R. Michael Davis was born and raised in southern California. He earned a B.A. degree in biology in 1974 from California State University, Long Beach, and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1979 from the University of California-Riverside in 1979. Immediately following graduation, he joined the Texas A&I (now A&M) Citrus Center in Weslaco, Texas, as an assistant professor. In 1986, he joined the faculty of the Department of Plant Pathology, University of California-Davis, as a cooperative extension specialist, a position he holds today with a joint professor title.Davis has established a diverse, strong, and highly relevant research program that has included diseases of citrus, vegetables, and field crops. He has had research projects on fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases of a wide range of crops, including tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, cucurbits, cotton, rice, corn, and others. Most of these research projects have focused on applied and practical applications, with a strong emphasis on disease management measures. Davis also has been involved in international agriculture and has had collaborative projects with researchers in Australia, Belize, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Spain. Based on his extensive research experience, Davis has developed a wealth of experience, and he is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally as an expert on the diseases of a diversity of crops. In addition to his outstanding research efforts, Davis is an accomplished and dedicated teacher and mentor of graduate students. He also has been very active in a range of professional activities, including service as editor-in-chief of Plant Disease from 2010 to 2012.
Most of Davis’s research projects were initiated in response to an industry need and have emphasized developing an understanding of the ecology and biology of the pathogen and the application of this information to the development of effective disease management strategies. For example, in response to an outbreak of Fusarium wilt disease of cotton on previously resistant varieties in California, Davis and colleagues identified a new race (race 4) of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. vasinfectum. He and his colleagues conduct most of the diagnoses of new occurrences of the disease in the state, and they also have identified resistance in cotton to race 4. The identification of this source of resistance has allowed continued cotton production in many areas of California. In addition, Davis has conducted collaborative studies to identify molecular markers to accelerate the development of additional resistant cotton cultivars. Other examples of Davis’s research projects include management of white rot of alliums with sclerotial germination stimulants, investigations into the epidemiology of various diseases of carrots and tomato, and studies on the basic biology of aggregate sheath spot of rice caused by Rhizoctonia oryzae-sativa. In a collaborative research project, Davis has been part of a team that has made substantial progress in various aspects of Verticillium biology and diseases, including aspects of population structure, genetic diversity, seed transmission, and identification of several new species. In his extension activities, Davis also maintains strong connections with farm advisors, faculty colleagues, and the public. He also serves as the liaison officer to the California Leaf Greens Research Board and serves on advisory committees for numerous other commodity boards. He runs a Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic in which hundreds of samples are processed every year. This service, which receives no formal university support, is important for farm advisors, growers, professional crop advisors, and the public. In recognition of his excellence in research, Davis received the University of California Cooperative Extension Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Research in 2006.
Davis also served in the forensic science program on the University of California-Davis campus and mentored a graduate student who developed a DNA-based system for the rapid and accurate identification of poisonous mushrooms. The study yielded new information on some cryptic toxic mushroom species and resulted in the description of several new species of mushrooms in California by Davis and colleagues.
Despite having only a small formal teaching appointment, Davis has made numerous important teaching contributions. At the graduate level, he teaches a field course, Diseases of Vegetable and Field Crops. More recently, he has helped organize and teach a graduate level course, Advanced Plant Pathology Laboratory. On the undergraduate level, he developed and teaches a course of food production and security entitled Feeding the Planet, which is very popular and always filled to capacity. Through his own interest and motivation, he has developed and teaches three courses on mushrooms, Mushroom Cultivation, Mushroom Identification, and Advanced Mushroom Taxonomy. These are very popular courses and have helped Davis become a leading authority on mushroom identification in California. Indeed, this is evidenced by the publication of the Field Guide to Mushrooms of Western North America, of which Davis is the primary author. His courses are popular and well received and Davis is widely recognized as an outstanding teacher. In particular, his broad knowledge of agriculture is considered a valuable part of all of his courses. Finally, Davis has mentored more than 20 graduate students in plant pathology, most of whom are engaged as practicing professionals in the discipline.
R. Michael Davis has been active in service to APS and other professional societies. He was the primary editor and a contributor of two disease compendia, Compendium of Umbelliferous Crop Diseases and Compendium of Lettuce Diseases. He also was the primary editor and a contributor to Tomato Health Management. Davis also has been a contributor to the Plant Management Network Focus on Cotton webcast. He recently served as editor-in-chief of Plant Disease (2010–2012), and prior to that, served terms as Notes assigning editor, associate editor, and senior editor of that journal. He also served as an associate editor for Biological and Cultural Tests for Control of Plant Diseases and was on the Extension Committee during his career, as well as on the Short Courses and Workshop Planning Committee of the Scientific Program Board and the Plant Health Progress Editorial Board.