Wayne’s focus throughout his career has been to increase our understanding of disease biology and fungicide characteristics, including physical modes of action and resistance development, with a goal of developing improved management strategies for important diseases. He has always had a formal appointment incorporating both research and extension components, and has endeavored to blend these complimentary responsibilities consistent with the mission of U.S. Land Grant universities. He is known for his ability to work collaboratively with scientists, extension educators, crop consultants, and grape growers and to train graduate students for careers in disease management. Wayne has made significant contributions to the improved understanding of the biology and management numerous diseases, including powdery mildew, downy mildew, black rot, Phomopsis cane and leaf spot, Botrytis bunch rot, and most recently sour rot, a poorly-defined complex recently shown to result from a four-way interaction between grape berries and specific yeasts, bacteria, and insects. One example of research from the Wilcox laboratory impacting powdery mildew management is the quantification to which sunlight exposure affects the development of this disease in the field and elucidation of the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. It was demonstrated that UV-B radiation adversely affected multiple steps in the infection process, from the germination of Erysiphe necator condia through host penetration and colony establishment and expansion; that sunlight exposure elevated temperatures on leaf surfaces to levels inhibiting pathogen development; and that these effects were synergistic. This work also documented that canopy management practices promoting sunlight infiltration reduce powdery mildew development through the aforementioned effects and by increasing the deposition of applied fungicides. Another example of innovative research involved the identification and integration of grape phenology, primary inoculum dynamics, sanitation practices, and spray timing on the development and control of black rot, resulting in a reduction in fungicide applications required to manage this disease.
Wayne’s early work with tree fruit crops included a series of projects involving brown rot blossom blight of stone fruits, where he determined the wetness duration x temperature requirements for infection; how these factors interact with inoculum density and atmospheric humidity during the incubation phase; and the physical modes of action of fungicides used in its control. Soon after joining Cornell, Wayne determined that a decline of red raspberry plantings previously attributed to other factors was caused by multiple Phytophthora spp. Working with U.S. and British colleagues, he showed that the preeminent species involved was the same one recently recognized as devastating European plantings, and that it merited a unique taxonomic classification. He determined the range of species responsible for a similar decline in the country of Chile and their relationship with the different climatic zones in that highly diverse country, and demonstrated the utility of incorporating cultivar resistance, plant bed design, and chemical and biological agents in an integrated management program. These various projects exemplify Wayne’s research approach, which has generated in-depth knowledge of pathogen biology; interactions between the pathogen, host, and environment; and the integrative usage of complimentary disease management tactics.
Wayne is recognized for his in-depth knowledge of fungicide activities and potentials for resistance development, and for optimizing use strategies based on these factors. Pioneering work with Wolfram Koeller on fungicide resistance development in Venturia inaequalis, and for the grape pathogens Erisyphe necator and Plasmopara viticola were seminal to the understanding of resistance development and management in fruit crops. His numerous and regular contributions in Fungicide and Nematacide Tests/ Plant Disease Management Reports have been a valuable resource for extension educators and disease management professionals. His understanding of both the science of fungicide usage and its practical impact have led to his appointment as the APS Subject Matter Expert (liaison) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Wayne has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed papers addressing the biology and management of numerous tree fruit, small fruit and grape diseases and has devoted equal effort to extension programming seeking to educate growers and their advisors about these subjects. He regularly prepares extension bulletins and newsletter articles for distribution to stakeholders throughout eastern North America, which are accessed online by national and international audiences. He has also reached a broad audience though articles in various trade magazines, and recently served as the senior editor and author or co-author of individual sections of the Compendium of Grape Diseases, Pests, and Disorders 2nd Edition. He has been an invited speaker at hundreds of grower meetings, field days and horticultural conferences not only throughout North America but also in South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Wayne served as chair of Cornell’s Department Food Science and Technology-Geneva from 2008 to 2010 and as associate chair of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Interactions from 2010 – 2014. He organized and is the lead instructor for a key course in the College’s viticulture major, “Grape Pest Management”. He has served APS in several capacities beyond his current role with US-EPA, including Councilor-at-Large; Associate Editor and Editor of Biological & Cultural Tests for Control of Plant Diseases; Associate Editor of Plant Disease; and member and chair of the Pathogen Resistance Committee. He has been recognized with several awards from grower organizations and professional societies, including the APS Ciba-Geigy and Lee M. Hutchins Awards; “Researcher/Educator of the Year” by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation; and the Award of Merit from the American Society of Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section.