James Joseph Marois was borne on January 9, 1953, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He received his B.A. degree in conservation biology from Florida Atlantic University in 1975 and his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from the University of Florida in 1980. In 1980, he joined the USDA as a research plant pathologist in the Soilborne Diseases Lab in Beltsville, Maryland. While there, he worked on the biological control of soilborne pathogens, including Fusarium, Sclerotinia, and Verticillium. In 1984, he joined the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California (UC), Davis as an assistant professor with an emphasis on integrated pest management (IPM), epidemiology, and diseases of grapes. He received tenure and was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and to full professor in 1991. He served as chair of the department from 1993 to 1995. Later in 1995, he joined the University of Florida as a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and center director at the North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC). He presently serves the center working on diseases of row crops and cropping systems.
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Marois was hired by then Yoder Brothers of Florida in Ft. Myers, where he was introduced to the challenges of intensive ornamental crop production and the tremendous impact of plant disease. It was there that Marois was first introduced to the science of plant pathology and learned how to apply science to real problems. It was also where Marois first met University of Florida professors of plant pathology, became more familiar with the land-grant system, and ultimately decided to attend graduate school and major in plant pathology.
Marois’ research has always been an integrated team effort working closely with multiple disciplines and applying sound ecological principles to disease management and crop production. While at the USDA, he led the development of an effective biological control agent for Verticillium wilt of vegetables and a delivery system for field applications that resulted in two U.S. patents that the USDA awarded exclusive use permits to W.R. Grace. While at UC Davis. he developed models for forecasting disease periods that allowed for effective timing of pesticides. These models were incorporated into several commercial environmental monitoring systems and are distributed in the grape- and strawberry-growing areas of Europe, Africa, Australia, North America, and South America. He also led an effort to develop a low-level sulfur dioxide fumigation program for stored grapes that reduced fumigant use by more than 80%. It is now standard practice in industry. With others, he developed a canopy management practice that reduced the need for insecticides and fungicides on grapes as well as improved the berry quality. Work funded by the California Statewide IPM Program found that pesticides were reduced by nearly 400,000 lbs. per year in California and that nearly 100% of the premium wine grape region was using the alternative management practices. He also visited Chile over 5 years to develop the methodology with their unique trellising systems, where it is also widely used. A rapid immunoassay to quantify the level of mold in harvested wine grapes that was approved for California state inspection program. Also while at UC Davis, he worked on the biological control of the introduced rush skeleton weed with a rust fungus, worked on the biological control of Botrytis on grapes and roses with beneficial fungi, and helped develop and establish a 12-year systems-level cropping study.
At the University of Florida, he developed a national team effort on soybean rust. Since 2005, they have conducted cooperative research at the NFREC with more than 40 scientists. Eleven graduate students from five universities have conducted soybean rust research at the center. The team trained more than 750 people on rust identification, identified effective chemical control strategies, identified promising sources of resistance, quantified the impact of cultural practices and environment on disease development and overwintering, and managed sentinel plots that were critical to informing the North American soybean industry of seasonal rust development. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Southern Soybean Diseases Workers for his program on soybean rust. He also identified Fusarium hardlock of cotton as a disease cause by Fusarium verticillioides and conducted studies on etiology, epidemiology, and control of the disease. Management strategies are being implemented that have a significant effect on increasing yield and producer profits. He was also instrumental in developing a multistate sod-based rotation program for integrating Bahiagrass and cattle into row crop production systems. This is a systems-level project and involves more than 20 researchers from three states and the USDA. Federal funding was secured to allow for replicated trials in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and they are attempting to expand the project to include more southeastern states, the USDA, and the Rodale Institute. Two symposia (in 2003 and 2007) highlighting the project were held at NFREC-Quincy. Approximately 100 scientists and growers attended each 2-day meeting. Recently, the National Resource and Conservation Service provided financial incentives in the southeast to encourage farmers to adopt the practice. Recently, he has begun working on the development of Brassica carinata as a winter cover crop for the southeast that also produces an oil suitable for use as a jet fuel.
While at UC Davis, he taught Concepts and Systems in Pest Management, a graduate course; Ethics and Policy of Agricultural Biotechnology, a general education undergraduate course; and Integrity and Professionalism for the Professors of the Future Program, a campus-wide course for advanced Ph.D. students planning careers in academia. He also served as chair of the Graduate Program in Plant Protection and Pest Management, chair of the Graduate Council Subcommittee on Graduate Courses, member of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Executive Committee and the UC Davis Graduate Council, and UC Davis’ representative to the UC System-Wide Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs.
Many of the students and post-docs Marois has worked with have gone on to become leaders in both industry and academia. He has had the privilege to serve science at many levels and has enjoyed all of it tremendously.
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