Ohio State Plant Pathologist Recognized for Work on Fruit Crops

August 12, 2004

WOOSTER, Ohio -- The next time you enjoy a sweet, juicy, disease-free apple or strawberry, take a few seconds to thank Ohio State University scientist Mike Ellis.

A fruit pathologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, Ellis has spent 28 years making sure diseases don’t take a bite out of growers’ profits or your favorite fruits.

In recognition of his career-long efforts and accomplishments, Ellis has been elected fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS), an international scientific organization devoted to the study of plant diseases and their control. APS grants this honor to current members as a way to recognize distinguished contributions to plant pathology.

“For me, personally, the fellow award is one of the greatest honors that a plant pathologist can receive,” Ellis said. “I am very grateful to have received this recognition.”

APS highlighted Ellis' “comprehensive, innovative and highly effective mission-oriented research and extension programming for fruit crops in Ohio, the Midwest and the nation.” The recognition was made early this month in Anaheim, Calif., during the society’s annual meeting.

A researcher with Ohio State’s Department of Plant Pathology since 1979, Ellis has established a nationally respected program that deals with the biology, epidemiology and management of fruit diseases. He has made major advances in understanding the epidemiology of several important diseases of strawberries, grapes, raspberries and blackberries.

His work includes the development of predictive systems for Botrytis flower and fruit rot, anthracnose fruit rot and leather rot of strawberry, as well as black rot, downy mildew, and Phomopsis cane and leaf spot of grape.

Ellis has been a leader in the study of leather rot of strawberry, which is caused by the pathogen Phytophthora cactorum. Even though it was a major problem worldwide, the disease was poorly understood. Ellis’ research resulted in a broad and in-depth understanding of leather rot’s epidemiology, especially the relationship between weather conditions and infection, dispersal and spread of the disease. This information has been used to integrate cultural and chemical control methods to successfully manage the disease.

“Dr. Ellis is a recognized world authority on diseases of strawberries, grapes, apples and other fruits,” said Randy Rowe, chair of the Department of Plant Pathology. “This recognition by his colleagues across the country is highly pleasing to his fellow faculty. It is a distinctive award that is only received by the top members of our profession.”

In nominating Ellis, APS also considered his outstanding work as an Extension educator, which has significantly increased the awareness and use of integrated disease management strategies by commercial fruit growers in Ohio and throughout the Midwest.

“Dr. Ellis is also extensively involved in problem-solving research for fruit growers,” Ellis’ nominators wrote. “His research approach incorporates knowledge of disease epidemiology and pathogen biology to integrate resistance, cultural practices, biological control, and minimal and targeted fungicide use for the efficient and cost-effective control of fruit-crop diseases.

“He is an excellent example of how a plant pathologist with a research-extension appointment should function: that is, his research is problem-solving and has resulted in practical information that is directly useful to the fruit industry.”

Ellis has authored over 100 refereed journal articles and more than 500 trade-journal papers, fact sheets, Extension bulletins and technical reports. He organized the development of the Midwest Small Fruit Pest Management Handbook and co-edited the Midwest Tree Fruit Handbook.

A great communicator, Ellis has made over 500 presentations at fruit schools, integrated pest management (IPM) workshops, Extension county agent “InServices,” and master gardener training sessions within Ohio. He has also given more than 100 talks in over 80 out-of-state Extension and fruit-production programs across the United States and around the world.

Ellis is also part of the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM-CRSP) in Ecuador. He trains local scientists there on how to conduct IPM research and develop programs like his own.

Throughout his career, Ellis has received the 1987 APS Ciba-Geigy Award for excellence in research, the 2000 APS Excellence in Extension Award, and awards of appreciation from the Ohio Fruit Growers Society and the North American Strawberry Growers Association.

Ellis received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Eastern Illinois University and a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Before joining Ohio State, he worked as an assistant professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez.

OARDC and OSU Extension are part of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

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Author(s): 
Mauricio Espinoza
Source(s): 
Randy Rowe