Zamir Punja

Zamir K. Punja, Ph.D.

Abstract Presenter

After completing a BSc degree in Plant Sciences at the University of BC, and MSc and PhD degrees in plant pathology from the University of California, Davis, Zamir joined the Campbell Soup Company and worked jointly with North Carolina State University, Raleigh on carrot diseases. He was Manager of plant biotechnology for Campbell’s until the time he joined Simon Fraser University in 1989. His research interests include the etiology and management of plant diseases on vegetable, horticultural crops, and cannabis, and include the applications of plant biotechnology for disease management. He has worked with a number of industries, including greenhouse vegetables, ginseng, blueberry and wasabi, and more recently cannabis. His lab. is currently developing methods for identifying and managing new and emerging diseases of cannabis. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Phytopathological Society and has received numerous research and teaching awards, including the Sterling Prize for Controversy for his work on GMO foods. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology.

Emerging Diseases of Cannabis Sativa and Approaches to Management

Cultivation of Cannabis sativa L. (marijuana) plants has increased the incidence and severity of previously unreported diseases. Hydroponically-grown and field-grown plants are susceptible to infection by root, foliar and flower-infecting pathogens. The causal agents of browning and rotting of roots were identified as species of Pythium and Fusarium by PCR and sequence analysis of the ITS region. A rot of the flower buds was associated with Botrytis cinerea, as well as Penicillium olsonii, and to a lesser extent, P. copticola, causing penicillium bud rot. Powdery mildew was found to be caused by Golovinomyces (Erysiphe) cichoracearum sensu. The pathogen was detected on vegetatively propagated cuttings. These cannabis pathogens can reduce product quality and disease management practices need to be established. Promising biological control agents and nonfungicide products are being assessed on cannabis. In addition, use of disease-free plants as starting material and sanitation practices and water management should reduce disease outbreaks. Avoidance of wounding to the roots and inclusion of disease-suppressive planting mixes are recommended. Management of powdery mildew remains a challenge and biocontrol and nonfungicide products are being assessed.