Charles M. Rush was born in Anthony, KS, and received a B.A. degree in literature from the University of Texas Permian Basin in 1974. He began his plant pathology studies at Texas A&M University and received both the M. Agriculture (1976) and Ph.D. (1981) degrees under the direction of Stuart Lyda. He then conducted postdoctorate studies at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) at Temple, TX, and subsequently with the USDA ARS on pea and wheat diseases at Prosser, WA. In 1986, he was appointed associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Texas A&M University at the off-campus Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo, where he now holds the rank of professor.
Rush is internationally renowned for studies of the epidemiology and ecology of soilborne pathogens of field crops with important contributions for managing diseases of wheat, sugar beet, and sorghum. In addition to addressing the major disease problems that impact production agriculture throughout the Great Plains, his desire to serve the needs of producers has led to development of a multifaceted program that prides itself in responsiveness to the ever-changing demands of large-scale production agriculture. For example, he readily assumed studies with newly introduced diseases, including sorghum ergot and Karnal bunt of wheat, where little was known of their ecology and epidemiology in the United States. In tackling these newly introduced diseases, he pioneered the application of radar-based rainfall measurement and developed regionally based, site-specific, risk assessment tools.
Rush’s work with Karnal bunt has established him as an authority on the disease. He was instrumental in developing an integrated approach to this important disease of quarantine significance for wheat growers. His findings were used by USDA APHIS as scientific justification to deregulate fields that previously tested positive for the disease.
Rush is one of the foremost experts on benyviruses and is widely recognized for fundamental discoveries concerning the biology, ecology, and epidemiology of soilborne viruses with fungal vectors. Rush has gained international recognition for his work on the rhizomania virus disease of sugar beet, which threatens the U.S. industry with the emergence of new resistance-breaking strains of Beet necrotic yellow vein virus (BNYVV). His research has addressed virus evolution and population genetics of these viruses. Recently, his lab developed a molecular technique (allelic discrimination real-time PCR) to differentiate wild-type BNYVV from new, resistance-breaking strains that have emerged in California, thus paving the way for the development of resistant varieties.
Rush is additionally recognized for developing new methods to detect and quantify disease incidence and loss caused by Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV), which is the most widespread, economically damaging pathogen of wheat throughout the western Great Plains. Capitalizing on remote sensing tools and techniques he developed in precision agriculture studies, he investigated the impact of WSMV on crop water-use efficiency in dual purpose wheat to permit informed management decisions and new ways to conserve groundwater. These same technologies were used to measure losses from rhizomania and Cercospora leaf spot in sugar beet. As a result, he has been invited to lecture at the 9th International Congress of Plant Pathology in 2008 on this subject.
Rush has authored more than 70 refereed journal articles and 21 book chapters and served as editor of six books. Rush has been awarded two U.S. patents for a novel method of plant inoculation (1997) and for a gene delivery system (2001) for the sugar beet benyviruses. He receives impressive funding for his research as evidenced by grants exceeding $2.5 million since 2001 from federal, state, industry, and commodity sources.
His expertise and knowledge gained from research has been extended to others as a chair/organizer of many different symposia and workshops. He provided valuable service as TxGrain program coordinator for sorghum ergot research, served as committee chair for NC1015 that secured a congressional initiative to fund research aimed at developing strategies to control Karnal bunt of wheat, and organized the first symposium for the High Plains virus when it appeared in the mid-1990s.
Rush takes great pride in having trained graduate students, technicians, and postdoctoral associates who have gone on to productive careers in the plant sciences. Rush actively serves as major professor for graduate students interested in developing integrated approaches to plant disease control. He has cochaired or served as a member of 19 graduate student committees and has trained numerous postgraduate professionals, six of whom now hold faculty positions at land-grant universities. In addition, Rush served as major advisor to numerous undergraduate interns in West Texas A&M University’s Co-op Internship Training Program.
Rush has a distinguished record of service as exemplified by membership on numerous departmental and university committees, contributions to APS and other scientific societies, and participation on a variety of regional and national scientific review panels. Rush has provided valuable service to his profession through participation on several APS editorial boards, including terms as associate editor for Plant Disease and Phytopathology and as senior editor for Plant Disease. Because of his track record of success, he has been awarded a number of professional and scientific honors, including the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station’s Faculty Fellow and Regent’s Fellow Awards in 2007 for research accomplishments and scientific leadership. He also was honored with the Outstanding Achievement Award in Education from the University of Texas Permian Basin, the Meritorious Service Award from the Beet Sugar Development Foundation, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Minnesota/North Dakota Sugarbeet Research and Education Board.
In summary, Rush has provided outstanding scientific leadership as a plant pathologist. He has a distinguished record of professional service and is a strong advocate for interdisciplinary approaches to crop and disease management. Rush has achieved international recognition for his work with rhizomania and the emergence of new resistance-breaking strains of BNYVV. His studies on the nature and control of fungal and virus diseases of field crops are recognized as important models for studying the epidemiology and population genetics of pathogens.