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Raymond W. Schneider
Raymond W. Schneider was born in Brooklyn, NY. He lived his early childhood on a kibbutz in Israel because his father was heavily involved in the founding of the Israeli Air Force. He then moved to Dothan, Alabama. He obtained his BS in Biology/Chemistry at the University of Alabama (1969) and his MS (1971) and PhD (1973) in Plant Pathology from the University of Illinois. He held a Ford Foundation Research Fellowship at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria (1972), a post doctorate at the University of California-Davis (1973-1976), and was on the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley from 1976 to 1984. Schneider has been with the Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology at Louisiana State University since 1984.
Schneider has always embraced the concept of mission oriented research, i.e. conducting whatever research was necessary in order to solve recalcitrant disease problems affecting the commodities for which he assumed responsibility in order to provide disease management solutions – in short, conducting basic research on applied problems. Most of Schneider’s fundamental research achievements were funded by commodity groups because he was able to relate to producers why it was important to understand, for example, the genetic mechanisms by which new races or biotypes arose. This information was necessary in order to develop effective disease resistance breeding programs and to determine how best to deploy resistance genes. For example, if there was no evidence for sexual recombination and reproduction, then new varieties could be released without fear of these varieties succumbing to the disease in the near future. Furthermore, these findings meant that breeders could use a few carefully selected isolates of the pathogen in their screening programs. To continue with this example, these explanations to producers, who may have had little knowledge of population genetics, were the basis for why tomato and celery commodity groups funded his early fundamental research programs on vegetative compatibility groups in form species of
. This research opened the door for numerous other investigations on this novel fungal process.
Schneider is quick to point out that he owes whatever credit he achieves to a vast array of people including research associates, postdocs, visitors, collaborators, colleagues, and, most importantly, his graduate students. Without their creativity, diligence, dedication and esprit de corps, none of these accomplishments would have been possible or as much fun. He is grateful every day to have found this amazing profession.
Schneider and his group pioneered research that clarified evolutionary and ecological relationships in pathogenic and nonpathogenic populations of
and, more recently,
. Vegetative compatibility groups, supplemented with molecular phylogenetic analyses, provided unequivocal evidence that race 3 of the tomato wilt pathogen was derived from the existing race 2 population within the same field. They also demonstrated that clonal populations of this pathogen probably do not undergo sexual or asexual recombination. Interestingly, he found that certain endophytic strains of
isolated from celery and tomato roots either suppressed or predisposed roots to infection by the pathogen, and these findings were shown to be the cause of disease suppressive soils. His findings with
documented a surprising amount of genetic diversity within supposed clonal populations of the pathogen leading to the conclusion that genetic recombination occurs relatively frequently in this species even though the sexual stage has never been found. In part, this explains why host plant resistance breaks down rapidly and why resistance to several fungicide chemistries is now rampant within the pathogen population. Schneider also pioneered the use of chloride for suppressing root diseases and is investigating the role of other minor elements against Cercospora leaf blight.
Schneider is an authority on diseases of soybean. Because of his attentiveness, he was first to find soybean rust, caused by
, in North America. Research from his group provided invaluable information in rapid response to this major disease incursion that has greatly affected the soybean industry locally, nationally, and internationally. Numerous research endeavors have included the development of a risk model, optimization of disease management with fungicides based upon time of infection, and a GIS study in which his group identified key plant nutrients that suppressed disease. He developed, tested and patented a state-of-the-art spore sampler that utilizes electrostatic deposition of airborne particulates. His group demonstrated that
has an extended latent period and further demonstrated that fungicide efficacy was greatly improved when applied during this phase of disease development. His graduate student discovered
, which is a fungal mycoparasite of
. The fungus preferentially colonizes soybean rust sori, and, because of its potential as a biological control agent, a commercial entity is currently testing it.
Schneider insists that his graduate students fully embrace the concept of mission oriented research. Even though their research projects may be fundamental in nature, their projects must relate to a current disease situation. For example, one student’s M.S. project found that foliar applications of iron suppressed Cercospora leaf blight of soybean. His Ph.D. dissertation now focuses not only on the biochemical mechanisms by which this suppression occurs but also optimization of iron applications under commercial conditions.
Because of his research excellence and team efforts, he was awarded two of the LSU AgCenter’s most prestigious awards: the Doyle Chambers Award for Excellence in Research and the Tipton Team Research Award in 2007 (Salt Marsh Decline) and 2009 (Soybean Rust). In addition he received the Southern Soybean Disease Workers Distinguished Service Award and the APS-Southern Division Outstanding Plant Pathologist Award. These honors are a testament to Schneider’s research accomplishments, skillful cooperation and successful collaborations.
Schneider also has a long, meritorious career in teaching. He taught Microbial Ecology with Lab and Soil Microbiology with lab while at UC Berkeley. At LSU, he teaches or has taught Introductory Plant Pathology, Soilborne Plant Pathogens, and Practicum in Plant Pathology. Many undergraduate students were attracted to pursue graduate degrees in plant pathology because of the enthusiasm Schneider brings to the classroom.
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