Kayla Yearout enrolled at the University of Idaho knowing she wanted to work with plants. While attending high school in Moses Lake, Washington, she competed in FFA agronomy events and was intrigued by the combination of genetics, science and math used to grow crops.
A plant pathology course in U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences introduced her to the possibility of a career developing crops that are resistant to disease. Yearout will graduate in December 2018 with bachelor’s degrees in crop science and horticulture and urban agriculture before beginning a master’s program in plant sciences at U of I with an emphasis in plant pathology.
Yearout began working with Kurt Schroeder, a cropping systems agronomist in U of I’s Department of Plant Sciences, in early 2018 to gain more experience in the field. She has been assisting Schroeder with a project screening for blackleg disease in canola, identifying the different genes that are resistant and susceptible to the disease.
Blackleg is a fungal disease that causes lesions on leaves, stems and seedpods, resulting in significant yield losses in susceptible canola varieties. The purpose of Schroeder’s work is to identify the genes in canola that are most resistant to blackleg in order to develop new varieties and reduce instances of the disease. Yearout will continue work on the project as part of her master’s program.
“I’ll be working more on a disease screening for new isolates as well as spore trapping in our region to look at the epidemiology of the disease,” Yearout said. “I’ll be identifying those strains and then completing a disease screening on the canola varieties we have now, trying to find more resistant genes for new varieties of canola.”
Home Away from Home
Although the majority of her education and training has focused on field crops, Yearout hopes to work in the horticulture industry after earning her master’s degree.
“I find grapes interesting; it’s something new and different from field crops,” Yearout said. “I want to apply my knowledge to a different field of the industry and be able to say that I contributed to the industry in some way, whether that’s a disease-resistant or new variety or sustainable practices.”
Yearout credits the faculty in the Department of Plant Sciences for helping her discover her passion.
“When I first came to school I had no idea what I was doing,” Yearout said. “I knew I wanted to focus on plants but I didn’t know to what aspect. I started to look more at sustainability and crop development and that’s what perked my interest for plant breeding. Dr. (Bob) Tripepi helped me find my passion for not just plant sciences but for the horticulture industry. Kurt and Brenda Schroeder opened my eyes for pathology.”
“I know I can go up to a professor without making an appointment and talk to them about any questions or concerns I have. I love the community. It’s my home away from home.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in November 2018