The society grants this honor to a current APS member in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to The American Phytopathological Society. Fellow recognition is based on significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and/or extension and outreach.
Albert K. Culbreath
University of Georgia
Albert K. Culbreath was born in Hartselle, Alabama, in 1959. He is a graduate of Roane State Community College and Auburn University. In 1985, he received his MS in plant pathology/nematology from Auburn University under the direction of Rodrigo Rodriguez-Kabana, and in 1989 earned his PhD in plant pathology from North Carolina State University under the direction of Marvin Beute. In 1989, he was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station and began work on epidemiology and control of fungal foliar diseases of peanut and tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) of peanut. He was promoted to associate professor in 1994 and professor in 1999.
During his tenure at the University of Georgia, Culbreath has established himself as a leader in the areas of ecology, epidemiology and control of thrips-vectored TSWV, and in the quantitative and ecological epidemiology and management of foliar fungal diseases of peanut. His productivity is documented by his authorship on more than 200 refereed journal articles and book chapters and one patent. His work on leaf spot diseases of peanut caused by Nothopassalora personata and Passalora arachidicola has dealt largely with the integration of partial resistance to the two pathogens and cultural practices that delay or suppress leaf spot epidemics with chemical control and fungicide resistance management strategies. Much of his work on integrating resistant or tolerant cultivars with suppressive cultural practices is applicable to both organic and conventional production in developing and developed countries. Culbreath and his students have demonstrated that use of conservation tillage practices and/or earlier planning dates delays leaf spot epidemics and that combining these practices with moderately resistant cultivars can greatly reduce fungicide requirements and cost of leaf spot control. They have characterized moderately resistant genotypes and incorporated that resistance into disease management programs, including experiments conducted in the United States and Bolivia, where they found that most genotypes evaluated responded similarly to leaf spot pathogen populations in both countries. His work on resistant cultivars and cultural practices has contributed significantly toward development of and annual updates for the Peanut Rx Risk Index, an educational tool for managing fungal diseases of peanut.
Culbreath's leaf spot research includes fungicidal control, focused on determining the most effective, economically efficient, and environmentally safe programs for disease management. Practical management of fungicide resistance has been a major focus of his program. Culbreath along with Katherine Stevenson documented a large reduction in sensitivity to tebuconazole in populations of both N. personata and P. arachidicola and reported cross-resistance to most SBI fungicides available on peanut. Culbreath demonstrated that tank-mix combinations of at-risk fungicides with the protectant fungicide chlorothalonil provided control of leaf spot in fields with populations of N. personata resistant to multiple at-risk fungicides. Most recently, he reported synergistic effects of elemental sulfur with SBI fungicides for control of late leaf spot in fields where the SBI fungicides alone provided little control. He and Stevenson co-authored the chapter on fungicide resistance in peanut pathogens in the recent 2nd edition of Fungicide Resistance in North America.
Culbreath's work on thrips-vectored TSWV has resulted in an integrated system for managing spotted wilt in peanut, a disease that threatened the very existence of the peanut industry in the 1990s. He has been an integral part of a multi-disciplinary "team-approach" to this complex problem. He documented slower epidemic development in several cultivars and breeding lines than in Florunner, the predominant cultivar grown in the United States until the early 1990s. Culbreath has characterized the field reaction to TSWV of numerous breeding lines from multiple peanut breeders. Several of those have been released as cultivars. He was co-developer of four TSWV-resistant cultivars with Corley Holbrook and one with Bill Branch. He reported very high levels of field resistance to TSWV in peanut lines derived from Arachis hypogaea var. hirsuta, potentially representing a new source of resistance to TSWV. Those lines are now used as parents in crossing programs for cultivar development and in mapping populations for marker development.
Culbreath has been an integral part of the team that developed an integrated spotted wilt management program combining multiple suppressive factors to control the disease. With moderately resistant cultivars as the cornerstone of the management program, they showed that in-furrow applications of the systemic insecticide phorate, planting mid-May instead of April, and establishing greater plant populations also mitigate the impact of spotted wilt. They developed the Spotted Wilt Risk Index as an educational tool and decision aid for growers. Adoption of the integrated system coincided with dramatic decline in annual losses to TSWV in peanut.
Culbreath has served on 41 graduate student committees and been the major professor for seven MS students and four PhD students. He also teaches Introductory Plant Pathology at the UGA Tifton Campus.
Culbreath has been very active in scientific organizations. He is a member of APS and APS Southern and Caribbean Divisions, the American Peanut Research and Education Society (APRES), and the Georgia Association of Plant Pathologists. He has twice chaired the APS Chemical Control and Placement committees and has been a member of the Integrated Pest Management and Host Plant Resistance committees. He served as a section editor for APS Biological and Cultural Tests and associate editor for Plant Disease and Peanut Science. He has served as president of the Southern Division of APS, Plant Disease Management section chair for the APS Scientific Program Board, APS councilor from the Southern Division, APS division forum representative from the Southern Division (forum chair 2018-2019), and as APRES program chair and APRES president.
Culbreath is a fellow of APRES and has received the American Peanut Council Research and Education Award, the APS Novartis (now Syngenta) Award, the Coyt T. Wilson Award for Distinguished Service to APRES, and the University of Georgia D. W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Research. He has received the Outstanding Plant Pathologist Award and the Donald M. Ferrin Memorial Service Award from APS Southern Division.