Anthony P. Keinath was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and was raised in a rural German-American community centered around Richville, Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State University with a B.Sc. in Botany in 1982. He completed his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in plant pathology at Cornell University in 1985 and 1988, respectively. His doctoral field research was done at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, New York. After a postdoctoral position with the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland, he joined Clemson University's Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1991 as assistant professor of plant pathology and vegetable disease specialist (80% Research/20% Extension). He was promoted to professor in 2004. His program's goals are to provide growers with effective, environmentally sound, economical disease management solutions.
Among the many cucurbit diseases Keinath studied, he is best known for his fundamental work on biology, epidemiology, and management of the Stagonosporopsis fungi in the gummy stem blight complex. When he arrived in the southeastern United States over 30 years ago, gummy stem blight was the most feared disease among watermelon growers. Keinath quickly conducted fungicide evaluations to demonstrate that the disease could be managed, and yields could be increased, with an effective weekly fungicide program. His many novel discoveries in the Stagonosporopsis citrulli-cucurbit pathosystem include the first detection of fungicide resistance in the United States, differential sensitivity of ascospores and conidia to multiple fungicides, distance of ascospore dispersal, length of survival in infested cucurbit debris, reduction in fruiting body formation with fungicides, and 14 new cucurbit hosts, including native and medicinal plants grown throughout Asia and Africa. His early well-cited work on differentiating pathogenic Stagonosporopsis from nonpathogenic Phoma isolates provided the groundwork for the subsequent division of Stagonosporopsis into three species by other mycologists. His most popular Extension publication, Land-Grant Press 1001 Watermelon Fungicide Guide, is a comprehensive spray program based on his research on gummy stem blight, anthracnose, powdery mildew, downy mildew, and bacterial fruit blotch, the primary foliar pathogens on watermelon in the southeastern U.S. The 14,032 viewers (2019 to 2022) come primarily from the major watermelon-producing states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.
In the mid-2000s, Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum race 2 replaced gummy stem blight as the most destructive watermelon disease, so Keinath responded by expanding his research program. He amassed one of the largest collections of race-typed isolates in the public sector that serves as a genetic resource for university and private company breeders. The largest portion of his $3.6M in grant funding includes six successful, collaborative, multi-year projects to craft effective, nonchemical management for Fusarium wilt on watermelon, based on cover cropping with pathogen-suppressive vetches, delaying transplanting until soils warm, choosing cultivars with host resistance or tolerance, and grafting onto resistant rootstocks. The total funding for these USDA grants (five SCRI, one PMAP) is over half the $31.6M total awards on grants on which Keinath was PI or co-PI. Together these integrated practices are estimated to save South Carolina growers $21M per year in crop losses.
Throughout his career, Keinath's research has critically examined the economic impacts of diseases, because marketing the crop is the key component of successful vegetable production. He incorporates information on the input costs, crop values, and profits from the management practices he tests into his publications and presentations to promote adoption. He is widely respected for the quality and scope of over 120 refereed journal publications (H-index 37, 2022) that always include a rigorous statistical analysis to ensure the results are reproducible and transferrable. For example, his three studies on biofumigation to manage soilborne pathogens are among his 25 most-cited works. His wide-ranging publications include peer-reviewed papers on fungi, oomycetes, bacteria, viruses, and nematodes on 34 vegetable and herb crops. His mean Altmetrics Field Citation Ratio is 1.67 (2016-2020).
Keinath is passionate about his Extension appointment and has given 425 talks at grower meetings, field days, workshops, and trainings to vegetable growers, commodity group boards, Extension agents, Master Gardeners, garden club members, and home gardeners during his tenure at Clemson. He has given or co-authored invited international presentations on vegetable disease management in Cambodia, Canada, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Mexico. In 2022 he was named a regular columnist for the trade journal American Vegetable Grower. His disease diagnoses yielded first reports and discoveries of 12 fungi, four viruses, two bacteria, and four oomycetes new to the United States or South Carolina, including white rust on seabeach amaranth, an endangered, dune-colonizing native plant he studied in collaboration with colleagues at the College of Charleston.
Based at research stations most of his career, Keinath feels a keen responsibility to extend plant health information to the local community. For over 25 years, he has given invited talks at gardening programs in the Charleston metropolitan area and beyond. He enthusiastically supports the SC Master Gardener Program and has taught plant pathology yearly in the local class and in the new statewide online class to 760 graduates. His 155 gardening columns in The Post and Courier, the largest South Carolina newspaper, earned him a reputation among his loyal readers as a local expert on ornamental plants.
Keinath has over 30 years of exemplary APS service, starting as committee member, Biological & Cultural Tests section editor, and APS Southern Division Secretary-Treasurer, when he restored the Division to a sound financial footing. He served APS Publications for 14 years, beginning with three successive offices on the Plant Disease Editorial Board as Disease Notes Assigning Editor, Senior Editor, and Editor-in-Chief, when he assisted with the transition to Manuscript Central, and culminating with Publications Board Chair. During his two terms on APS Council, he made the key motion to combine ICPP 2018 with the APS Annual Meeting, saving the cost and time of organizing separate meetings and ensuring robust attendance. Currently, he is the founding Editor-in-Chief of GROW Focus on Cucurbits. He was instrumental in transitioning the Focus areas to an editorial board structure with grant funding to support webcasts.