Gary C. Bergstrom
Gary C. Bergstrom was born in Chicago, IL. He was inspired to pursue a career in science by his father, Robert Bergstrom, a geologist and educator, and he developed an early interest in biology, especially plants. He obtained a B.S. degree in microbiology from Purdue University in 1975. His interest became focused on plant pathology while studying rust fungi as an undergraduate in Purdue’s J. C. Arthur Herbarium under the guidance of Joseph Hennen. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from Purdue University and the University of Kentucky, respectively. His principal mentors, Ralph Nicholson and Joseph Kuc, each encouraged and fostered his dual career interests in research and the practical application of knowledge. He joined the faculty of Cornell University in 1981 and currently serves as professor of plant pathology. He is responsible for research and extension programs on diseases of cereal and forage crops in New York. He has authored or coauthored more than 300 articles and publications, including 56 refereed journal articles. He is widely respected as an authority on the epidemiology and integrated management of field crop diseases, especially of winter wheat.
Dr. Bergstrom is a strong proponent of integrated crop management and he conducts his research in close collaboration with agronomists, plant breeders, and entomologists. He makes extensive use of disease surveys to set priorities for his disease management research. Dr. Bergstrom is codeveloper of two disease resistant wheat germ plasms and one registered wheat cultivar.
Dr. Bergstrom and colleagues demonstrated that fungal leaf spots, especially Stagonospora nodorum blotch, were the principal yield reducers of winter wheat in New York. They found that most commercial seed lots of eastern soft winter wheat are infected to some extent by the leaf-spotting pathogens Stagonospora nodorum and Pyrenophora tritici-repentis. In an innovative field study employing DNA-fingerprinted fungal isolates, they showed that even low levels of seedborne inoculum contributed to the initiation of Stagonospora nodorum blotch epidemics. They also contributed to knowledge of wheat tan spot epidemiology, including characterization of seed infection, seed-to-seedling transmission, and spatial gradients of conidium and ascospore dispersal. Dr. Bergstrom is an advocate of seed health-based disease management and has ongoing programs for seed health survey and evaluation of seed fungicides and insecticides on cereals.
Dr. Bergstrom and colleagues determined that Wheat spindle streak mosaic virus, a member of the genus Bymovirus, was a major reducer of wheat yields in the Northeast. They identified resistance in adapted cultivars and recommended them to producers. The resistance in ‘Geneva’ wheat was linked to selectable restriction fragment length polymorphism markers.
Dr. Bergstrom is an active participant in the National Wheat and Barley Scab Research Initiative. He cooperates in research to identify winter wheat cultivars and lines with resistance to scab and to evaluate fungicides and biocontrol agents for reduction of scab. In partnership with Brazilian colleagues, Dr. Bergstrom and coworkers have identified antagonistic bacteria with potential for biological control of scab and other cereal diseases. They demonstrated that viable ascospores of Gibberella zeae are transported in the planetary boundary layer of the atmosphere and, thus, comprise a regional source of inoculum for cereal crops.
Dr. Bergstrom has made several fundamental contributions to understanding the biology and management of corn anthracnose. His group characterized Colletotrichum graminicola as a vascular parasite of corn stems and characterized resistance associated with corn genotype, growth stage, and wound healing. They demonstrated that European corn borer (ECB) was a significant factor in predisposition of corn to anthracnose stalk rot and that transgenic Bt corn hybrids have significant potential for reducing anthracnose stalk rot in production areas where both C. graminicola and ECB are present.
Dr. Bergstrom’s research and extension programs on field crop disease management have helped sustain profitable and ecologically sound, food grain and forage production systems in New York and other areas of the Northeast. Through in-service education, consultation, and development of educational resource materials, he has increased the plant pathology knowledge of extension staff, multipliers, and producers. He contributed to development of the Northeast Certified Crop Advisor Program. Dr. Bergstrom and his extension colleagues developed a highly visible and effective statewide Dairy/Field Crops Integrated Pest Management implementation program emphasizing corn and alfalfa pest management. Bergstrom also initiated a wheat health management program that was based on on-farm experimentation and surveys of more that 100 farms. He organizes an annual Small Grains Management Field Day each June that has become a principle forum for information exchange on small grains and dialogue among producers, agribusiness, and consultants in the Northeast.
Dr. Bergstrom has been the major advisor for six M.S. and eight Ph.D. students and a graduate committee member for more than 37 other students. He coordinated Cornell’s professional masters degree program in plant protection for 10 years. He has served his department, college, and university in numerous ways as president of the Cornell chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta (Honor Society of Agriculture), chair of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty Policy Committee, member of the University Faculty Advisory Committee on Tenure, and member of the University Faculty Committee on Academic Program Review. He also served on the Steering Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Consortium Food System Professions Education Initiative (W.K. Kellogg Foundation).
Dr. Bergstrom has been an invited speaker at numerous U.S. and international scientific forums. He has given generously of his time as an editor and reviewer of manuscripts and grant proposals. He has served as member and officer of several regional technical committees. He has served the American Phytopathological Society (APS) in many roles including president of the Northeastern Division, chair of the Extension and Public Relations Committee, member of the 1992 Strategic Planning Committee, and senior editor of APS Press. Dr. Bergstrom is passionate about informing the public and policymakers of the importance of agriculture, especially plant pathology. He was appointed director of the new APS Office of Public Affairs and Education (OPAE) in 1996. Under his leadership, OPAE launched new programs to educate the public about the importance of plant health and to increase the visbility of our profession and Society.