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Patricia S. McManus

Patricia McManus was born and raised in southern Wisconsin. She earned a B.S. degree in Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1986 and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Botany and Plant Pathology at Michigan State University in 1988 and 1994, respectively. Her Ph.D. and postdoctoral work at MSU focused on the epidemiology of streptomycin-resistant strains of Erwinia amylovora, the cause of fire blight of apple and pear, and on DNA-based detection of this important pathogen. In 1995, she joined the faculty of the Department of Plant Pathology at UW-Madison where she is currently the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor and Douglas D. Sorenson Professor and department chair. McManus is the state’s only fruit crop pathology extension specialist with  responsibilities for all fruit crops grown in Wisconsin, most notably cranberry, apple, cherry, and grape. Her research and extension programs have been driven by the needs of her stakeholders, whose disease problems demand expertise in diverse pathogen groups. As such, her program has advanced our understanding of the etiology, epidemiology, and management of fruit diseases caused by fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

Nearly 60% of the world’s cranberries are grown in Wisconsin, and McManus has made especially novel and impactful contributions toward describing new and emerging diseases of this crop. The primary basis for this nomination is McManus’s work on Tobacco streak virus (TSV) and Blueberry shock virus (BlShV), two emerging viruses of cranberry that her group identified as distinct causes of severe berry scarring on cranberry fruit (Plant Dis. 100:696-703; Plant Dis.100:2257-2265; Plant Dis. 102:91-97). These are the first reports of viruses causing symptoms on cranberry in multiple production regions. Berry scarring was first noted in Wisconsin in 2012; in subsequent years symptoms were found in Massachusetts and New Jersey. While symptoms initially were attributed to pesticide burn or insect feeding, McManus’s team conclusively linked symptoms to either TSV or BlShV infection. Her group further demonstrated that although both TSV and BlShV overwinter in infected plants in the field, plants recover. That is, plants that are virus-positive and produce scarred fruit in one year, produce non-scarred fruit in subsequent years, despite remaining virus-positive. While yield is reduced on symptomatic plants, yield and return bloom are not reduced in recovered plants, a finding that McManus has emphasized to assuage panic in the industry. McManus and her team have delivered their findings to growers and other stakeholders through numerous oral presentations and in writing, thereby educating growers and crop consultants on a group of pathogens previously largely unknown in the industry. The discovery of viruses in cranberry, especially in new plantings of high-yielding cultivars, is especially troubling because cranberry is vegetatively propagated, and the industry lacks certification standards to prevent the trade of infected vines. Influenced by McManus’s research, nurseries and vine propagators have intensified virus screening to prevent sale of infected plants and to minimize the risk of introducing viruses into new locations.

Her recent work on viruses complements earlier studies by McManus’s group that described a new bacterial disease of cranberry and her ongoing work aimed at managing the fungal fruit rot complex. Taken together, her research has cleared up numerous points of confusion regarding the etiology of cranberry maladies. This in turn has curtailed the futile misapplication of fungicides to manage bacterial and viral diseases, thereby enhancing the profitability and environmental sustainability of cranberry production.

Another thrust of McManus’s program is her career-long interest in antibiotic use in plant agriculture and the impact of this practice on bacterial communities and reservoirs of resistance genes. She is first author on two review articles on this topic; one published in Annual Review of Phytopathology has been cited more than 500 times. McManus and collaborator Jo Handelsman, with their students and postdocs, conducted a multi-faceted study that showed little or no impact of streptomycin applied for fire blight control on bacterial community structure and antibiotic resistance in apple orchards. This was one of the earliest studies, if not the first, to apply culture-independent metagenomic methods to study bacteria in a cropping system. The six papers that resulted from this research were published in microbiology journals, because before the introduction of Phytobiomes, the work was not considered a good fit for APS journals.

McManus has served APS as an associate editor and senior editor for Plant Disease, associate editor for Phytopathology, and pome fruit section editor for Fungicide and Nematicide Tests. Known as a conscientious editor, she was called on to review the entire disease sections of two recently updated compendia (apple and pear; and blueberry, cranberry, and lingonberry). McManus has been active on APS subject matter committees including Bacteriology, Phyllosphere Ecology, and Pathogen Resistance, and the Deciduous Tree Fruit Workers technical committee. She served as a technical advisor for five years and chair for three years to a national program (NRSP-5) charged with keeping tree fruit nursery stock free of graft transmissible diseases, which served as a precursor to the National Clean Plant Network.

At UW-Madison, McManus has served on or chaired countless committees at the
department, college, and campus levels, including several elected posts, and has been chair of her department since 2014. At the time of her hire, she was one of just two female faculty members with agricultural extension appointments at UW-Madison. There since have been at least 12 women in such positions, and McManus has had a hand in mentoring almost all of them as well as several junior male colleagues. Additionally, as a formal or informal advisor, she serves as a role model for numerous students and post-doctoral researchers who aspire to careers in extension. McManus’s scholarly accomplishments have been recognized with three named professorships bestowed by her department, college, and university.