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​2023 Fellow: Gary Chastagner

Gary A. Chastagner received his AA degree in Natural Science from Sacramento City College in 1969. In 1971, he received a BA degree from California State University-Fresno where he majored in biology and industrial arts. His MS and PhD degrees were from the University of California-Davis in 1973 and 1976, respectively. Dr. Chastagner became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the Washington State University Puyallup Research & Extension Center in 1978. He was promoted to Associate Professor and Full Professor in 1983 and 1989, respectively. Dr. Chastagner has spent 45 years at WSU Puyallup, where his ornamental plant pathology program has provided research-based information to improve plant health and quality, detect and mitigate native and exotic plant pathogens, understand climate change impacts on tree health, and increase scientific literacy through citizen science programs. His research has covered a wide range of host/pathogen systems, including turfgrass, poplars, ornamental bulbs, flowers, Christmas trees, urban forests, nursery crops, invasive species, genetics of host-pathogen-environment interactions for tree species, climate resilience, and postharvest quality of Christmas trees and peonies. His numerous outreach programs disseminate research-based information to stakeholders for improving disease management and sustainability of both field and nursery production systems.

Dr. Chastagner's work has benefitted numerous horticultural industries in the Pacific Northwest, nationally, and globally. He has published >100 peer-reviewed journal articles, 25 books or book chapters, 221 scientific abstracts, 42 non-refereed professional publications, 72 extension publications, 100 technical proceedings and reports, 70 grower conference proceedings, 119 industry or popular articles and newsletters, and 51 brochures and other reports. He has shared information generated by his program through videos, webinars, and websites; organized 79 workshops, field days, and field tours; and given numerous presentations (300 since 2009 alone, with 137 invited). In the past 12 years alone, Dr. Chastagner secured over $8 million in grant funding through state, regional, and national horticulture sources, e.g., WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant program, USDA Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, IR-4 Horticulture Program, Real Christmas Tree Board, Alaska Plant Division SCBG Program, USFS Emerging Pest Grant Program, USDA NIFA SCRI, USDA APHIS PPA, Washington DNR, etc. This diverse funding reflects respect for his record of scientific rigor and real-world impacts.

Dr. Chastagner runs one of the largest flower bulb disease research programs in the US, investigating the etiology, epidemiology, and management of iris, tulip, lily, and peony diseases. He has been the only US pathologist spending significant time working on fungal diseases on bulbous crops in the last ~12 years. He has helped organized pathology sessions at International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) meetings since co-hosting the ISHS International Flowerbulb Symposium in 1989. His research has reduced fungicide use up to 60%, identified novel Botrytis spp. on peonies, and been instrumental in expanding the peony cut flower industry in Alaska. Similarly, Dr. Chastagner has a phenomenal record of research on Christmas trees. A collaborator stated it is “impossible to overstate Gary's importance and contributions to the Christmas tree industry, not only in the Pacific Northwest, but nationally and internationally". He developed management strategies for diseases like Phytophthora root rot and Swiss needle cast, developed protocols for managing quarantine pests to help maintain export markets, and became the world's leading authority on postharvest Christmas tree keepability and needle retention, research critical to the Christmas tree industry. An International Christmas Tree Research and Extension (CTRE) Conference he organized in 1987, led to the development of the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) CTRE, which is now the primary forum for Christmas tree researchers and extension personnel around the world.

Dr. Chastagner has a long record of collaboration with state and federal programs, including the WSDA and USDA APHIS PPQ. His innovative projects added to knowledge and mitigation options for the regulated pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, cause of sudden oak death and Ramorum blight of many hosts in nurseries and environmental sites. He served on the APHIS SOD Science Panel, APHIS Phytophthora ramorum Assessment Team, and USDA-APHIS CPHST Technical Working Group for P. ramorum. His epidemiological studies helped form the basis for establishing quarantine zones in nurseries, while minimizing the impacts on nursery trade.  His research led to successful strategies to prevent the introduction and enhance the mitigation of P. ramorum at infested  nurseries and environmental sites.

Dr. Chastagner has a brilliant record of extension accomplishments. He has received numerous awards from grower groups, national and international horticultural associations, and the WSDA. He received the APS Excellence in Extension Award in 2011. His work has been cited in an array of radio [e.g., CBS National Radio, Westwood One Radio Network, National Public Radio, Science Friday, Yahoo! News, Christian Science Monitor (Canada), Paul Harvey News and Comment, CBC Radio, Radio New Zealand, RTE Radio, Ireland's Broadcasting Service], television [e.g., Discovery Channel, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, MSN, CBS Morning Show, Gardening in America, Modern Times (Austria), CNN (Science and Technology feature)], print media (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, Seattle Times, Denver Post, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Popular Science, “O" magazine, Business Insider, Il Venerdi (Italy), Capital Press, Scientific American), and online media [e.g., NIFA twitter feed, Scientific American Online, SCI (London), American Institute of Physics (video distributed to 60 TV stations), Technology Networks (UK), and Wired Magazine (UK)].

Dr. Chastagner has a long and distinguished record of service, including WSU department- and college-level search, tenure/promotion, strategic planning, and research and extension planning committees. He has served on 9 APS national committees, 3 Pacific Division committees, as President of the APS Pacific Division (1991-92), and as APS Pacific Division Councilor (1997-2000). In 2013, he received the APS Pacific Division Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Chastagner also engages in extensive service to other societies, e.g., ISHS and IUFRO. In summary, Dr. Chastagner provides a role model for how plant pathologists can improve and sustain plant health while assisting growers, regulators, and the plant pathology community regionally and globally. ​