Damon L. Smith, Ph.D. – Principal Investigator
I am a native of the Finger Lakes Region of Western New York State. After graduating from the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo with a B.S. in biology in 2001 I moved to North Carolina. At NC State University I earned my M.S. degree in plant pathology in 2004. My thesis was titled “Biology and Epidemiology of Sclerotinia minor on Peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.).” I continued on with my doctoral research at NC State University and earned my Ph.D. in plant pathology in 2007. My dissertation title was “Improved Strategies for Controlling Sclerotinia blight of Peanut: Site-specific Disease Models and Advisory, Fungicide timing, and Pathogen Detection.” I then moved to Oklahoma State University where I was an assistant professor of plant pathology and horticulture extension pathologist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology from 2007-2012. I conducted research on diseases of turfgrass, grapes, and pecans. I joined the faculty of the Department of Plant Pathology at The University of Wisconsin-Madison in September 2012. I am an assistant professor and extension plant pathologist with responsibilities for diseases of field crops including soybean, corn, wheat, and alfalfa.
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Carol L. Groves, Ph.D. – Assistant Researcher
I received my Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas (Go Hogs!) then went on to a Post Doctoral position at North Carolina State University. It was at NCSU that I began working with Phytophyhora infestans, the causal organism of Late Blight of potato and tomato. I spent several years at NCSU and with the USDA-ARS in Orono, Maine working on P. infestans. My research in this area involved the utilization of molecular techniques to develop detection assays for the pathogen and further to elucidate natural populations of P. infestans, and to differentiate between species within the genus Phytophthora,. I took a few years away from science to raise my two children before coming back to work in the UW-Entomology Department. Most recently, I have participated in several research projects pertaining to insect vectored plant diseases, including disease agents such as Potato virus Y (PVY), Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) and the Aster Yellows phytoplasma (AYp).
My current responsibilities include managing the Field Crops Plant Pathology Lab, mentoring students and conducting research. I also support the extension portion of the Field Crops Pathology program by writing, updating and revising extension literature.
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Jaime F. Willbur – Graduate Research Assistant
I received my B.S. in Chemical Biology from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan. My undergraduate research at LTU was in enzymatic studies for medicinal drug discovery. Working in a mycology lab at LTU, however, led me to broaden my horizons in a research experience for undergraduates (REU) at the University of Minnesota in 2012. I spent the summer as a USDA-ARS intern studying the efficacy of Headline fungicide applications on two fungal pathogens of alfalfa and I was hooked. I decided to pursue my Ph.D. here at the University of Wisconsin studying the soybean white mold pathogen, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. My current research involves screening soybean lines for disease resistance and developing a forecasting model for disease development and fungicide application. I look forward to a future in academia and/or as an extension plant pathologist.
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The UW Field Crops Pathology team focuses on the biology, epidemiology, and management field crop diseases. Information and potential solutions to disease problems are evaluated using both applied and basic research. Field studies include station and on-farm research to test epidemiological models, evaluate pesticides, and improve our practical and biological understanding of various plant pathogens. The information generated by research directly services the extension program.
We develop, evaluate, and disseminate solutions to many of the disease problems associated with soybeans, corn, and wheat. We work closely with county extension agents, crop advisors, agribusinesses, and commodity groups. We develop disease management fact sheets, outreach courses, and electronic education resources.
We take an integrated approach to disease management using improved host resistance, cultural management, and chemical control techniques. One of our main research and extension efforts is the development and improvement of disease forecasting systems that can be used to accurately advise fungicide applications. Reducing or eliminating fungicide applications through the use of integrated disease management is profitable for the grower, and is a positive step toward sustainability in 21st century agriculture.