Jerald K. Pataky
Jerald K. Pataky was born in Wood River, Illinois, in 1953. Pataky received B.S. degrees in advertising/ journalism and agronomy from the University of Illinois, and he worked as an advertising copywriter in Chicago before earning an M.S. degree in plant pathology from the University of Illinois in 1980. In 1983, he received a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology at North Carolina State University. He then joined the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor and was promoted to full professor in 1993.
When Dr. Pataky began his research at Illinois, he was encouraged to devote a portion of his time to diseases of sweet corn, because epidemics of common rust had caused substantial yield losses in sweet corn in the Midwest. Pataky soon recognized that important diseases of sweet corn were amenable to quantitative investigation, and since there were few pathologists working on sweet corn diseases, the practical applications of his research were received enthusiastically by the sweet corn seed and foodprocessing industries. Following his initial work on the epidemiology and control of rust and other diseases, Pataky has emphasized breeding for disease resistance while continuing to investigate epidemiological aspects of other disease-control tactics. His research affects sweet corn production nationally and internationally, in part, because his contributions are magnified greatly by sweet corn breeders and pathologist who incorporate his results into their programs. Colleagues in industry and academia recognize Pataky as a leading authority on the epidemiology and control of sweet corn diseases and disease resistance in sweet corn.
Dr. Pataky works closely with researchers in the seed and foodprocessing industries to identify situations where diseases are major constraints on sweet corn production and to find solutions to those problems. Every major commercial sweet corn breeding program and sweet corn processing company in the United States cooperates in his research. As a first step, Pataky evaluates and classifies reactions of sweet corn hybrids to multiple diseases and uses complementary experiments on crop losses to relate yield reductions to threshold levels of disease. This information has been critical in identifying groups of sweet corn germ plasm for which improved levels of resistance or complementary control tactics are necessary. Researchers in the sweet corn seed industry have adopted various aspects of field methods and statistical procedures used by Pataky to categorize disease reactions of hybrids. Crop loss models developed by Pataky, his students, and colleagues have been used to establish threshold levels of control necessary to prevent yield losses caused by northern leaf blight, Stewart’s bacterial wilt, common rust, Maize dwarf mosaic virus, and bacterial leaf blight. This information forms the foundation for evaluating disease-management decisions and control strategies, and it has helped establish goals for disease resistance breeding programs.
The second phase of Dr. Pataky’s research involves the development of control tactics with an emphasis on disease resistance. Pataky has identified sources of resistance and helped develop elite sweet corn lines with resistance to common rust, Stewart’s wilt, northern leaf blight, Maize dwarf mosaic virus, and seedborne fungal infection of supersweet sweet corn. He has identified various sources of general rust resistance in sweet corn inbred germ plasm, has evaluated sources of Rp resistance against North American collections of Puccinia sorghi, and has been involved in the incorporation of this resistance into germ plasm used commercially. He also works cooperatively with scientists in the sweet corn industry to improve resistance through marker-assisted selection.
When levels of host resistance have been inadequate to prevent yield losses, Dr. Pataky has conducted epidemiological studies to help develop other control tactics. For example, studies on the temporal and spatial development of rust in resistant and susceptible genotypes, examination of incidence–severity relationships, and evaluation of the resistant reaction of adult leaves to rust have been used as the basis to develop strategies for efficient fungicidal control of this disease. Likewise, Pataky has defined situations in which seed-treatment insecticides are an economical method of controlling Stewart’s wilt based on conclusions from studies on yield losses caused by Stewart’s wilt, the use of seed-treatment insecticides to control the insect vector of Erwinia stewartii, and relationships between host resistance and incidence of systemic infection by E. stewartii.
Dr. Pataky’s expertise is sought frequently by the sweet corn industry and by colleagues in academia. Early in his career, he was elected vice president and president of the National Sweet Corn Breeders Association, which enhanced his rapport with scientists in the sweet corn industry. In 1994, he worked with groups in the sweet corn seed industry to identify production problems in Japan. He also accompanied sweet corn industry representatives to Europe in 2000 to identify important sweet corn diseases and to speak about sweet corn disease control at a conference of vegetable food processors from Europe and Israel. Although he does not have an extension appointment, Pataky frequently is an invited speaker at industry-sponsored and extension conferences where the practical applications of his research are disseminated to sweet corn producers throughout North America.
Among his colleagues, Dr. Pataky is well known for his demanding work ethic. His field research program typically consists of 25,000 to 35,000 rows of trials that include 50 to 60 different projects on six to ten different diseases each year. His cooperative projects have included field experiments in ten different states and seven countries. During the growing season, Pataky usually can be found in field plots working with a crew of undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Pataky sets high standards for himself and his students, and as such, he serves as an excellent role model for faculty and students alike.
Dr. Pataky’s previous experience in communications also has been valuable. Colleagues frequently seek his assistance with editorial tasks, and he serves as a peer reviewer for various refereed journals. His editorial skills have been useful during his terms as an associate editor of Phytopathology and an associate editor and a senior editor of Plant Disease. He currently serves as a senior editor of Plant Health Progress and has served APS on the Germ Plasm and Collections, Host Plant Resistance, Illustrations of Plant Pathogens and Diseases, and Epidemiology Committees. For his pragmatic achievements in research and his dedicated service to APS and the sweet corn industry, Dr. Pataky is recognized as a worthy recipient of the Fellow Award.
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