Meet Cary Rivard

Cary Rivard
Cary Rivard

































Placing first in the Agricultural Sciences category of this year’s Graduate Research Symposium, Cary Rivard presented his work on “Grafting with inter-specific rootstock provides novel applications for host resistance in tomato.” While Rivard, second-year doctoral candidate in plant pathology, began his graduate work at NC State in 2004, his education in the field began at a much earlier age.

Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, Rivard assisted his family in their greenhouse business. In 2002, while an undergraduate in agricultural science and biology at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, he participated in an internship program at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, NC.

“As an intern I met a number of people from the NC State campus and did an independent research project with Dr. Frank Louws in the Department of Plant Pathology,” he said. “I was encouraged by my experiences in North Carolina, and after consulting with some of my professors at Truman, I decided to apply to NC State for graduate school.”

Rivard completed his Master’s of plant pathology in spring 2007, which led him to the unique research he shared in his Research Symposium poster presentation.

“Our research program in North Carolina is one of the first to look at tomato grafting for organic or conventional tomato production,” he said. “The findings of my M.S. thesis were the first research reports of tomato grafting for the United States (Rivard and Louws, 2008).”

During the 2005-2008 growing seasons, grafting was implemented as a crop management strategy at various on-farm and research station locations to identify rootstock resistant to particular diseases. The results indicate that “grafting is a highly effective management strategy” that is being readily adopted by North Carolina tomato growers. Furthermore, a protocol was developed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to monitor defense gene expression and determine the physiological state of induced resistance associated with grafting.

“Grafting is a ‘hot topic’ right now in vegetable production, and I have been invited to discuss my research and the grafting technique in wide array of venues,” Rivard said.

“Through grafting, we can couple varieties that have superior fruit quality to wild rootstocks that are highly-resistant to disease, and overcome many of the hurdles that traditional breeding has run into with some of our most troublesome pathogens.”

Rivard’s research is currently identifying rootstocks to manage plant diseases not previously controlled with host resistance – “a significant step towards decreased reliance on chemical fumigants.”

The extinction of soil fumigation draws near as the Environmental Protection Agency places continued restrictions on its use. Following precedence in Asia and Europe, Rivard and his colleagues have adopted grafting methods that allow tomato crops to grow on disease-resistant rootstocks.

“Our research program has been evaluating these rootstocks in the US to see how their resistance traits hold up against native pathogen strains,” Rivard said. “We have found that many of these rootstocks are highly effective at managing soil borne diseases and … that in situations where there is no disease evident, fruit yield of grafted plants may be increased as certain rootstocks are very vigorous.”

Along with the research program, Rivard has included extension and outreach programs in his work, delivering presentations and workshops on local, regional and national levels, and publishing a widely circulated extension factsheet through the NC Cooperative Extension Service.

“Each new audience gives me a chance to re-examine the way I present our research findings and learn to be a better educator,” Rivard said. “Although I hope that our research is going to add significant impact to the vegetable industry, I am fortunate that my experiences working on this project have also helped me to develop my individual skills as well.”

When Cary finds time to step away from the lab, the greenhouse and the lecture circuit, he enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping, as well as gardening and disc golf. He plays the guitar and mandolin and spends “a fair amount of time chasing around [his] four-year-old son, Samuel.”

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