The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
GULF COAST RESEARCH & EDUCATION CENTER
IFAS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
5007 60TH STREET EAST
BRADENTON, FL 34203
Bradenton GCREC Research Report BRA1990-2 December 1990
HISTORY OE.PLANT PATHOLOGY AT THE
GULF COAST RESEARCH AND EDUCATION-CENTER 1925-1990
S central Science
John Paul eftpy
During the early winter of 1924, a taj1 f1 youn4 man applied for a
job with Dr. George F. Weber who was th Asly tant Professor of Plant
Pathology at the University! of FIorid at Gainesvillq. The applicant's
name was David Gustavus Adop us Kebe'e ofF&tUiti ng a mustard gas attack
in WWI and upon his return home--r-m-i^ov rher Mr. Kelbert's damaged
lungs were prey to every pneumonia, cold, or influenza bug to hit New
England. Consequently the medical community advised him to spend his last
few months, or perhaps a few years at the very best, in the milder climate
On New Year's day of 1925 Mr. Kelbert was appointed field assistant of
tomato nailhead rust investigations under the guidance of Dr. Weber who
himself had just joined the University faculty in 1922. That first year
saw Mr. Kelbert spending part of his time in Miami, part in Gainesville,
and part of his time was spent in establishing the Tomato Disease
Laboratory located on what is now known as Experiment Farm Road in
Palmetto. This research lab was to become the Vegetable Crops Laboratory,
which in turn evolved into the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
In 1927, Mr. Kelbert was transferred to the 20 acre Tomato Laboratory as
Field Assistant in Plant Pathology where he and Dr. Weber worked on the
diseases and pathogens involved in a tremendously damaging foliage disease
complex of tomato. They found that the complex included nailhead spot,
early blight, gray leafspot, and tobacco mosaic. Chemical control
measures were established for the fungal diseases and a breeding program
was started to develop tomato varieties resistant to nailhead spot and to
Fusarium wilt, which also was causing great losses of plants and yield.
Many tomato varieties came out of this project, one in particular was the
Marglobe variety which was resistant to nailhead spot and tolerant to
Fusarium wilt. This variety eventually was grown throughout Florida and
the eastern United States. In fact the variety was so successful that
nailhead spot was eradicated, one of the very few examples of disease
resistance resulting in the eradication of a disease or pathogen.
Although Mr. Kelbert lacked a college degree, he did not lack in
intelligence, ambition, motivation, and determination and under the
tutorage of Dr. Weber and Dr. S. J. P. Doolittle (USDA Plant Pathologist,
'Professor of Plant Pathology
who investigated the occurrence, sources, and spread of TMV of tomato at
the Tomato Lab in 1928), he developed into a very productive scientist.
Mr. Kelbert was promoted to Assistant Plant Pathologist in 1931 and
Associate Horticulturist in 1946. He retired as Associate Horticulturist
Emeritus in 1966.
Mr. Kelbert essentially worked alone at the Tomato Lab until 1939 when the
lab was relocated to a 106 acre site at the corner of 9th Street East and
13th Avenue East in Bradenton and Dr. J. R. Beckenbach was transferred to
the station and made Truck Horticulturist in Charge. The name of the
station then was changed to the Vegetable Crops Laboratory and Dr.
Beckenbach later became the Director of the Florida Agricultural
Experiment Station System.
In 1942 Dr. F. T. McLean was named Horticulturist to work on gladiolus
diseases and insects and to carry out gladiolus variety evaluations.
However, he left in 1944 after only two years and was replaced by Dr. Don
Dr. Art L. Harrison, from Cornell University, was appointed Associate
Plant Pathologist in 1942 to investigate vegetable diseases. He
immediately started the tomato breeding program by gathering germplasm
from around the world, including the Missouri Acc. 160 line with the I
gene for resistance to race 1 of the tomato wilt pathogen Fusarium
oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici. Dr. Harrison also carried out research on
seed treatments, transplant drenches, and foliage fungicides. He was an
astute observer and was the first to report the probable occurrence of
target spot of tomato. He also was the first to report the occurrence of
fruit pox of tomato fruit which he correctly indicated was a genetic
disease. Dr. Harrison resigned after four productive years to move to
Yoakum, Texas via Arizona.
Dr. D. B. Creager, an Ivy League graduate from Harvard, succeeded Dr.
McLean in 1944 and worked on gladiolus corm treatments, fertility, variety
evaluation, and factors affecting dormancy of corms. Dr. Creager, in
turn, was succeeded in 1945 by Dr. Robert 0. Magie, from the University
of Wisconsin, who labored at the Station until he retired as Plant
Pathologist Emeritus in 1977. During his tenure, Dr. Magie investigated
gladiolus diseases and developed improved gladiolus varieties. He
formulated very successful corm treatments and the "hot water" treatment
of gladiolus corms which still is used around the world. He identified
diseases of gladiolus including the Curvularia and Stromatinia diseases,
established fungicidal control measures, developed with Dr. S. S. Woltz
the field regime of high soil pH and nitrate-nitrogen for the control of
Fusarium wilt of gladiolus, and in general kept the gladiolus industry
viable and able to provide 65% of the U. S. production of this flower.
On a beautiful day in 1945 a very trim, very young, and very insecure
graduate of Tampa University came to the station with her mother to
interview for a lab technician position in the soils lab. This was Miss
Amegda Jack, later to become Mrs. A. J. Overman, who was at the beginning
of an extraordinary career which spanned over four decades of productive
and creative research. Although Mrs. Overman signed on as a lab
technician, after obtaining her M. Sc. degree from the University of
Florida, she rose through the ranks to become Nematologist in 1973. She
retired as Emeritus in 1989. During the years she authored 217
publications on the control of nematodes and other soil-borne pathogens
of vegetables and ornamentals. She and Mr. D. S. Burgis, from Cornell
University, published the first paper on the use of Trichoderma for the
ecological management of soil-borne pathogens and she and Dr. J. P. Jones
developed a low cost soil pH-fertilizer-contact nematicide system used
extensively in developing countries. In cooperation with Drs. C. M.
Geraldson and J. P. Jones, she was instrumental in the development of the
plastic mulch-fumigation-high analysis fertilizer system used in Florida
and throughout the world. Mrs. Overman did the early work on trickle
irrigation, the application of pesticides through micro-irrigation
systems, and, with Mr. D. S. Burgis, seedbed fumigation.
Dr. James Munday Walter, a student of Dr. Valleau at Kentucky and of Dr.
Stakeman at Minnesota, replaced Dr. Harrison in 1946 and had a long and
distinguished career at the GCREC thinking it was heaven to be out of the
cold northern winters and in the warmth of the semi-tropics with its
abundance of plant diseases. Dr. Walter, building on the germplasm
collection of Dr. Harrison, made the tomato breeding program into the
world's best and most productive breeding project of field-grown
fresh-market tomatoes. He released 12 varieties culminating in the 1544
breeding line, developed by Dr. Walter and Dr. Robert E. Stall, Plant
Pathologist at Fort Pierce, and released as the Walter variety after the
death of Dr. Walter in 1969. This was the first tomato variety with
resistance to Fusarium wilt incited by races 1 and 2 and for years was the
fresh market-variety grown throughout Florida and the world. The variety
now is in the pedigree of every fresh-market variety or breeding line
worldwide. Dr. Walter also developed with Drs. R. T. Conover (Plant
Pathologist at Homestead) and A. Lorz (Horticulturist at Gainesville) two
rust-resistant bean varieties. One, Florigreen, was also resistant to
common bean mosaic and to southern bean mosaic. Dr. Walter seemingly
never had a self doubt, a wonderful trait especially when dealing with
other plant pathologists who belong to one of the world's most dogmatic
and presumptuous professions. Early blight of tomato was his pet peeve.
He believed that early blight was a nonexistent disease, that the lesion
actually was incited by Phoma destructive and colonized by Alternaria
solani. Once a group of eminent pathologists from the University of
Wisconsin visited the GCREC. Dr. Walter, while showing them his breeding
lines, noticed some leaf lesions and asked the group what the disease was.
They of course responded, "early blight." There upon Dr. Walter informed
them that obviously their education was lacking and had they matriculated
from the University of Minnesota they would have known that the disease
was Phoma leafspot.
Although not a plant pathologist, Dr. C. M. Geraldson arrived at the GCREC
in 1951 fresh from the University of Wisconsin and from starring on
national TV in an acrobatic clown circus act. He continued to do a
backward flip every birthday up to and including his 50th whereupon upon
his wife put an end to such shenanigans. Within a few short years of his
arrival, Dr. Geraldson had determined the cause of blossom-end rot of
tomato and pepper and black heart of celery and had developed highly
effective control measures. Currently these diseases are practically
nonexistent because of Dr. Geraldson's research.
Dr. Howard Miller, from the University of California, spent the year 1948
at the Station on an interim appointment working on ornamental diseases
until his permanent position at Gainesville became available. Dr. Grover
Sowell, Jr., a Cornell graduate, spent three years at the Station working
on belly rot of cucumber (he determined that it was caused by Rhizoctonia
solani and not Pvthium sp. as some had thought), fungicidal control of
cucumber foliage diseases, and bacterial diseases of vegetables, such as
jelly butt-rot of lettuce. Dr. Sowell resigned in 1957 and his position
was filled in 1958 by Dr. John Paul Jones from The Ohio State University.
Dr. Curtis R. Jackson, a student of Dr. Weber's at the University of
Florida, joined the faculty as an Assistant Plant Pathologist in 1958 and
was charged with the investigation of ornamental diseases. In a very
short time he discovered and described a number of previously unreported
diseases, determined the incitants and environmental conditions favorable
for disease development, and figured out control measures. One of these
diseases was yellow-strap leaf of chrysanthemum which Dr. S. S. Woltz and
he, in a series of classical experiments, determined was caused by
antimetabolites produced by soil organisms that did not come into contact
with the plant roots. Dr. Jackson also in 1960 served as best man at the
wedding of Dr. J. P. Jones and his bride Miss Peggy Jean Baker. Dr.
Jackson moved to Tifton in 1961 and was replaced that year by Dr. E. L.
Hobbs, a graduate of the Iowa State University. Dr. Hobbs resigned in
1963 and moved to Weber State University. Later that year Dr. R. H.
Littrell, straight out of Clemson, assumed the duties of the ornamental
plant pathologist. He resigned in 1966 and followed Dr. Jackson to
Tifton. Dr. Hobbs and Dr. Littrell did not remain long at the Station,
nonetheless they were quite active and described several new diseases and
developed control measures. They also initiated research on the corm rot
phase of Fusarium wilt of gladiolus.
Dr. John Paul Jones was one who did remain at the GCREC where he devoted
his time to golf and the pursuit of happiness. Luckily, or perhaps
perversely, his idea of fun was to investigate diseases of vegetable
crops. He had the good fortune to work with many outstanding scientists,
such as Mrs. A. J. Overman and Dr. C. M. Geraldson with whom were
developed production systems that permitted the cultivation of old
agricultural land. Dr. Jones and Dr. S. S. Woltz, an outstanding Plant
Physiologist from Rutgers who came to the Station in 1953, delved into the
Fusarium wilt disease of tomato (and other vegetables) and attempted to
determine why high soil pH and nitrate-nitrogen alleviated the disease.
Dr. Jones also worked with Dr. J. M. Walter, Dr. J. P. Crill, Dr. J. J.
Augustine (all of whom at one time directed the tomato breeding program),
and currently with Dr. J. W. Scott in the development of techniques for
mass screening of breeding lines for resistance to various diseases and
the development of multiple disease resistant breeding lines and
The E. I. duPont company sent Dr. A. W. Engelhard, a graduate of the Iowa
State University, to head their research farm in Elwood Park in 1964.
After the resignation of Dr. Littrell in 1966, Dr. Engelhard moved across
the Braden River and became the ornamental plant pathologist at the GCREC.
He began and continues today a program aimed at the identification and
control of diseases of aster, carnation, chrysanthemum, poinsettia,
carnation, and many other ornamentals. He and Dr. S. S. Woltz developed
an integrated management system involving high soil pH, nitrate-nitrogen,
and chemotherapeutants which is used worldwide for the control of Fusarium
wilt of ornamentals.
Dr. E. L. Spencer, administrative head of the Gulf Coast Station, resigned
in 1968 and was succeeded in 1969 by Dr. James W. Strobel, a graduate of
Washington State University, who had been plant pathologist and tomato
breeder at the Subtropical Experiment Station. He ran the tomato breeding
program in the time between the death of Dr. Walter and the arrival of Dr.
J. Pat Crill. Dr. Strobel knew tomatoes and saw that the 1544 breeding
line developed by Drs. Walter and Stall was a winner and immediately
released it as the Walter variety.
Dr. J. Pat Crill, no matter how I scratch him, remains one of the most
unforgettable individuals ever to enter the Station gates. Unforgettable
from the standpoint of being extremely productive, extremely intelligent,
extremely self-confident, and extremely eclectic. Dr. Crill came on the
scene from the University of Wisconsin in 1969 where he had earned a Ph.
D. in plant pathology. In fewer than five years, Dr. Crill developed and
released four tomato varieties and one honeydew variety. He also was
instrumental in the development of seven other IFAS tomato varieties
released after his move to the Peto Seed Company in 1974. Dr. Crill was
an energetic researcher and prolific writer who published in his brief
tenure at the Station over 70 articles on genetic diseases, principles of
plant pathology and plant breeding, variation inherent in the fungi,
development of disease screening techniques, and the genetics of disease
Dr. Jeffrey B. Jones, who came out of the VPI and SU program, joined the
faculty in 1981 and is our Jeffy-come-lately working on bacterial-incited
diseases of ornamentals and vegetables. He has described several new
diseases of tomato and pepper, identified the bacteria involved,
determined weather conditions favorable for infection, and developed
control measures. His ecological, nutritional, and control studies on
bacterial spot of tomato and pepper have led to an understanding of the
survival, spread, and control of the diseases. Dr. Jones and Dr. J. W.
Scott were the first to locate strong hypersensitive-type resistance to
bacterial spot of tomato. They determined that the resistance was
governed by two to four genes and have developed advanced breeding lines.
Recently Dr. Jones has successfully developed monoclonal antibodies for
several bacteria in cooperation with scientists from Berkeley and the
Netherlands. He also worked with J. P. Jones on target spot and early
blight of tomato.
The very many contributions of the plant pathologists at the Dover and
Immokalee Stations have been ignored intentionally because of space
constraints. For similar reasons, many of the contributions of the
Bradenton scientists have not been recounted. Additionally some of their
creative research must have been unintentionally overlooked and for that
apologies are given.
FORMER AND CURRENT ACADEMIC FACULTY OF GCREC-BRADENTON
WORKING ON PLANT DISEASES
AREA OF SPECIALIZATION
Gen. Plant Pathology, Horticulture
Virus Diseases, USDA
Horticulture, Gladiolus Diseases
Veg. Plant Path., Tom. Breeding
Orn. Plant Path., Glad. Breeding
Nematology, Soil Borne Pathogens
Orn. Plant Path., Glad. Breeding
Veg. Plant Path., Tom. Breeding
Hort., Seed Bed Fumigation
Interim Orn. Plant Path.
Veg. Plant Pathology
Orn. Plant Pathology
Veg. Plant Pathology
Orn. Plant Pathology
Orn. Plant Pathology
Orn. Plant Pathology
Head, Tomato Breeding
Veg. Plant Path., Tomato Breeding
Veg. & Orn. Pathology, Bacteriology
A. L. Harrison
D. B. Creager
SA. J. Overman
R. 0. Magie
J. M. Walter
D. S. Burgis
H. N. Miller
C. M. Geraldson
S. S. Woltz
G. Sowell, Jr.
C. R. Jackson
J. P. Jones
E. L. Hobbs
R. H. Littrell
A. W. Engelhard
J. W. Strobel
J. P. Crill
J. B. Jones