Ruchika Ruchika, a graduate student in the South Dakota State University Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science,
is the recipient of this year’s $5,000 Curtis Stern Memorial Scholarship administered by the National Sunflower Association. The scholarship is awarded to students interested in the field of agriculture with special emphasis on sunflower production, promotion or research.
“I am really honored to receive this national scholarship,” Ruchika said. “My ultimate goal is to bring growth in agriculture and I hope my research can bring some positive changes in the farming community.”
Ruchika is pursuing a Ph.D. in plant science under Febina Mathew, assistant professor and field crops pathologist. Her research focuses on identifying fungicide sensitivity and candidate resistant genes for fungi causing Phomopsis stem canker in sunflower.
“Phomopsis stem canker is of major economic concern for farmers in the sunflower producing states, including South Dakota,” Ruchika said.
Fungicides can be used to manage Phomopsis stem canker. Based on research from South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska, QoI-based fungicides are effective. For example, in 2019 it was observed that QoI-based fungicides, when sprayed at standard rates, can reduce the disease by 30% to 45% and increase yield by 28% to 50% when compared to not spraying fungicides.
“I am examining the effect of application rates of fungicides (QoI, triazoles and SDHI) to control Phomopsis stem canker and accordingly develop fungicide recommendations for sunflower producers in South Dakota and other states where the disease is a problem,” Ruchika said.
Orginally from Punjab, India, Ruchika received a master’s degree in plant pathology from Punjab Agricultural University.
“This is where I became passionate about my research in the field of plant pathology,” Ruchika said. “I hope I can solve the mysteries behind sick plants.”