Christopher M. Becker was born in Neptune, NJ. He received a B.S. degree in botany from the University of Vermont in 1979 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Massachusetts (1983) and Cornell (1990), respectively. Becker has had extensive experience in industry, which has included working both for large agricultural chemical companies as well as starting his own small applied agricultural research company. Throughout his career, he has focused on applied plant pathology and has enjoyed applying his work to providing solutions to American growers. Becker has also been highly devoted to The American Phytopathological Society throughout his career and he has positively influenced the close relations that industry and APS have today.
As an agriculturist or field biologist for 10 years, Becker was responsible for conducting targeted research with fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, and plant growth regulators on northeastern crops. His expertise in field pathology was extremely broad since he conducted trials on fruit, vegetables, turf/ornamentals, and greenhouse crops. Becker also had a passion for teaching others about plant pathology, either in a formal setting or just in conversation. Becker is well-known and greatly appreciated by the technical community that he influenced: technical service representatives, agricultural chemical dealers and salesmen, and farmers. While working for Cyanamid and BASF, Becker established several training classes for his fellow colleagues. Becker also conducted several field training courses for growers, commodity group personnel, and university/extension faculty, as well as his fellow industry peers. Some of the specific titles of training courses that he developed and taught include Fungicide Mode of Action, Basic Plant Pathology, and Optimum Management of Crops and Disease Interactions for Fungicide Trials in the Field. Becker’s enthusiasm for plant pathology was always reflected in these courses since they were always well received.
One of Becker’s most significant contributions was his dedicated field research with the development of dimethomorph (Acrobat). During the 1995–1998 late blight years, Becker personally conducted numerous late blight trials, and he was responsible for summarizing global data from Phytophthora infestans, P. capsici, tobacco blue mold, and a diversity of downy mildew trials. This laborious data summary greatly expedited the development and positioning of Acrobat fungicide in the U.S. market. Becker was also instrumental in launching Acrobat in the United States, and he was responsible for introducing it to the APS members as he delivered eight presentations on Acrobat over 7 years.
Following the elimination of all the field biologists within BASF, Becker formed BAAR Scientific, LLC. As the president and research scientist of BAAR Scientific LLC, Becker consults with Finger Lakes grape growers in New York by providing knowledge-based pest management services and interacts with large and small agrichemical companies in order to evaluate pest management products under northeastern U.S. conditions. More than 50% of the field research that Becker conducts is with fungicides, thus the justification for BAAR Scientific LLC to become a sustaining associate member of APS.
Becker has always been highly involved and dedicated to APS throughout his career. Probably his most significant service to APS arose following nomination as the director to the newly formed Ad Hoc Industry Committee in 1999. Within that committee, he used his organizational and listening skills to identify that APS and the industry sector would benefit mutually from a council-level board that fostered interactions between APS and industry members. As a result of laborious and challenging efforts, the Office of Industry Relations was established within APS, and Becker was approved as the first director. Becker held this position from 2001 until 2004. Becker was nominated as a senior editor for APS PRESS, which he served from 2000 to 2002. In addition, Becker has maintained membership on the Industry Committee, which he also chaired in 1997. Becker also served as the industry liaison for the “Materials under Trial” database used within Fungicide and Nematicide Tests. This >3,000 line list of products has improved Fungicide and Nematicide Tests by standardizing how products are listed for readers and authors. Becker was also highly involved in the Northeastern Division of APS, where he served as president in 1999, vice president in 1998, and secretary/treasurer in 1997. As an officer of the Northeastern Division of APS, Becker was instrumental in the expansion of symposiums and workshops as part of the divisional APS meetings. The focused workshops were extremely successful at reaching beyond traditional APS members. The additional workshops at the divisional meetings were effective at drawing larger audiences, which reduced fees on a “per attendee” level. In addition, the added workshops at the generally applied-focused divisional meetings provided increased interactions that optimized disease control with a larger audience for industry personnel, university researchers, and extension faculty scientists. Becker also was one of the champions who organized the joint meetings between the Northeastern and Potomac Divisions. The resulting meetings were positive scientific and networking opportunities, especially since both regions shared similar crops and plant diseases. Due to the positive outcome of the joint divisional meetings, the cosponsored joint meetings are now scheduled on a 4- or 5-year rotation.