Lindsey du Toit

Lindsey du Toit, vegetable seed pathologist at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center, works on addressing diseases in vegetable seed crops.

MOUNT VERNON — Lindsey du Toit, whose research helps growers including those in Skagit County manage disease in seed crops, will help lead the American Phytopathological Society.

Du Toit has worked at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research Center for 19 years.

In August, she started a one-year term as president of the American Phytopathological Society, an international scientific organization with about 5,000 members, she said.

“It means I get to collaborate with a really wonderful pool of experts to help develop better solutions and research to help keep these diseases in check,” she said.

Du Toit said she will work as part of a team to share expertise and perspective on agriculture, science and plant pathology in the areas of education, research and public policy.

“It also brings visibility for WSU and for the center,” she said. “I decided it was time for me to take on something like this.”

She said she will continue research on vegetable seed crops in Skagit County.

Worldwide, only about six regions have the right climate — dry, mild summers and long days — to grow spinach seed. In the United States, spinach seed can only be grown in Western Washington and Western Oregon, she said.

The Washington State University Skagit County Extension estimates that Skagit County produces 8% of the world’s spinach seed.

Recently, du Toit has looked at addressing a fungal disease called fusarium wilt in spinach seed production that has impacted growers. The aim is to identify the varieties of spinach seed that have genetic resistance to the disease, she said.

“The work we’re doing helps growers in these other (regions) as well,” she said. “There’s not a lot of people working in seed production and seed pathology.”

Du Toit was elected in 2017 to serve a four-year presidential term on the American Phytopathological Society Council. She will serve as president through August 2020 and then as past president.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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