Hitoshi Kunoh was born in Tokyo, Japan. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in agricultural Biology and plant pathology, respectively, from Kyoto University. He earned the Ph.D. in botany from Southern Illinois University in 1970 and, in 1972, the degree Dr. of Agriculture with specialization in plant pathology from Kyoto University.
Dr. Kunoh joined the Laboratory of Plant Pathology at Mie University as a faculty member in 1970 and, in 1988, was promoted to the rank of professor. In this position, he functions as the administrative head of the plant pathology program.
Dr. Kunoh is recognized as a leader in the conceptualization and understanding of the fungal infection process. Much of his research has focused on Erysiphe graminis and the powdery mildew disease of barley. He was the first to recognize the primary germ tube of E. graminis and to confirm its importance to the success of the infection process of this pathogen. This work was accomplished by his revolutionary development and use of micromanipulation in concert with scanning electron microscopy. In the case of powdery mildew, his approach was the first to reveal the exact timing of the initial events of physiological contact between the host and the pathogen, and the demonstration of the nature and timing of the host cytoplasmic response.
Kunoh then delved into earlier events in the E. graminis infection process to determine factors that regulate the success of the pathogen. In work with Professor Nicholson at Purdue University, he and his collaborators made the significant discovery that, upon contact with the barley leaf, conidia release minute quantities of cutinase. This was the first demonstration of cutinase production by an obligate pathogen and the first demonstration that its importance to the infection process is independent of penetration. In summary, Kunoh’s investigations on the barley powdery mildew interaction represent a foundation in our knowledge about what is currently referred to as recognition and signal transduction between a pathogen and its host.
Dr. Kunoh’s research has also involved answering questions of immediate practical importance to agriculture and food production in Japan. For example, he elucidated the etiology of the Japanese flyspeck disease of grape, investigated the influence of various fungicides on the survival of fungi such as the rice blast pathogen, and looked extensively at the efficacy of various chemicals for systemic control of rice sheath blight. Recently, he has also focused on understanding the impact of environmental parameters on turfgrass diseases and the elucidation of practical means of turfgrass disease control.
That Dr. Kunoh is recognized internationally is evident from his invited participation in numerous international meetings.