Gary E. Harman
Gary Harman was born near Las Animas, CO. He attended Otero Junior College in nearby La Junta before he enrolled at Colorado State University to obtain a degree in plant genetics, but then obtained a job working with Ralph (Tex) Baker. He participated in the NSF Education Program and published a short paper as sole author in Phytopathology that described his undergraduate research. This experience led him to pursue a career in plant pathology. Dr. Harman received his B.S. in botany from CSU and a Ph.D. from Oregon State University.
Dr. Harman was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Seed Investigations at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in 1970, where he now holds the rank of professor. His early work at Geneva dealt primarily with seed storage and spermosphere ecology. These interests led directly to research in biological control, where Dr. Harman has probably made his most important findings. Strains of Trichoderma, Gliocladium, and Enterobacter were discovered and used as seed or soil treatments. He developed techniques for protoplast fusion for biocontrol fungi, showed that this process introduces great variability within progeny and that a small percentage of progeny are substantially improved in biocontrol efficacy. One protoplast fusion strain controlled a wide range of pathogens, was effective over a wide range of environmental conditions, and was useful as a seed treatment, as in-furrow or broadcast soil applications, and for foliar and fruit applications. It was registered with the EPA by a major corporation as a biological seed treatment on a range of crops. It is the first genetically altered fungus so registered.
Dr. Harman strongly believes that biological control should not end with research, but instead should provide useful tools for plant disease management in commercial agriculture. In 1993, together with two colleagues, he formed a company, TGT, Inc. (now Bio- Works, Inc.) to commercialize biocontrol technologies. The company obtained a license from the Cornell Research Foundation to use patents from Dr. Harman’s work. All products employ the same protoplast fusion progeny strain of T. harzianum. The company is expanding production facilities to produce as much as one million pounds of these products annually to meet the expected demand in 1997-1998. Dr. Harman remains employed full-time at Cornell University, while providing guidance and leadership for research and technology development in the company. He hopes that, in addition to providing new products for commercial agriculture, BioWorks will serve as a model for the commercialization of academic research.
He has also been active in APS. He was one of the organizers of the Seed Pathology Committee and has been an associate editor of Phytopathology and a member of the Biological Control Committee.