Colleagues and friends have established this award in honor of Kenneth F. Baker for the contributions he has made to the science of plant pathology through his research and service. In 2011, the fund was doubled so that a travel award could be given every year. The name was then changed to the Kenneth F. Baker and R. James Cook Student Travel Fund. Baker and Cook coauthored two books on biological control of plant pathogens, the first in 1974 and then reprinted by APS (before APS PRESS) in 1982 and the second by APS (again, before APS PRESS) in 1983.
Kenneth F. Baker (1908–1996) made major contributions to plant pathology over a period of more than 60 years. His many research specialties included diseases of nursery and ornamental crops, seed pathology, soilborne plant pathogens, biological control of plant pathogens, and history of plant pathology. His interests beyond plant pathology included anthropology, archeology, early civilizations, the opera, and classical music. He was a scholar with a personal library that would rival many departmental libraries. He was also an avid photographer and naturalist.
Baker developed the steam-air method for elimination of plant pathogens from soil by mild heat treatment (pasteurization) rather than sterilization. He showed that the same mild heat treatment could also eliminate pathogens from seeds and worked with his friend, the late Watt Dimock, in the development of meristem culture for production of pathogen-free planting material. His book, The UC System for Healthy Container-grown Plants (1957), set the stage for the permanent success of today's ornamentals and nursery industries. His book with W. C. Snyder, Ecology of Soil-borne Plant Pathogens-Prelude to Biological Control (1965), representing the proceedings of the first and now-classic international symposium on soilborne plant pathogens held in Berkeley, CA, in 1963, remains to this day as the definitive base book on soilborne plant pathogens. His two books with R. James Cook, Biological Control of Plant Pathogens (1974) and The Nature and Practice of Biological Control of Plant Pathogens (1983), created the scientific framework in place today for this area of science and practice.
Consistent with his intense and scholarly interest in the scientific literature, Baker helped launch and served on the first Editorial Committee of Annual Review of Phytopathology starting in 1962. He was editor of this series from 1972 to 1979. Together with his wife of more than 40 years, Katharine, also a plant scientist, they provided an endowment "to promote the field of plant pathology through Annual Review of Phytopathology." This endowment was used to launch Annual Reviews Inc. into the electronic age with Annual Review of Phytopathology as the first on CD-ROM.
Baker grew up and completed high school in Clarkston, WA, a small town in southeastern Washington at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers and adjacent to the larger Lewiston, ID. From an early age, his summers were spent in the Bitteroot Mountains, including as a mule-team packer. This experience no doubt led to his interests as a naturalist. His first exposure to plant pathology was probably his participation in the failed project of the U.S government to control the highly destructive white pine blister rust by eradication of the Ribes alternate host of the pathogen, Cronartium ribicola. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington State University in 1930 and 1934, respectively, and then did post-doctoral training with the famous B. M. Dugger at the University of Wisconsin. Upon completion of his post-doctoral training, he took a job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Nebraska working on establishment of trees as shelter belts. After about one year, he took a job in Hawaii working on pineapples and spent time collecting pineapple germplasm in Brazil. He then became a faculty member at the University of California, where he spent most of his professional career, first at UCLA and then at Berkeley. He spent two sabbatical leaves in Australia, the first at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide, SA, and the second at the New South Wales Department of Agriculture in Rydalmere, NSW. It was during these visits that he developed a close professional relationship with the Australian nursery industry. After retirement, he moved to Corvallis, OR, where he served as courtesy professor, Oregon State University, and collaborator, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. In addition to many awards from the floral and nursery industries of both the United States and Australia, he was a National Research Council Fellow, Fullbright Senior Fellow, NATO Senior Fellow in Science, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and The American Phytopathological Society.
R. James Cook (1937–) is dean and professor emeritus, Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, WA, a title he assumed effective September 1, 2005, when he retired after serving since July 2003 as interim dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. From April 1, 1998, until his appointment as interim dean, he held the R. J. Cook Endowed Chair in Wheat Research at WSU, a position endowed with a $1.5 million gift from the Washington wheat growers through the Washington Wheat Commission to the WSU Foundation. Prior to this appointment, he worked as a research plant pathologist with USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at Pullman from 1965 through March 1998, conducting research on biological and ecological approaches to manage root diseases of Pacific Northwest wheat. In addition to his 200 scientific journal articles and reviews, he has coauthored three books, two on biological control of plant pathogens with the late Kenneth F. Baker and one book on wheat health management with the late Roger Veseth.
His second book with Baker on biological control of plant pathogens, published by APS in 1983, led Cook as then president of APS to propose a reorganization of the society’s in-house non-journal publications projects and committees into what became APS PRESS, formed in 1984. His book with Veseth was the inaugural title of the Plant Health Management publication series published by APS PRESS. Cook also chaired the ad hoc committee in 1978–1979 that designed and launched Plant Disease as the replacement for the USDA’s Plant Disease Reporter.
During his 40-year career in research, teaching, and administration, he served in several elected offices of professional scientific societies, including president of the International Plant Pathology Society from 1985/1990 following his term as president of The American Phytopathological Society in 1983/84 and president of the Washington State Academy of Sciences from 2010/11. From October 1, 1993, through March 31, 1996, and while maintaining his research program at Pullman, he served in Washington, DC, on a 50% appointment as chief scientist for the USDA’s $100 million National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program. He has also served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the early 1990s on safety of agricultural biotechnology, two years on the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology, and on the panel that produced the National Academy of Sciences’ 2002 report, Countering Agricultural Bioterrorism. Upon his retirement in late 2005, he was immediately appointed by the governor of Washington State to one of seven citizen trustees on the Board Authority for the Washington State Life Science Discovery Fund, a $35 million annual competitive grants program funding research for improvement of human health and economic development in the state. He also served, starting in 2007, as one of 12 members of the founding Board of Directors of the then-new Washington State Academy of Sciences.
His awards include NATO Research Fellow to Australia, 1964–1965; Guggenheim Fellow to Australia, 1973–1974; Fellow, the Japanese Society for Promotion of Science, 1983; Superior Service Award, Distinguished Service Award, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Distinguished Scientist of the Year, and ARS Science Hall of Fame, USDA; Fellow, Award of Distinction, and Ruth Allen Award from The American Phytopathological Society; Fellow, Crop Science Society of America; Fellow, American Society of Agronomy; and Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1993. He was corecipient of the international Wolf Prize in Agriculture, awarded by the state of Israel, in 2011. Cook holds B.Sc. (1958) and M.Sc. (1961) degrees from North Dakota State University and a Ph.D. degree (1964) from the University of California, Berkeley. He holds honorary doctorates from North Dakota State University and the University of Torino, Italy.