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.
University of Georgia
Harald Scherm was raised on a farm near Kulmbach, Germany. He earned an undergraduate degree in agricultural sciences from the Technical University of Munich in 1990 and a PhD in plant pathology from the University of California-Davis in 1994. Following postdoctoral work at Iowa State University, he joined the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia (UGA) in 1996, where he rose through the ranks and is currently a professor and department head.
Scherm's research has focused on pathogen biology, epidemiology, and disease management in fruit crops, especially blueberry. The disease situation in this crop is highly dynamic, shifting constantly with increasing acreage and production intensity and associated changes in cultivars. He has relished in particular the challenges associated with understanding and managing diseases caused by pathogens with unorthodox life histories, such as Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi (mummy berry), Exobasidium maculosum (Exobasidium leaf and fruit spot) and, most recently, Cephaleuros virescens (the alga causing orange cane blotch on blueberry and blackberry).
His early research on mummy berry elucidated the epidemiology of the disease on southern blueberries, developed a mummy germination model to anticipate primary infection, and implemented improved fungicide schedules aligned with host and pathogen phenology. This work formed the basis for Scherm's recognition with the Lee M. Hutchins Award in 2003 and the Julius-Kühn Prize in 2004. Subsequent research on this pathosystem shifted to host-pathogen interactions during the flower infection process, where his lab developed and provided experimental support for the pollen mimicry hypothesis to explain successful ingress of M. vaccinii-corymbosi into the ovary of the flower via stigma and style. This led to a broader interest in the biology of flower-infecting fungi and culminated in the publication of an article in the Annual Review of Phytopathology in 2006.
During the first decade of the 21st century, Scherm devoted his attention toward understanding the ecology and providing management solutions for leaf spots and systemic diseases on blueberry, the latter including Xylella fastidiosa and Blueberry red ringspot virus. Around 2010, his interest shifted to E. maculosum, another pathogen with an unusual and cryptic life history. His lab documented the dimorphic nature of the pathogen in the field and provided evidence for epiphytic overwintering as a yeast stage, the monocyclic nature of the disease, and the primary role of basidiospores as dispersal rather than infectious propagules. Based on the pathogen's mode of overwintering, Scherm and his extension colleagues demonstrated that a single late-dormant fungicide application can nearly eliminate the disease, presumably by eradicating the overwintering epiphytic inoculum. This led to the rapid implementation of late-dormant sprays across most of the affected blueberry acreage in the Southeast, all but eliminating Exobasidium leaf and fruit spot as a major threat.
Scherm has always considered the training of the next generation of scientists as one of his most important responsibilities. He has served as major or co-major professor of 14 MS and 8 PhD students, and he has mentored six postdocs and five visiting scientists to date. Many of his former students won prestigious national-level awards (such as the APS Tarleton Fellowship, the Graduate Student Teaching Award from the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, or invitations to present at APS Melhus Graduate Student Symposia) and now occupy leadership positions in academia, industry, and Extension. Scherm served as his department's graduate coordinator between 2008 and 2014 and was presented with the UGA Graduate School's Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2016, a recognition given only every other year. Most recently, he took the lead in establishing UGA's interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in Agricultural Data Science, for which he currently serves as the coordinator. The purpose of this unique program is to produce graduates capable of bridging the gap between the generation, analysis, and interpretation of big data in the agri-food sciences.
Since 2010, much of Scherm's efforts have been devoted to administrative duties for his college and department. He served as the assistant dean for research in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences between 2010 and 2017, and as the head of the Department of Plant Pathology since July 2016. Under his leadership as department head, 11 new faculty members have been added and the number of graduate students has reached an all-time high of 53, as of fall semester 2019. The UGA Department of Plant Pathology is now recognized internationally for its comprehensive and integrative research and outreach portfolio, spanning basic, translational, and applied programs. Scherm continues to collaborate in the area of fruit crop pathology on disease problems such as downy mildew of grape and orange cane blotch of blackberry, which has resulted in his co-authorship of 10 journal articles in 2019 alone.
Scherm has tirelessly and enthusiastically provided service and leadership to the plant pathology community and to APS. He has been a career-long member of the APS Epidemiology Committee, which he chaired in 1997-98. In addition, he served on seven other APS-standing or ad-hoc committees and is currently a member of the APS Journals Task Force. He has been on 15 grant panels and has reviewed grant proposals for 17 different funding agencies and manuscripts for 92 different journals and publishers, ranging from Acta Horticulturae to World Mycotoxin Journal. He has served in editorial roles for five academic journals, including Plant Disease (associate editor) and Phytopathology (associate and senior editor). In January 2018, he accepted the position of editor-in-chief of APS flagship journal Phytopathology. His editorial board has overseen a record number of submissions (497 in 2018) and an all-time high of journal pages published per year (more than 2,000 pages by the end of 2019), all while significantly reducing time to first decision (now consistently less than 30 days), an important component of author satisfaction.
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