Timothy C. Paulitz was born in Erie, PA, and grew up in Montclair, CA. He earned a B.S. degree in botany with a minor in plant pathology from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona in 1979 and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from the University of California, Riverside in 1984. He held post-doctoral appointments at Colorado State University from 1984 to 1987 and with the USDA-ARS in Corvallis, OR, from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, he accepted a position in the Department of Plant Science at Macdonald Campus of McGill University, Quebec, Canada, advancing to the rank of associate professor in 1994. In 2000, he joined the USDA-ARS Root Disease and Biological Control Research Unit in Pullman, WA, as a research plant pathologist. Paulitz is recognized as an international leader in research on the ecology, epidemiology, biological control, and cultural management of soilborne fungal pathogens.
At McGill University, Paulitz’s research focused on control of diseases caused by Pythium spp. in hydroponically grown vegetables. His novel screening techniques for biocontrol agents of P. aphanidermatum resulted in the identification of strains of Pseudomonas that were highly effective in increasing the production of cucumbers grown in rockwool. He demonstrated that Pseudomonas spp. suppress Pythium root rot by inducing systemic resistance in the host plant. Paulitz was the first to use a split-root system to spatially separate the pseudomonad and pathogen on cucumber and to demonstrate induced systemic resistance as a mechanism of biocontrol against Pythium root rot. Much of his pioneering work in the area of biocontrol in the greenhouse was summarized in an invited chapter in Annual Review of Phytopathology in 2001.
Paulitz, individually or in collaboration with others, also developed a reliable field inoculation method, identified environmental factors influencing spore release and dispersal, and developed a mathematical model describing disease foci for Fusarium head blight of wheat caused by Fusarium graminearum (perfect stage = Gibberella zeae). He perfected a method of producing epidemics in field plots from laboratory-produced ascospores of G. zeae and was the first to describe detailed spore dispersal gradients and the timing of ascospore release from natural inoculum. His studies have made a major contribution to understanding the epidemiology of G. zeae on wheat.
Soon after joining the USDA-ARS, Paulitz and colleagues at Washington State University discovered that glyphosate applied to resistant wheat and soybean could inhibit stripe rust and soybean rust. Previously, it was thought that fungi were relatively resistant to this widely used herbicide. In 2005, these results were published in PNAS and the technology, which has the potential to be used as a tool for managing the diseases, was licensed to Monsanto.
Paulitz’s current research focuses on root and crown rot diseases of small grains and brassicas caused by Rhizoctonia, Gaeumannomyces, Pythium, and Fusarium. He has elucidated the complex of Pythium and Rhizoctonia species that affect cereal cropping systems in the Pacific Northwest, especially in direct-seed (no-till) systems; described the biogeography of Pythium and Rhizoctonia spp. in eastern Washington; described and characterized previously unknown species and groups of Pythium and Rhizoctonia; and developed novel techniques for screening of cereal germplasm for resistance/tolerance to Rhizoctonia and Pythium. In collaborative studies, he has developed molecular techniques for quantification of 10 Pythium spp. and six groups of Rhizoctonia, technology that has been transferred to industry for commercialization. His research has made huge contributions to small grain producers in the Pacific Northwest through the development of new disease control strategies and new approaches to assess risks from soilborne pathogens prior to seeding. His work has also provided tools for breeders to begin to identify germplasm with resistance or tolerance to Pythium and Rhizoctonia.
Paulitz is recognized worldwide as a leader in the field of biological control and the ecology and management of soilborne pathogens. He is widely sought as a speaker at national and international conferences and has given more than 40 invited symposium or keynote talks at scientific meetings. He routinely conducts collaborative research with scientists in industry and academia. Scientists from all over the world visit his laboratory. He has authored or coauthored more than 90 peer-reviewed publications and 61 research publications, technical bulletins, and extension publications, including 15 book chapters.
Paulitz has served in leadership roles in The American Phytopathological Society (APS), the Canadian Phytopathological Society (CPS), USDA-ARS, and other organizations. From 1998 to 2000, he was junior and then senior councilor on the board of CPS and has been section editor of the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology since 2000. He is presently the associate editor-in-chief of APS PRESS, and he served as a senior editor of APS PRESS (2005–2008). Paulitz also was senior editor (1994–1997) and associate editor (1991–1994) of Phytopathology. He served as a senior editor for Plant and Soil (1998–2002), was a chair of the multistate project W-147 “Managing Plant-Microbe Interactions in Soil to Promote Sustainable Agriculture”(2006), and organized the 2008 and 2009 Western Soil Fungus Conferences.
Paulitz has been instrumental in training a generation of students in plant pathology. At McGill University, he supervised 18 M.Sc. and four Ph.D. students and five post-doctoral researchers. He taught seven undergraduate, graduate, and diploma courses in plant pathology, mycology, and crop pest identification. As adjunct professor at Washington State University, he has supervised or cosupervised five Ph.D. and four M.S. students. Paulitz is deeply committed to mentoring future scientists. As part of the USDA-ARS’s outreach program, he regularly teaches science modules in schools on the Colville Indian Reservation, 170 miles from Pullman. For his tremendous commitment to math and science education for groups of Americans underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions, he was awarded both the Pacific West and the National Outreach, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity Awards for the USDA-ARS in 2008.
Paulitz’s outstanding research record, his tireless service to APS, and his commitment to the education of current and future scientists qualifies him for selection as fellow of The American Phytopathological Society.