This award was made possible by a gift from Dr. Mathre to support student travel to the annual meetings of The American Phytopathological Society.
Donald E. Mathre was born in Frankfort, KS, on January 5, 1938. He received a B.S. degree in botany from Iowa State University in 1960. Later that same year, he began graduate work in plant pathology at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), where he earned a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 1964.
Immediately upon graduation, Dr. Mathre was appointed assistant professor of plant pathology at UC Davis. His research was on soilborne diseases of cotton. Dr. Mathre joined the Department of Botany and Microbiology at Montana State University, Bozeman, as assistant professor of plant pathology in 1967. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and full professor in 1972.
Early in his career at Bozeman, Dr. Mathre conducted research on the mode of action of oxathiin systemic fungicides on basidiomycete fungi. He determined that they affected the electron transport system of mitochondria. During that same period, Dr. Mathre studied the biology and control of ergot on male sterile barley and wheat. Results of this research expanded the knowledge of how host, pathogen, and environmental factors influence ergot development.
Undoubtedly, Dr. Mathre is best known for his insightful research on the soilborne pathogens of field crops. He is considered a world authority on the Cephalosporium stripe disease of wheat. His work has encompassed most aspects of the disease and its causal fungus, Cephalosporium gramineum. He has investigated the infection processes and virulence of the pathogen, the physiological and chemical factors affecting sporulation of the fungus, host response and sources of resistance, and the physiological effects of the disease on growth and yield of wheat. The culmination of his outstanding research resulted in the development of CEPHLOSS, a computer program for determining the economic benefit of crop rotation as a control measure for Cephalosporium stripe disease of winter wheat. The program was made available in 1985, and many Montana growers have benefited from its use in the management of the disease. Dr. Mathre also developed and released three winter wheat germ plasm lines with resistance to Cephalosporium stripe disease.
Dr. Mathre is recognized internationally for his creative research on other soilborne diseases. He assessed the incidence and severity of dryland root rot of wheat and barley and the take-all disease of wheat in Montana. On the basis of these findings and subsequent disease control studies, he devised biological and chemical control strategies for these diseases. Dr. Mathre has distinguished himself as a cereal smut pathologist. He is recognized throughout the world as an expert on loose smut of barley and dwarf smut (TCK) of wheat.
From 1987 to the present, Dr. Mathre has broadened the scope of his research on soilborne diseases to include studies involving not only pathogens but also other soil organisms, some of which may interact with pathogens and influence the development of diseases. He has looked at the relationship between bacterial seed inoculum density and rhizosphere colonization of wheat. More recently, he has worked on a bio-priming seed treatment for the biological control of Pythium ultimum preemergence damping off in super sweet corn. He is the author of 75 scientific articles in refereed journals, two book chapters, and one book. Moreover, several important disease problems have been solved because of his keen mind, intellectual curiosity, impeccable experimental methodology, and concern for crop agriculture. In 1973, Dr. Mathre was honored for his work by being elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr. Mathre excels as a teacher. His formal teaching assignments have included “Introduction to Plant Pathology” and “Mycology” at the undergraduate level and “Soilborne Disease” at the graduate level. He received an Outstanding Educator of America Award and an Anna K. Fridley Outstanding Teacher Award in 1975 and 1983, respectively, in recognition of his teaching ability.
In addition to his research and teaching accomplishments, Dr. Mathre has made significant administrative contributions. The Department of Plant Pathology at Montana State University, formed in 1972, prospered twice under his leadership. He was acting head of the department from 1975 to 1976 and head from 1987 to 1990. In 1990, he was appointed acting associate dean of research for the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. Personnel in the experiment station have lauded Dr. Mathre for his positive attitude and his open and honest administrative style as associate dean. Subsequently, Dr. Mathre has resumed the position of department head.
Dr. Mathre has served APS well in many capacities. He has been a member of the editorial boards of Phytopathology, Plant Disease Reporter, and Plant Disease. He was senior editor of Plant Disease from 1980 to 1983. He served as a member or chair of several standing committees and as councilor-at-large. Dr. Mathre was secretary-treasurer, president, and councilor of the Pacific Division. In 1989, he served as president of APS. He presided over the 81st Annual Meeting in Richmond, VA, where in his presidential address he challenged members of the society to “look at ourselves and to our future.”