Marcia P. McMullen was born in Omaha, Nebraska. She received her B.S. degree in botany, M.S. degree in plant pathology from Iowa State University, and Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from North Dakota State University. In 1984, she joined the faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology at North Dakota State University as an assistant professor with responsibility for cereal disease extension. She was promoted to associate professor in 1990 and professor in 1996. In addition to responsibilities for cereal disease extension, she also is coordinator for IPM education. Her current appointment is 95% extension and 5% teaching.
McMullen has developed a highly respected outreach program on the management of small grain diseases. Her outreach emphasizes use of IPM practices for disease control. She also coordinates disease surveys and evaluates efficacy of fungicides and biological agents for small grain disease management. She has provided disease management outreach on many diseases, including wheat streak mosaic, root rots, common leaf diseases, and Fusarium head blight (FHB or scab).
McMullen focused on FHB research and outreach beginning in 1993, when a devastating epidemic caused estimated losses of $1billion in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Manitoba. She became known as a “go-to” person with expertise in FHB management. McMullen worked with elevators, commodity organizations, grain buyers, and representatives of the FDA to address concerns about wheat quality, efforts that helped calm a nervous grain industry. She worked with animal scientists and veterinarians to provide information on vomitoxin risks, including coauthoring a publication titled Dealing with Scabby Grain and Vomitoxin. She was co-organizer of Regional FHB Forums in 1993 and 1994 and an active participant in subsequent regional and national FHB forums, which included initiating new FDA guidelines for vomitoxin. Her collaboration with research pathologists and agronomists helped identify wheat varieties less susceptible to FHB, information that was used in her outreach programs. She established fungicide trials to identify the most effective products to reduce FHB and vomitoxin (deoxynivalenol or DON). She found some products managed FHB, but not vomitoxin, while other products managed both the disease and the toxin. She coordinated regional and national uniform FHB fungicide/biocontrol trials through 2000, and subsequently has continued participating in this effort of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. She wrote eight special exemption documents submitted to EPA for fungicides for FHB management. She collaborated with agricultural engineers on improving fungicide application technology.
McMullen’s research and outreach provided notable economic benefits in North Dakota, the Nation’s largest producer of spring wheat, durum wheat, and barley with 6 to 8, 2 to 3, and 1.5 to 3 million acres per year, respectively. Following intensive outreach about FHB-tolerant cultivars that had better yields and test weights and lower vomitoxin, growers responded by increasing their acreage of the most tolerant cultivars. Over the 6-year period from 1994 to 1999, planting of more FHB-tolerant cultivars resulted in an estimated increased income of $11.2 million per year for North Dakota producers. When NDSU released an FHB-resistant spring wheat cultivar in 2000, extension information encouraged use, and by 2003 it was grown on 37% of 6 million acres. In addition, improved availability of efficacious fungicides plus adoption of better application methods resulted in 20% yield increases for growers using and needing fungicides, or a total of about $20 million net return per year in
North Dakota. The combination of tolerant cultivars and appropriate use of efficacious fungicides resulted in improved income to North Dakota growers of over $30 million per year since 1994.
McMullen’s testimony before the North Dakota legislature and before Congressional representatives and senators helped gain support for extension and research funding and receipt of disaster payments for North Dakota producers. She also provided information on FHB losses and management to the National Association of Wheat Growers, the U.S. Durum Growers, and to several APS and CPS regional and national symposia.
McMullen developed a website with “real-time” pest survey data and management information for five major North Dakota crops. She developed a Crop Scout School in 1984 which continues today, with annual attendance of 125 to 150, or approximately 2,500 to 3,000 total attendees. She was cocoordinator of the Advanced Crop Advisors Workshop from 1985 to 1992 and continues as a member of the coordinating committee.
McMullen has received many awards and honors for her outreach and service, including the Distinguished Service Award from the North Central Division of APS in 2005. She received the Agriculture Woman of the Year Award from the Sigma Alpha Agricultural Sorority and the State Meritorious Service Award from the North Dakota Epsilon Sigma Phi Extension Fraternity in 2004. She was part of a team that received an excellence award for educational materials from the American Society of Agronomy in 2003. In 2002, she received the Non-Farmer Award from the Manitoba - North Dakota Zero Till Farmers Association. In 2000, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association honored her for outstanding service to the wheat and barley industries of North Dakota, and she received the Communicator of the Year Award from the NDSU Agricultural Communication Department. She was honored in 1994 by the National Association of Wheat Growers with their Excellence in Extension Award, and in 1993, she received the People Who Make a Difference Award from the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald newspaper.
McMullen currently is feature editor for Plant Disease and on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative. She also has served APS as secretary-treasurer of the North Central Division from 1997 to 1999, chaired the IPM committee, and has been a member of the Extension Committee. She currently serves on the North Dakota State University College of Agriculture’s Promotion, Tenure and Evaluation Committee.
North Dakota’s recently retired extension director, Sharon Anderson, strongly supported McMullen’s nomination. “Her work is well known across the region and the nation. She is truly engaged in her work and finds all the ways possible to make a difference, especially for the people of North Dakota.”