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Think and Do The Extraordinary
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Sara Villani

Assistant Professor

Management of ornamental and apple diseases

With an appointment that is predominantly extension (90% extension, 10% research) my research efforts are constantly evolving to address regional concerns of apple and woody ornamental stakeholders. My program aims to incorporate basic and applied research methods to develop novel and improved disease management practices for apple and woody ornamental stakeholders. Because of my split appointment, my efforts in applied research are largely identified and driven by stakeholder disease concerns. In turn, it is my philosophy that research endeavors in my program ultimately lead to novel and sustainable extension deliverables that are accessible and relevant to stakeholders to provide stakeholders the ability to make the most informed decisions in regards to disease management. More specifically, the overall goals of my program are: 1) The preservation of single-site fungicides and antibiotics through the mitigation of practices encouraging practical resistance development; 2) The identification and implementation of cultural practices aimed at inoculum reduction of apple and woody ornamental pathogens; 3) Advancing the understanding of environmental and cultural factors involved in practical (field) resistance to fungicides; 4) Improving disease forecasting models; and 5) Assessing the implications of global climate change in regards to pathogen populations and disease management. For specific projects ongoing in the apple and woody ornamental program, please view our web page!

The goals of my extension program are to ensure that stakeholders have the most current information on pathogen biology and management practices in accessible, understandable, and relevant formats. We use a team approach comprised of cooperative extension agents, private consultants, growers, and regulatory agencies to meet the dynamic challenges of disease management. Through direct stakeholder interactions such as field days, grower-meetings, and on-farm visits, and indirect stakeholder interactions such as social media, disease-fact sheets, and chemical management guidelines, I provide education programming local and regional stakeholders and the greater community. Specifically objectives of my extension program currently or will soon include: 1) Development of a sustainable fungicide and antibiotic-resistance monitoring service; 2) Diagnostics and management recommendations for diseases of apples and woody ornamentals; 3) Developing mobile device apps and other software for predictive disease models, diagnostics, and management; and 4) Developing a program for evaluating fungicide, bactericide, and cultural control efficacy in conventional and organic management programs.
Check out our new disease app for your Android or iOS device by clicking on the following link:  MyIPM

Selected Publications

  • Villani, S.M., Ayer, K., and Cox, K.D. 2016. Molecular characterization of the sdhB gene and baseline sensitivity to penthiopyrad, fluopyram, and benzovindiflupyr in Venturia inaequalis. Plant Dis. 100: 1709-1716.
  • Tancos, K.A., Villani, S.M., Kuehne, S., Borejsza-Wysocka, E., Breth, D., Carroll, J.E., Aldwinckle, H.S., and Cox, K. 2016. Prevalence of streptomycin resistant Erwinia amylovora in New York apple orchards. Plant Dis. 100:802-809.
  • Villani, S.M., Hulvey, J., Hily, J.-M., and Cox, K.D. 2016. Overexpression and upstream characterization of the CYP51A1 gene in isolates of Venturia inaequalis resistant to difenoconazole. Phytopathology. 106:562-571.
  • Villani, S.M., Biggs, A.R., Cooley, D.R., Raes, J.J., and Cox, K.D. 2015. Prevalence of myclobutanil resistance and difenoconazole insensitivity in populations of Venturia inaequalis. Plant Dis. 99:1526-1536.
  •  Munck, I., Tanguay, P., Weimer, J., Villani, S.M. and Cox, K.D. 2015. Impact of white pine blister rust on resistant cultivated Ribes and neighboring Eastern white pine in New Hampshire. Plant Dis. 99:1374-1382.
  • Frederick, Z. A., Villani, S.M., and Cox, K.D. 2015. The effect of delayed-dormant chemical treatments on demethylation inhibitor (DMI) sensitivity in a DMI-resistant population of Venturia inaequalis. Plant Dis. 99:1751-1756.
  •  Villani, S.M. and Cox, K.D. 2014. Heteroplasmy of the cytochrome b gene in Venturia inaequalisand its involvement in quantitative and practical resistance to trifloxystrobin. Phytopathology 104:945-953.
  •  Frederick, Z.A., Villani, S.M., Cooley, D.R., Biggs, A.R., Raes, J.J., and Cox, K.D. 2014. Prevalence and stability of qualitative QoI resistance in populations of Venturia inaequalis in the Northeastern United States. Plant Dis. 98:1122-1130.
  •  Frederick, Z.A., Villani, S.M., Los, L., Allen, J., and Cox, K.D. 2011. First report of white pine blister rust caused by Cronartium ribicola on immune black currant Ribes nigrum cv. Titania in Preston, Connecticut. Plant Dis. 95:1589.
  • Cox, K.D., Villani, S.M., Raes, J.J., Freier, J., Faubert, H., Cooley, D., and Clements, J. 2011. First reports of brown fruit rot on sweet cherry (Prunus avium) and plum (Prunus domestica), and shoot blight on apricot (Prunus armeniaca), kwanzan cherry (Prunus Serrulata) and sweet cherry (Prunusavium) caused by Monilinia laxa in New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Plant Dis. 95:1584.
  • Villani, S.M., and Cox, K.D. 2011. Characterizing fenbuconazole and propiconazole sensitivity and the prevalence of ‘Mona’ in isolates of Monilinia fructicola from New York. Plant Dis. 95: 828-834.
  • Hily, J-M., Singer, S.D., Villani, S.M., and Cox, K.D. 2011. Characterization of the cytochrome b (cyt b) gene from Monilinia species causing brown rot of stone and pome fruit and its significance in the development of QoI resistance. Pest. Manag. Sci. 67: 385–396.
  • Villani, S.M., and Cox, K.D. 2010. Confirmation of European brown rot caused by Monilinia laxa on tart cherry, Prunus cerasus, in Western New York. Plant Dis. 94:783.


B.S., Chemistry, State University of New York at Geneseo (2005)
Ph.D, Cornell University (2015)