3272 for questions.