James R. Steadman was born in Cleveland, OH, and received a B.A. degree in biology from Hiram College in Hiram, OH, in 1964. He began his plant pathology studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received both M.S. (1968) and Ph.D. (1969) degrees under the direction of Luis Sequeira. His thesis and Plant Physiology and Phytopathology publications reported abscisic acid identification and activity in pathogenesis of Pseudomonas solanacearum in tobacco plants. He joined the Department of Plant Pathology faculty in 1969 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and progressed through the ranks to full professor. From 2000 to 2002, he was acting head of the Department of Plant Pathology and has been head of the department since 2007.
Steadman began his vegetable pathology career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying the epidemiology and management of vegetable diseases, particularly bacterial wilt of cucurbits and purple blotch of onion. He was introduced to dry edible bean disease problems by Dermot Coyne, the bean breeder, and he is now a world authority on diseases of dry edible beans. This is recognized through his international research and experience in both Africa and Latin America, and by his coeditorship in the Compendium of Bean Disease, Second Edition published by The American Phytopathological Society.
For the past 40 years, Steadman’s program has emphasized white mold in dry beans and, more recently, in soybeans. One of the more creative innovations from his lab was a technique for predicting the presence of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (causal agent of white mold) with the use of the “blue plate”. This method assessed the presence and relative density of S. sclerotiorum ascospores in bean fields utilizing petri plates containing nutrient antibiotic medium with bromophenol blue. Airborne ascospores of the pathogen land on the plates, producing colonies that induce an agar color change from blue to yellow due to oxalic acid production by the pathogen. The bromophenol blue in the medium serves as a pH indicator. This method was extremely reliable for predicting periods when the pathogen was active, thus illustrating the most effective time for fungicide applications for disease management.
His recognition as an authority on white mold is still evident. In 1974, he was one of four scientists, along with APS President George Abawi, who organized the first International Sclerotinia Workshop. He has served on this organizing committee for the additional 14 workshops that have been a success for the past 40 years. He is the only charter member of this committee that is still active in research and continues to work with this pathogen.
Steadman began his career in dry beans in Nebraska working with Dremot Coyne (dry bean breeder) originally developing root rot-resistant cultivars and then switching to white mold. This was followed by development and evaluation of new varieties with resistance to common bacterial blight and rust. His interest in rust and counteracting the formation of new races of the pathogen is still an active part of his research. For approximately 15 years, his mobile rust nursery has been deployed with the assistance of numerous colleagues throughout the high plains and in Africa and the Americas. This method utilizes different bean genotypes with different rust resistance genes that are potted in trays and placed in fields where the rust pathogen has been observed. After misting the plants and incubation in the greenhouse, rust uredinia phenotypes on the various bean genotypes identifies pathogen race structure and resistant bean genotypes. His international research has been supported by the USAID Bean/Cowpea CRSP for more than 27 years, as well as by USDA grants. These grants reflect the teams that he has worked with on state, national, and international bean and soybean improvement through breeding and integrated disease management. He has an active NIFA grant involving bean root rots in Zambia and Mozambique and a Legume Innovations Lab grant on bean diseases, cooking quality, and abiotic stress in Africa and Ecuador.
Steadman has authored more than 112 refereed journal articles, 11 book chapters, 158 abstracts, and more than 164 other scientific articles. He has been involved in the release of 10 varieties and 20 breeding lines of dry beans.
Steadman has given tremendous service to our profession and has been recognized for this on several occasions. He is a member of, and strong contributor to, the APS Office of International Programs. He has been active in organizing several symposia for the APS annual meetings related to international development and trade. His long experience in international research and outreach serves the board exceedingly well as they work to promote international awareness and involvement among APS members. He also worked with APHIS to improve the plant pathogen import permit process as a member of the Public Policy Board. In recognition of his service, he has been a recipient of several APS awards, including the International Service Award (2005), Outstanding Career Service Award for the Caribbean Division (2009), and the North Central APS Division Distinguished Service Award (2008).
Steadman takes great pride in having trained graduate students, technicians, and post-doctoral associates who have gone on to productive careers in the plant sciences. He has cochaired or served as a member of 30 graduate student committees, advised 9 Ph.D. students and 10 M.S. students directly, and mentored numerous post-graduate professionals. In addition, he served as major advisor to numerous undergraduate students in the national UCARE program that helps develop young scientists. He has also taught a graduate course on ecology and management of plant pathogens for the past 30 years.
James Steadman has a distinguished record of service as exemplified by membership on numerous departmental and university committees, contributions to APS, and participation on a variety of regional and national scientific review panels. His leadership as department head is greatly appreciated and he is always promoting plant pathology at the university. His well-balanced approach to management and his ability to address all areas in our discipline is outstanding.