A New Field Crops Pathologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Damon Smith has joined the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison as the new field crops extension pathologist. He assumed this role as of September 1, 2012. Damon comes to the University of Wisconsin from Oklahoma State University (OSU) where he was the horticultural crops extension pathologist for the past five years. Damon is a native of western New York and attended the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo where he received his B.S. in biology. He then moved to North Carolina State University (NCSU) where he received his M.S. degree in 2004 and his Ph.D. degree in 2007, both in plant pathology.
At NCSU his research and extension interests were primarily focused on improving the understanding of the biology and epidemiology of Sclerotinia minor of peanut, and using this knowledge to improve peanut disease management strategies. This research led him to become particularly interested in the development of Sclerotinia blight forecasting systems using on-site and modeled weather data. The Sclerotinia blight advisory enables peanut growers to time fungicide applications more effectively.
In addition to his research in epidemiology of Sclerotinia blight, he also evaluated experimental peanut breeding lines for resistance to Sclerotinia minor. One of these lines, N96076L, was registered as a Sclerotinia-resistant germplasm line. Damon tested advanced breeding lines that were derived from crosses with N96076L under field conditions, and examined the role of partial resistance in epidemic development.
Damon’s research at OSU continued upon the theme of integrated disease management and epidemiology. He developed a disease-forecasting model for turfgrass systems and developed an internet-accessed disease prediction system for grapes. He also conducted research on pecan where we evaluated a disease prediction system and developed an improved understanding of disease resistance in commercially available pecan cultivars.
Damon’s new position at UW-Madison will address disease concerns of soybeans, field corn, and wheat. He plans to focus his research efforts on developing new methods to manage white mold including the development of improved soybean varieties with resistance to the disease and developing a viable disease forecasting system for white mold. Other diseases like soybean cyst nematode and sudden death syndrome will also be high priorities for Damon’s soybean research program. Research on field corn and wheat will be focused on sustainably managing important diseases of those commodities.