University Libraries Logo University Archives of Virginia Tech

A History of Plant Pathology in Virginia: The Alwood Era (1888-1904)

When William B. Alwood was appointed Vice-Director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, the grape industry in Virginia had been virtually destroyed; apple scab, bitter rot and fire blight were exacting large tolls from fruit growers' pockets. Wingard (1951) wrote that fire blight had destroyed a promising pear orchard industry in the James River Valley. From colonial days, tobacco and corn had been major crops. History textbooks record how tobacco and flax soon wore out the land and farmers were constantly clearing new land for these crops. We can speculate that in addition to nutrient depletion, increases of soil-borne pathogens endemic to Virginia may have contributed to soils becoming "worn out." Fusarium wilts are sometimes seed-borne and may have been introduced; thus, they may also have contributed to "worn out" soils. Perhaps root knot was a factor. Crop rotation was probably an established but haphazardly practiced procedure. By the late 19th century, the major area of tobacco production was centered in Southside Virginia, i.e., the southern piedmont counties; the orchard industry was widely scattered, with apples mostly in the piedmont and mountains; and grains were produced mostly in the Valley of Virginia and southwestern counties although most farmers were obligated to produce feed grains to power their horse-drawn implements. No doubt potatoes, beans, and cole crops were the remaining staple crops. Cotton and peanuts were established in the southeastern counties. Alwood had received training at the Royal Pomology School in Germany and the Pasteur Institute in France; therefore, his initial interests were in fruit production and utilization. Prior to his appointment to the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, he had been the superintendant of the Ohio Experiment Station Farm for 4 years and a special agent for the U.S.D.A. In addition to being Station Vice-Director, he was designated Professor of Botany and Entomology from 1888 to 1891; in 1891, he was named Professor of Horticulture, Entomology, and Mycology and Head of the Department of Horticulture, Entomology, and Mycology with teaching assignments in the College added. As the Station staff was very small, administrative duties were light, red tape and empire building had not yet become the way of life for administrators, and the 40 hour week was far in the future, Alwood could devote most of his time to research, publication, and teaching. He set a pace not matched by many of his successors. But before a single publication was issued by the Experiment Station, criticisms appeared in the January 1889 Southern Planter (pp. 34-36) by a "Farmer" who was apparently peeved by the placing of the Station atop "the Alleghany watershed some 3000 feet high," (he over estimated by nearly 1000 feet) "the climate and the products of its vicinity have little in common with large areas of the State where the need of such aid to agriculture as it was intended to give is the greatest." He had prefaced this statement by: "What has become of our Experiment Station of which we had heard so much last winter, and from which many of us were led to expect valuable aid and information? The Station was last heard of by the farming public about 9th of May last (= 1888), at which time an announcement was issued, stating that the Station had been organized," and further indicating the kind of work that would be undertaken. "Since that announcement in May last, chinch bug and other insects have ravaged our wheat and corn fields, the fungoid diseases have rotted our apples and peaches on the trees and grapes on the vines, while mildew and rust attacked the foliage. The cry has gone up from section after section, How can we best contend with these destructive agencies? The United States Department of Agriculture has been doing a noble work, indicating the best lines on which a defense might be made,... But what was our Experiment Station doing, to which all such tests of possible remedies and preventatives properly belonged?"

"Farmer" was not merely a crank and an impatient one at that, he was aware of the book "Black Rot" (of grape) and indications by the author, F. L. Scribner, a U.S.D.A. plant pathologist, that apple rot as well as grape black rot might be controlled by similar treatments. (The bulletin by Lamson-Scribner was actually entitled, "Fungus Diseases of Grape and Other Plants and Their Treatment", published by J. T. Lovett Co., N. J. It is acclaimed as the first American phytopathological handbook). "Farmer" was also well acquainted with the structure and finances of the Experiment Station, "and by next March the Station will have been drawn and doubtless expended its first $15,000. Surely they have some good work to show for that large sum.... There are many who think that no good work can be expected of the Station as at present organized." It was later revealed in a letter of January 17, 1889 (Sou. Planter, Mar. 1889, pp. 129-131) to Prof. W. B. Preston, Director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, that "Farmer" was Col. H. M. Magruder, an agent of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors who with other citizens had sought to have the Experiment Station located near the University of Virginia. In a letter of January 22, 1889 (Ibid, pp. 131-134), Preston clarified some of Magruder's misconceptions of the Station and elaborated on Station plans. Both Magruder and Preston declared their dedication to the Station's purpose of solving agricultural problems. Additional correspondence on the matter appeared in the April 1889 Southern Planter. Thus, with a cloud of doubt hanging over the Station, Alwood published his first writings addressing agricultural problems in the August 1889 Southern Planter. This magazine was a respected regional publication serving Virginia, North Carolina, and the Delmarva Peninsula.

With Alwood's training in horticulture, especially pomology, it seemed logical that he direct immediate attention to the problems confronting fruit growers. He began by publishing popular articles in the Southern Planter magazine.

The first, in the August 1889 issue (pp. 125-126), was titled "Implements for Applying Insecticides and Fungicides, Etc." This was the first publication in Virginia related to Plant Pathology. In it Alwood described and illustrated various handpowered, double acting pumps of mostly European origin available for spraying crops. Liquid was ejected during both upward and downward strokes. Alwood lamented the lack of manufacturers of good spray equipment in this country.

Alwood's second publication was entitled "Strawberry Culture;" no diseases were mentioned (Sou. Planter, Sept. 1889, pp. 169-170). He also reviewed bulletins published by the Minnesota Experiment Station and by the U.S.D.A. In the latter, B. T. Galloway, translating from Sorauer, explained potato scab as due to the liberation of ammonia (from manure), which in the free state, attacked the cork cells and caused the corky formations to penetrate deeper into the tubers. (We know now that manure favors the activity of Streptomyces scabies).

In the September issue, Alwood also had a column entitled "Potato Rot" (pp. 171-172) in which he describes late blight, including foliage blight, tuber rot, and sources of inoculum much as they are perceived today. For control, he recommended planting disease-free tubers in soil free of potato debris, sorting harvested tubers twice to remove infected ones, and with reservations, the application of copper sulphate preparations such as used for grapes (without specifically mentioning Bordeaux mixture). He doubted that the heavy tangled vines could have been penetrated sufficiently to accomplish any control. This was Alwood's first original composition on plant diseases of Virginia crops and the first mention of Phytophthora infestans in a Virginia publication.

There followed a review of and comments on a preliminary report (of 212 pp.) by Erwin F. Smith on peach yellows which at the time was well established in Virginia. Smith's report dwelt on eliminating possible causes. Alwood suggested several remedial procedures some of which would not have influenced prevalence and spread of yellows. He did advise destruction of infected trees as soon as symptoms appeared and avoidance of propagation from symptomatic trees. These are current practices.

In the October issue (pp. 223-225), Alwood described cedar-apple rust on both hosts and the dissemination of sporidia and aeciospores. The destruction of cedar trees in the vicinity of apple orchards was advocated. This was Alwood's first original paper on a specific disease of apples with the date line September 7, 1889. The fact that he advocated destruction of cedar trees predates L. R. Jones of Vermont who in 1893 recommended cedar eradication for a zone 1 mile wide around apple orchards. Jones' recommendation came after experimentation; Alwood surmized cedar eradication would reduce apple rust after a review of the literature. Later, Virginia would enact a law implementing cedar eradication to protect apple orchards.

In a brief note (Sou. Planter, Oct. 1889, p. 225), Alwood reported on his visits to Virginia peach orchards where he found yellows in abundance. "Thousands of trees were being cut down and the growers are at a loss what to do." He suggested growers attempt to carry a special law through the Legislature in the winter of 1890, "which shall provide for competent inspection and destruction of diseased trees." It was urgent to petition the 1890 General Assembly because a delay would result in two additional years of losses as the Legislature met only biennially.

In October, 1889, Alwood published his first Experiment Station bulletin (no. 2) entitled "I. Experiment Orchard. II. Small Fruits." The only references to plant diseases were on p. 3:

"As far as can be determined at present, there has been no loss to speak of, except in the case of peaches, and this was due principally to yellows, the stock being already infected with this disease when received."

and on p. 5:
"In selecting varieties of orchard fruits, the aim has been to choose a large number of standard old sorts ... Fortunately it is not necessary in Virginia to pay particular attention to "iron clads;" and yet these may prove to have some valuable characteristics as resistants of fungus diseases, etc. Hence they will be grown to some extent."

Thus, Alwood displayed a continuing interest in plant diseases and mentioned for the first time the concept of controlling diseases by means of disease resistance. An abstract of Bulletin No. 2 appeared in the Southern Planter, November 1889, pp. 267-269.

There also appeared in the November 1889 Southern Planter (pp. 269-270) an article by Alwood entitled, "Restrictive Legislation Against the Peach Yellows," in which for the second time the General Assembly was urged to enact a law in behalf of Virginia fruit growers. Some of Alwood's statements follow:

"This disease of peach is almost as old as peach-culture on this continent, and undoubtedly has been a curse to the peach-grower for a hundred years or more."

"Virtually, the whole eastern portion of the continent, wherever peaches have been grown on a large scale, is infected (we would say "infested"). That the disease is communicable is definitely settled, and does not require further argument. The best pomologists for the past fifty years have recognized this fact" and, "the best pomologists, beginning sixty years ago (= 1839) with William Prince, ..., have all advocated the prompt destruction of infected trees as the only means of staying the disease."

(Note: According to F. D. Heald, A Manual of Plant Diseases, 2nd ed., 1933, p. 266, peach yellows was first noted near Philadelphia in 1791. It occurs only in North America. The contagious character of the disease was recognized by Judge Peters in 1806, who wrote "I find that sickly trees often infect those in vigor near them by some morbid effluvia.")

Alwood continued "This disease, then, being clearly of an infectious nature, restrictive legislation is in order, and the state has the same right to deal with it as with any infectious malady of live stock." And further, "With the popular mind it seems impossible to make it clear that in strict inspection and prompt eradication lies the only hope of a successful future for the peach industry. The fact that restrictive legislation is the only hope can be especially instanced in various sections of the country where this disease has utterly devastated the orchards, yet, under rigid inspection and eradication, the disease has not only been checked, but a new impetus given to planting."

From his visits to orchards, Alwood concluded that the disease had a firm foothold in Virginia and that "This disease is a dark cloud on the future of peach-growing in our State," and, "this is a most serious misfortune, coming just at this juncture, when the canning industry is being so rapidly extended" in our State. Although growers favored the legislation which would provide for rigid inspection and forcible destruction of infected trees, many who feared their private interests would suffer, opposed any such legislation. Alwood did not identify the opposition. Thus, in 1889, Alwood lobbied for the 1890 General Assembly to take action. Michigan in 1875, and Ontario in 1881, and New York in 1887 had enacted such legislation.

In the Southern Planter, February 1890 (pp. 60-61), an item stated that the legislation was advancing through committees and it appeared that Virginia's first law directed at regulating a plant disease would be passed. The item ended with, "We trust that our friends will urge upon their representatives the support of the bill. The disease is not yet widely spread through the State, but a year or two's neglect will be attended by irreparable damage. `Shut the stable-door before the horse is stolen'."

After a meeting of the Virginia Fruit and Vegetable Packers Association, Roanoke, Virginia, April 2, 1890, Alwood commented on the futility of the meeting (Sou. Planter, June 1890, p. 275) and stated that he had "prepared a bill last winter which was passed by the legislature, in such amended form as to make its execution difficult, yet it contains good features, and could be executed if there was proper effort on the part of a strong State Horticultural Society." It appeared to him that as far as yellows control was concerned, his efforts went for naught even though a bill was passed. Although obviously disappointed, he moved ahead with other projects.

During the peach yellows legislative lobbying effort, Alwood and Walker Bowman, Station Chemist, published Experiment Station Bulletin No. 4, A Study of Tomatoes, January 1890. It consisted of two parts, field tests and chemical composition studies conducted in 1889. The only disease mentioned was "the rot" which, presumably, was anthracnose. It also has been called "ripe-rot." The authors wrote, "The belief appears to be well founded that fresh stable manures tend to induce the fungus disease known as the rot, hence, chemical manures are to be preferred for this crop. Sufficient critical attention has not been given to this question, yet there appears to be some truth in the foregoing statement." As to quality of tomato fruits for the fresh market and canning industry the authors stated that in addition to having several horticultural traits, the fruits must be free of fungous diseases. "Care was taken to make the same notes on the rotten fruit at each period (of harvest)...The rot attacked the fruits considerably during the early period of ripening, but as the season became less rainy it almost entirely ceased...Red Currant, Red Cherry and Pear shaped are very slightly, if at all, attacked by this disease." For the late-planted varieties, there was a comparison with early planted ones. "The quantity of diseased fruits on the two patches was comparatively about the same. Neither of the patches suffered from the rot as much as it had been anticipated they would, notwithstanding the wet season and heavy clay soil." Thus, a subtle awareness of environmental and predisposing factors was expressed.

In Bulletin No. 6, Variety Tests with Potatoes, March 1890, Alwood and co-author R. H. Price, Assistant in Horticulture, gave yields and tuber characteristics of about 125 Irish potato varieties and they recorded the number of rotten tubers at the time of digging. They also gave a detailed account of "the blight or rot" of potato, similar to that appearing in the Southern Planter, September 1889, pp. 171-172. A little more technical information about Phytophthora infestans was provided. They also added that P. infestans infected tissue provided an avenue for "one of the germs of decay, a still lower form of plant life, and the rot is thus produced. The affected tuber before decay supervenes shows the presence of disease by discoloration of the tissue," no doubt an allusion to soft rotting bacteria. This section on blight seemed to be an added afterthought to Bulletin No. 6.

An article by Alwood entitled "Apple Scab and Black Rot of Grapes in Albemarle" appeared in the Southern Planter, June 1890, pp. 275-276. He wrote, "Experiments made the past year at different points indicate that there is a possibility of checking to some extent this dread disease, apple scab, and we are glad to announce that this department has experiments underway which may be of value to the growers in the near future." He described the preparation and use of Bordeaux mixture and a modified form in which sodium carbonate was substituted for unslaked or burnt lime (NaCO3 for CaO). The latter was known as Burgundy mixture and had also been invented in France soon after Bordeaux mixture was described (Walker, J. C., Plant Pathology, 3rd ed., McGraw-Hill, 1969). He also described how growers were applying sprays for grape mildew and black rot and plugged the use of the Japy knapsack sprayer which he had imported beginning in 1888. The Japy sprayer was described and illustrated by Alwood in his first publication (Sou. Planter, Aug. 1889, pp. 125-126). From these activities, Alwood is given credit for introducing European spray technology to Virginia fruit growers.

In Bulletin No. 7, July 1890, Variety Tests with Strawberries (also published in Sou. Planter, Aug.-Dec. 1890) Alwood only mentions that "There was but little appearance of `leaf blight' or `spot' and the general conditions were favorable to strong growth." No doubt Alwood was referring to the disease caused by Mycosphaerella fragariae; this leaf spot was well known in America before 1880 (Anderson, H. W., Diseases of Fruit Crops, McGraw-Hill, 1956).

In the October 1890 Southern Planter (pp. 462-463), Alwood described the use of Bordeaux (4-5-50) and Burgundy mixtures (also 4-5-50) in an article entitled "Treatment of Black Rot of Grapes." His principal contribution was the reduction in the amount of copper and calcium compounds and thereby reduction in cost of preparation. The more dilute products were easier to apply and just as effective. He also touted Burgundy mixture by saying he had used it a year before F. D. Chester of the Delaware Station published on it in March 1889. "I consider this an important fungicidal preparation and claim priority in its use as here stated." It is not clear whether Alwood is claiming he developed Burgundy mixture (actually invented in France), adapted it to grapes, or what. He made no reference to Mason, but did acknowledge reading the writings of Millardet and his chemist associate Gayon. In this respect, Alwood's contribution is a bit muddied.

There appeared in the Southern Planter, November 1890 (p. 525), an item proclaiming that Va. A. & M. had opened with 135 students enrolled and that "A special course of lectures on Economic Entomology and Mycology has also been provided for. This will be taught by Prof. Alwood, of the Experiment Station, and it is intended in these lectures to give the students an understanding of the parasitic insects and fungi which prey upon cultivated plants with proper methods of treating the same." Descriptions of the courses first appeared in the 1891-92 college catalogue.

Finally, in the December 1890 Southern Planter (pp. 573-4), it was announced that Col. H. M. Magruder, a long-time critic of the Experiment Station, its organization, failure to meet the needs of farmers, its extravagance, etc., was appointed "Superintendent of the Farm Department and Out-Door Experiment Work at this Station." Magruder had written criticism of the Station to W. B. Preston, first Station Director under the pen name "Farmer." The appointment of "Farmer" to the Experiment Station staff as a competent agriculturist may have been quite proper; on the other hand, it may have been a sneaky way to squelch his criticism. "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em!"

"It appears to be the intention of the Board (of Control) that Col. Magruder shall travel over the State for the purpose of meeting and consulting with farmers, addressing public meetings, and making a special study of the conditions and needs of agriculture in the several sections of the State... the Farm Department shall bear such a relation to the teaching of agriculture as the shops do to the teaching of mechanics, and that such special work as co-operative dairying, fruit-canning, etc., shall be illustrated by practical working plants. These are certainly strides in the right direction. The farmers of Virginia desire that agriculture shall be taught by modern illustrative methods, in field and laboratory, rather than by day class lectures and textbook recitations." This was how the Editor of the Southern Planter described the situation, 24 years before the Smith-Lever Act of the U.S. Congress stimulated the introduction and development of the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Services. Virginia, however, was to have only a brief fulfillment of its classrooms in the fields from Magruder. On June 1, 1891, about 6 months after his appointment to the Station, Magruder died of a heart attack (Alwood paid tribute to him, Sou. Planter 1891, pp. 376-7). The concept of Extension had been hatched. How did it develop after Magruder, and was Plant Pathology to be a part of it?

In January 1891 (Sou. Planter, pp. 14-15), Alwood announced he was about to make another importation of Japy Spray-pumps from France. He invited subscriptions and pointed out the cost would be about $15 per pump to be submitted with each subscription, "as I charge no commission, and cannot run the risk of loss. The Government compels us to pay 45 per cent duty on these pumps, or they would be imported for much less; but, as it is, they are considerably cheaper than inferior American makes can be bought for."

In 1891, Alwood published Experiment Station Bulletins nos. 8, Potato Tests; 9, Tomatoes; and 11, Vegetables, but did not address plant diseases therein. In the March 1891 Southern Planter (pp. 128-131), Alwood advised fruit-growers to experiment with 8 "washes" to find the best for each circumstance. He described how to lay out the test plots and what records to keep. The washes for vineyards were sulphate of iron, lye, 2 Bordeaux formulations, 2 Burgundy formulations, and 2 formulations of copper carbonate in ammonia. "It is hoped that this series of experiments will help determine the value of washes on the dormant vines, and the after-treatment is calculated to give information as to the strength and frequency of applications necessary with three of the most important fungicides used on grapes."

For apples, 5 treatments were proposed; namely, lye, Bordeaux (4-5-50) and Burgundy (4-5-50) mixtures, copper carbonate and ammonia, and potassium sulphide. The experiment was designed to give the grower information on the control of scab, black leaf spot (Phyllosticta) and rust. In 1890, under Alwood's direction, Mr. William Mann of Albemarle County conducted experiments using the above named products on a schedule of applications beginning March 25 and ending June 2. Sprays were applied during dormancy, at blossom fall, 10 days after blossom fall, and another 2 weeks later. Although experimental, this was the first published spray schedule. The results pointed to Burgundy mixture as being the best formula to check scab. The effects on leaf spot and rust were not noted.

In May 1891 (Sou. Planter, p. 249), Alwood made additional comments regarding the March issue article under the title "Notes on Treatment of Grapes." He urged growers to experiment with the various spray materials, to apply dormant washes, to destroy old fruit by burning or burying, and to pay attention to disease development so that the recommended 10-14 day intervals between sprays may be modified as the favorability of conditions varied. "If he finds the disease making headway at any time, treatment should be repeated regardless of when previous treatment was made." He pointed out that variations in temperature and moisture were the main factors which could speed or slow disease development.

The September 1891 Southern Planter (p. 498) reported that Prof. Wm. B. Alwood "has been elected Professor of Horticulture, Entomology, and Mycology, and will carry into the college work the ability he has shown in the Station." He was listed as Botanist and Horticulturist in Experiment Station Bulletins 1-10. In Bulletin no. 11, October 1891, E. A. Smyth, Jr., is listed as Botanist for the first time. According to the Southern Planter, Smyth was also chairman of the Department of Biology. With this arrangement, the groundwork was in place for the squabbles over where applied and basic botany courses should be taught. These changes along with others cited in the Southern Planter were initiated by President John M. McBryde and all were heartily applauded by the editor. (Note: In succeeding bulletins, Smyth was listed as Biologist).

In the October 1891 Southern Planter (pp. 548-550), an article "Plant Diseases and Their Treatment," by Dr. B. T. Galloway of the U.S.D.A. based on a speech read at the "Charlottesville Intitute" was initiated in the first of 2 installments. Galloway began by emphasizing the economic importance and destructiveness of plant diseases and by attributing most of them to fungi. He described a disease cycle using grape black rot as an example and pointed out that his agency had been conducting black rot control experiments in Albemarle county for the past 2 years. Like Alwood, he lamented the fact that no high quality, American-made sprayers were available so the U.S.D.A. had a knapsack type designed, developed and tested. Plans for its construction were distributed in a Department publication. The development of engine powered sprayers was also underway. Thereupon he described spray materials similar to those publicized by Alwood. In part 2 (Sou. Planter Nov. 1891, pp. 615-616), Galloway outlined a spray schedule of 4 applications in which the various copper sprays were used at different stages of vine growth, thus, to minimize spray injury. After a question and answer period, Galloway described grape anthrax (= anthracnose) and downy mildew control measures.

Galloway described "Potato Rot" which "it is now being held that this disease is due to a fungus, which is scientifically termed phitiptera, but the evidence is somewhat defective in that there are other diseases equally destructive which are not due to this parasite at all." (Note: Certainly Galloway knew the fungus to be Phytophthora; therefore, his speech must have been recorded by a reporter unfamiliar with fungi. This is apparent from the concluding paragraph) "Dr. Galloway then spoke at some length on the disease known as `Peach Yellows' stating that it was very prevalent in portions of Virginia, and that the only sure remedy was to dig up the trees, root and all, and burn them. We must put Bordeaux mixture on the foliage before the fungus has a chance to infest the leaves." (The terms infect and infest were used interchangeably by Alwood and Galloway. In addition, Bordeaux mixture would not prevent or reduce the incidence of peach yellows.) On leaf blight and scab of pear (Fabraea maculata and Venturia pyrina) he recommended Bordeaux Mixture exclusively but for apple scab, he recommended the ammoniacal solution, the first application to be made when apples attained the size of buckshot. The cost per tree was "sixteen to seventeen cents."

An inquiry addressed to Alwood from the Secretary of the Fruit Commission of California concerning the prevalence of peach yellows and its transmissibility through propagation stock caused Alwood to suspect that California was preparing to establish "a quarantine against all infected States." Alwood considered this to be a just action by California to protect its peach industry; he recognized that it would work a hardship on Virginia nurserymen. Although yellows had never been observed in Virginia peach nurseries, Virginia peach orchardists had not acted promptly upon finding yellowed trees. "They are waiting until they experience personally the disasters of Delaware, Maryland, and other peach growers before they are willing to act" (Sou. Planter October 1891, p. 552). To Alwood's statements the Editor added the following:

"The reply of Prof. Alwood to the enquiry as to peach yellows, and the possible result of this State being quarantined much to the loss of our nurserymen, points to the necessity for the coming Legislature dealing with this question of peach yellows prevention in an effective manner. The last Legislature passed a bill dealing with the question, but in so imperfect a form as to be practically useless. We invite the attention of members of the Legislature and State Board of Agriculture to the question." (p. 553).

Alwood also reported that the French Ministry in Washington had inquired of the Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture as to which grape diseases "are especially injurious in Virginia, and what remedial measures are being used, and the success which attends them. To this query it was a pleasure to reply, that black rot our only really serious disease is now treated with a high degree of success." He mentioned that other diseases of grape were controlled by black rot remedies and that Dr. Galloway "has in his work the past summer, arrived at nearly identical conclusions with my own in regard to weak preparations," of copper sulphate solutions (pp. 552-3).

Alwood also called attention to an outbreak of a new foliage spot, which as described was probably Physalospora or frogeye leaf spot. Upon further investigation he promised to publish more about it (p. 553).

In the Annual Report of the Experiment Station, 1890-1891, Alwood summarized his plant disease experiments:

"The work has been confined mostly to treatment of grapes and apples for the diseases now so seriously affecting them in this State and I am glad to report that the work has been quite successful. It can be confidently stated that the question of controlling the black rot (Laestadia bidwellii), and the mildew (Peronospora), of grape is now settled, and the statements which I have published during the past two years concerning the efficacy of the weaker preparations of Bordeaux mixture are fully substantiated....During the year the work on the apple scab (Fusicladium dendriticum) and the brown spot of the apple leaf (Phyllosticta pirina) has been more successful that I had anticipated, and practically settles the question of the control of these two diseases." Today, even with more fastidious fungicides and equipment, we are hesitant to speak with such confidence.

Alwood published Experiment Station Bulletin No. 15, April 1892, Treatment of Diseases of the Grape, in which he addressed primarily the control of black rot (Laestadia bidwellii, now Guignardia bidwellii) but implied that the procedures were also efficacious for anthracnose (Sphaceloma ampelinum), brown rot (Peronospora viticola, now Plasmopara viticola), and powdery mildew (Uncinula spiralis, now U. necator). In the prefatory note, Alwood wrote, "In this Bulletin it is intended to present a condensed statement of the more important practical results of the work on the Grape, and, avoiding technical details, to make the discussion sufficiently complete and historical, in order that those of our constituents who are unfamiliar with the general literature of the subject may understand the same." (p. 32). Awareness of the work of French investigators and of Scribner and Galloway of the U.S.D.A. is expressed and for the first time in a Virginia Experiment Station bulletin, the publications of others were cited. Emphasis was given to the preparation and application of three formulas of Bordeaux mixture and of soda-copper and ammoniacal copper carbonate sprays and the costs were compared. Also for the first time tables were published in which the percent of rotted fruit from sprayed and unsprayed vines was compared. The expense of the preparations (but not the treatment cost per unit of vines) was compared and the concern about spray residue was considered. As seen in the following quotation, the attitude of consumers toward pesticides seems to have originated with the initial use of pesticides.

"The question of the residue left upon the fruit when mature and the character of this residue, is of much importance. On the part of consumers there is an ever-present fear concerning such matters; and their lack of correct information tends to make them peculiarly liable to a panic when unintentional, or otherwise, a scare concerning so-called poisoned fruit is started. Hence growers will serve their own interests by exerting every effort to so treat the vineyards as to leave no dangerous compounds upon the fruit and by improving every opportunity to remove false impressions as to the harmfulness of any slight residue which may be left upon the treated fruit." (p. 41).

In the Conclusions (p. 43), several principles of plant pathology were stated:

  1. Plant diseases are prevented, not cured.
  2. Practice crop sanitation; destroy crop residues and decayed fruits.
  3. Apply dormant sprays.
  4. Early spraying of growing vines obviates the need for late sprays.
  5. Thorough coverage is necessary.
  6. A spray schedule of four treatments based on the condition of the vines is described.
  7. Bordeaux mixture 4-5-50 (CuSO4-lime-water), the so-called weak preparation, is recommended based on experiments conducted for three years.
  8. The results are compared with those of others and are found to agree.
  9. Pesticide residues must be avoided.

In June 1892, Alwood published Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin no. 17, Four Diseases of the Apple and Treatment of Same. The four diseases and their causal fungi were rust (Gymnosporangium macropus, now G. juniperi-virginianeae), scab (Fusicladium dendriticum, now Venturia inaequalis), bitter rot (Gloeosporium fructigenum, now Glomerella cingulata), and brown leaf spot (Phyllosticta pirina); no doubt Alwood had found the leafspotting form of Botryosphaeria obtusa which in the imperfect stage is Sphaeropsis malorum. (P. pirina is now Phoma pomorum and could have been found by Alwood but it was not the cause of brown spot or frog-eye leaf spot as we now know it). Each disease was carefully described and remedial measures were given. For rust, the destruction of cedar trees near orchards was emphasized; for scab, bitter rot, and leaf spot, destruction of fallen leaves and fruits was emphasized; and for all four diseases, a spray schedule was prescribed based on the stages of growth of the trees. As in the grape disease bulletin, copper sprays were stipulated after a dormant lye wash. No literature was cited; no experimental data were presented. However, some principles were expounded in the bulletin:

  1. Destruction of alternate hosts of heteroecious rusts; here, destruction of cedar, the telial host of cedar-apple rust.
  2. Destruction of overwintering stages of fungi; here, destruction of old leaves and decaying fruit for control of apple scab, bitter rot, and brown leaf spot.
  3. The timing of topical treatments in advance of expected outbreaks of disease.
  4. The timing of sprays to prevent secondary spread of fungus diseases. In support of this principle, Alwood prepared a spray calendar.
  5. Roguing of infected fruit before packing for storage.
  6. Phytotoxicity may be expressed by leaf scorch or fruit russet.

Alwood described methods of treating, and equipment for applying treatments. Although the information presented was not supported by data, his summarizing statements provided a clue as to the efficacy of the treatments. "The experimental work, from which the data for the foregoing discussion is derived, has been in progress here and elsewhere in the State, under our direction, for several years... That a very large percentage of the loss can be saved is fully settled. Our results warrant us in claiming that fifty to seventy-five percent of a crop has been saved by using these treatments." Bulletin nos. 15 and 17 were summarized in the Southern Planter February 1892, pp. 82-84. In the October issue (pp. 558-559), Alwood responded to criticism that lime is an unnecessary ingredient in sprays for grape black rot control. He demonstrated an awareness of varying physiologic constraints imposed by different weather conditions from year to year. He also pointed out that since chemical remedies also irritate or impair various host tissues, one should use the minimum amount that will secure immunity and he emphasized the importance of protecting the vulnerable foliage during periods favoring disease development. Since the frequency and intensity of rainfall would affect the number of spray applications, "be ye always ready."

(Note: During my preparation of this phase of plant pathology history, I discovered the following statement at the beginning of the December 1893 issue (p. 667) of The Southern Planter: "The Southern Planter is the official journal of the Virginia State Board of Agriculture and of the Virginia State Experiment Station." This statement was reprinted in subsequent issues through 1893. I could find nothing in Experiment Station records to support that statement. However, The Southern Planter each month carried articles prepared by various Experiment Station researchers).

In Experiment Station Bulletin no. 22, November 1892, entitled Bush Fruits, Alwood mentioned powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca mors-uvae) as a serious disease of some gooseberry varieties. He recommended bisulphide of potassium and weak Bordeaux mixture as alternative treatments. Currants should also be treated with Bordeaux mixture to control a foliage disease not named. The bulletin was reprinted in the January 1893 Southern Planter (pp. 20-22). No specific diseases of bramble fruits were mentioned although it was stated that red raspberries were very subject to disease in the summer.

Alwood published Experiment Station Bulletin no. 24, Injurious Insects and Diseases of Plants With Remedial Measures for the Same, dated January 1893. He recapitulated bulletins 15 and 17 on diseases of grape and apple and described diseases of cherry (brown rot, Monilia fructigena; brown leaf spot, Phyllosticta pyrini); plum (brown rot; black knot, Plowrightia morbosa; shot-hole, Septoria cerasina); peach (leaf curl, Taphrina deformans; brown rot; and shot hole as in cherry); pear (fire blight; a bacterial disease; leaf blight or fruit cracking, Entomosporium maculatum; scab was mentioned). Except for fire-blight, lye washes applied to dormant trees and vines and Bordeaux mixture, ammonia copper carbonate, and soda-carbonate applied to blossoms, fruit and foliage were recommended for all fungus diseases. No remedy for fire-blight was known but pruning of diseased parts was strongly advised. He described and devoted considerable discussion to control of peach yellows and lamented that the General Assembly had passed an ineffective law providing for inspection of nurseries and orchards, detection, and destruction of yellows infected trees. The bulletin concludes with a section on preparation and timing of sprays, and machinery for applying them.

In Bulletin no. 40, May 1894, Ripe Rot, or Bitter Rot of Apples, Alwood for the first time published illustrations of a disease and its causal fungus. He also for only the second time cited the publications of others, and he provided a bibliography of all known papers (= 32) on bitter rot. This bulletin included technical discussions on the nomenclature and synonymy of Gloeosporium fructiginum, the common name of the disease, symptoms, microscopic characters of the pustule, characters of the spore, spore germination, characters of the mycelium, and economic importance in the United States and Territories. Although a brief description of control measures was included, reference was made to prior bulletins for details. Alwood acknowledged information supplied informally by B. T. Galloway, Chief of the Division of Vegetable Pathology, U.S.D.A.; A. B. Seymour; J. B. Wllis; and his student assistant J. F. Strauss, who prepared the excellent drawings. This was the first truly scientific and scholarly publication on a single disease issued from the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. An abstract in lay-language was published without literature citations but with the drawings in the July 1893 Southern Planter (pp. 414-416), nearly a year prior to the date of issue of the bulletin.

B. T. Galloway, published an article, Two Destructive Irish Potato Diseases - How to Prevent Them, in the June 1894 Southern Planter (p. 307). He described late blight and the Macrosporium potato disease (= early blight). He pointed out that a daily mean temperature of 72-74░F accompanied by moist weather favored an outbreak of late blight and that a temperature mean above 77░F would check the disease. He also stated that early blight was often mistaken for late blight and he described how to distinguish them. He described the important preventative principles for controlling the diseases, and emphasized the use of Bordeaux mixture. The annual cost should not exceed $6.00 per acre. Since the cost was low, he emphasized spraying, disease or no disease. "It is a fact well established by experiments, that even if no diseases whatever appear, spraying with the Bordeaux mixture will increase the yield to such an extent as to make the work profitable."

In the December 1894 issue (Sou. Planter 55:613-614), Liberty Hyde Bailey described peach yellows in excellent detail and emphasized that the cause of it had not yet been determined. He advised immediate, total destruction of affected trees. Even pits from affected trees "may be expected to propagate the disease."

Alwood seems to have taken leave from publishing about plant diseases in the 1895 Southern Planter. Notes from different sources appeared in the magazine concerning various plant diseases including strawberry leaf blight (= leaf spot) by L. H. Bailey (March 1895, p. 120); a spray calendar for fruits and vegetables from the New York, Cornell, Experiment Station (April 1895, pp. 174-176); diseases affecting apple, cherry, and other fruit trees (brown rot and fire blight) described in correspondence involving the Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, Thomas Whitehead, and the Acting Chief of the Division of Vegetable Pathology, U.S.D.A., Albert F. Woods (June 1895, pp. 277-278); diseases of cabbage and turnip; namely, club root with the use of lime for its control; this was an abstract of a New York (Cornell) bulletin (June 1895, pp. 278-279); finger and toe disease of cabbages, another name for club root, wherein control of cruciferous weeds, 2-year rotation and the use of lime and potash was prescribed (an abstract of an article by G. Massee of Kew Gardens, August 1895, p. 376); peach rot briefly described by B. T. Galloway expressing disappointment of ineffectiveness of control measures (August 1895, p. 376); correspondence and rebuttal to an article on the true nature of pear blight (November 1895, pp. 522-524); and, finally, W. F. Massey of the North Carolina Experiment Station and frequent author of botanical and agricultural articles in the Southern Planter, commented on and clarified statements about the November items on pear blight (December 1895, pp. 568-569). Alwood did not contribute any notes on plant pathology to the 1895 Southern Planter but he prepared six Experiment Station bulletins, two of which addressed plant diseases.

Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin no. 49, Pear Culture, was published by Alwood in February 1895. He described pear growing at Blacksburg from 1889 through early 1895, and declared that the "orchard has been singularly free from injury by diseases or insect attack." He attributed this to having practiced rigorous sanitary measures and applying several washes combining fungicides and insecticides. Fire blight was of minor importance and the leaf blight and fruit cracking caused by Entomosporium maculatum was held in check by the washes. In the summary, he emphasized that washes must be applied in off-crop as well as good crop years if trees are to be kept healthy and that promptness of remedial action is essential.

In Bulletin no. 59, December 1895, entitled Experiment Garden Notes - Part I, tomato production in the field and under glass was discussed. Alwood mentioned that only a few fruits were lost under glass from the black rot, Macrosporium solani (Note: This fungus often is a secondary invader of fruits having blossom-end rot but sometimes causes a stem-end rot. Alwood's black rot is uncommon in greenhouses). Spring celery production was hampered by Cercospora apii causing leaf blight, but in the fall crop, leaf blight was held in check by the liberal use of Bordeaux mixture.

Heretofore, the emphasis has been on Alwood's Experiment Station work, but since 1891, he had also been teaching courses in Horticulture, Entomology and Mycology. Two courses in Mycology were listed in the College Catalogues for the 1891-2 through the 1898-9 sessions. Mycology was a systematic study of fungi, two lecture hours per week. Laboratory Mycology was described as a "study of fungi as pathogenic organisms causing diseases of cultivated plants," two three-hour periods per week. Even though the catalogue was very slim, the texts and reference works for each course were listed. For the mycology courses, the list was as follows:

Such a list would scare a modern V.P.I. & S.U. student to death, even at the graduate level. The catalogue also stated, "In addition ... the Department has facilities for giving advanced courses in ... Vegetable Pathology," and "The Department has ... a collection of specimens of diseased plants embracing one thousand species of parasitic fungi," much more than we have now. How was this collection assembled so soon after the inception of mycology course work? It would be interesting to see a list of the specimens for up through 1895, fewer than 25 plant diseases had been mentioned in publications emanating from the Experiment Station, all of which were associated with horticultural crops.

Through 1895, Alwood had been a one-man department, teaching in three disciplines, with the acknowledged assistance in pathology work of only J. F. Strauss, who illustrated the bitter rot of apple bulletin. As Vice-Director he was trying to develop an experiment station with all its attendant problems of finance, staff, buildings, orchards, vineyards, gardens, machinery, implements, philosophies, and rapport with the public and politicians. In 1896, W. M. Scott, and in 1898, Harvey L. Price, for whom the venerable Price Hall is named, assisted with teaching horticulture and mycology courses.

In June 1896, the Experiment Station Bulletin no. 65, Notes on the Cherry Orchard, was published by Alwood. After describing 24 varieties, he advised growers to prune away swellings caused by the black knot of fungus, to prevent leaf diseases by spraying judiciously with Bordeaux mixture, and to reduce brown rot of fruit by a schedule beginning with a dormant lye wash and continuing with three sprays of Bordeaux mixture. Although the cover dates the bulletin as June 1896, it was issued July 1897. Likewise, Bulletin no. 67, Notes on the Plum Orchard, dated August 1896, was issued August 1897; why the delay is unknown. On plums, only brown rot was mentioned. Sanitation, i.e. removal of old fruit from trees and the spray schedules as for plums were prescribed.

For the period 1896-1897, Alwood was occupied by efforts to control the San JosÚ scale. Legislation for suppression of the pest in 1896 (published in the May 1896, Sou. Planter, pp. 228-229) and ultimately, Alwood, as Experiment Station Entomologist had been appointed to execute the provisions of the act. He published four bulletins on the subject. None of his writings appeared in the 1896 and 1897 Southern Planter.

After 1895, the Southern Planter seems to have rescinded its self-proclaimed officialdom as journal of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station. It published a spray calendar presumably compiled by the editors from several bulletins published by various states and the U.S.D.A. Numerous diseases and insects were included and 15 species or groups of plants were listed. The margins were embellished with bold face admonishments that yellowed peach trees, fire-blighted, black-knotted and club-rooted materials should be burned. Club root of cabbage, cauliflower, and turnips should also be accompanied by strict rotations. The calendar first published in April 1896 (pp. 162-164), was reprinted in the May 1897 issue (pp. 216-218) and for several more years without revision.

In reviewing the Southern Planter 1888 through 1897, I found many articles on the culture of tobacco, corn, small grains, sugar beets, hay crops, cotton and peanuts but none mentioned plant diseases; the first on these crops appeared in June 1897 (p. 250). An item entitled Rust on Wheat, was printed (p. 250) in response to a letter from a Tennessee subscriber. He asked for the cause and remedy of wheat rust. The editor described the "disease of a fungoid character which attacks wheat in every country of the world where wheat is grown." Rainy, sultry weather, low-lying fields, rich soils, excessive use of manure, late and thin sowings all were said to favor rust. Control measures mentioned were sprays which though effective were not considered practicable, burn rusted straw, and "grow only so-called rust resistant varieties, of which there are several, which are only very slightly liable to attack. Even these suffer from it under certain climatic conditions." (Note: Probably there were no rust resistant, soft, red, winter wheats suitable for Tennessee in 1897). The rust referred to here must have been leaf rust (Puccinia recondita).

Since the Southern Planter was published in Richmond, Virginia, items published therein regarding plant pathology are acceptable as an integral part of this history. Therefore, the following items are incorporated here, because they are of regional importance.

A New York (Cornell) bulletin describing the effects of Bordeaux mixture on blight (probably meaning both early and late blight) and Irish potato yield was abstracted in the July 1897 issue (pp. 297-298). In the absence of disease, spraying was profitable on some varieties, but costly on others.

The most recent North Carolina General Assembly, as of July 1897 "passed an act constituting a Commission for the extermination of noxious insects, fungous diseases and weeds which are affecting or may affect crops" (p. 303). The San JosÚ and other scale insects, peach yellows, peach and plum rosette, fire blight, and black knot were the diseases. No weeds were named. The law was similar to Virginia's "San JosÚ law" enacted in 1896.

Following the item above, inquiries from several subscribers complaining about pear and apple blight precipitated a long quotation of M. B. Waite's work and results (pp. 303-304). Essentially, Waite described the disease on all affected parts, reported that Kieffer and Duchess pears were less severely attacked than Bartlett and Clapp Favorite, pointed out that conditions favoring rapid growth also favored disease development, and suggested that growers avoid manure or nitrogenous fertilizers and that they prune out blighted branches promptly during and at the end of the growing season.

Another item, The Red Rust of the Blackberry (August 1897, p. 353), recognizes without saying that the rust fungus grows systemically in the plant and recommends total destruction of infected plants. Undoubtedly, the fungus was Gymnoconia interstitialis.

Items relative to plant pathology appearing in the 1898 Southern Planter included one explaining how to prevent oat smuts by a 10-minute treatment in water at 138░F (Feb., p. 54); the annual spray calendar, a reprint from previous years (April, p. 172-174); a reprint of the San JosÚ scale law enacted February 28, 1898, by the Virginia General Assembly (May, pp. 238-240) and undersigned by Alwood, Entomologist. In this reprint, there was no mention of fungous diseases. In June (p. 266), W. F. Massey responded vehemently to an Albemarle County grower inquiring about "Johnson Grass" as a hay crop. Massey had recognized it to be a problem with long lasting dire consequences. He wrote, "The man who introduces this grass into a grain growing section ought to be executed as a public enemy ... It is a fact that once introduced in a neighborhood it is soon all over every field in that neighborhood, and is there to stay ... If I was in a section where there was no Johnson grass, and was engaged in grain or tobacco farming, and one of my neighbors proposed to sow Johnson grass on his land, I would try hard to get an injunction out of the courts to stop him." In the 1960's it would be shown that Johnson grass harbored two viruses of corn which would cause severe reductions in yields of grain and silage. Oh, if we had only heeded Massey!

An act of Congress May 10, 1898, authorized the testing of agricultural seeds for purity beginning July 1, 1898 (June, pp. 288-289). Aside from specifying limits on per cent purity and germination, "the seed must be true to name, and practically free from smut, bunt, ergot ... and the seeds of dodder (Cuscuta spp.)." This was the first mention of bunt, ergot, and dodder in literature published in Virginia.

In an item "Apple and Pear Blight," the spread of the bacteria is chiefly by bees and the first site of infection is the nectary (July, p. 321). This was the first mention of bees in various articles on fire blight in a Virginia publication and no doubt was taken from an article by M. B. Waite in the U.S.D.A. Yearbook of Agriculture for 1895. In a September item on "Pear Blight" (p. 424), B. T. Galloway described the paradox that bees spread fire-blight bacteria while doing the necessary pollination of flowers. Both articles highlighted the need to prune out infected branches as soon as possible.

B. D. Halsted of the New Jersey station was cited for writing that asparagus rust has been damaging along the Atlantic coast from New England to Florida. It had been detected in 1896. No practical remedy was revealed (September, p. 424).

In a note "To Prevent Smut in Wheat, Barley, and Oats," growers were advised to immerse seed in water at 135 to 145░F for 5 minutes (October, p. 453). This was corrected in the November issue (p. 502) to 130 to 135░ with an optimum of 132░ for smuts of wheat, oats, and barley. None of these diseases had yet been mentioned in Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station publications.

The oat variety Red Rust Proof was mentioned as the best to plant in Alabama in October to November. There had been no mention of oat rust in the Southern Planter, 1888-1898. The article concluded with the advice to scald oat seed at 130 to 135░ for 10 to 15 minutes. The saving resulting from this treatment was said to be "5 to 20 per cent of the crop, and sometimes more." (October, p. 465).

There were no plant disease notes by Alwood in either the 1898 or 1889 Southern Planter. Presumably, he was fully occupied by San JosÚ scale inspection work or in preparation of the orchard technique bulletins.

In 1899, Alwood published five bulletins under the title "Orchard Technique"; number IV in the series subtitled "Spraying the Orchard" is the only one to address plant diseases. He described dormant lye sprays (NaOH or KOH) which were aimed at control of apple scab (Fusicladium dendriticum, now Venturia inaequalis) and brown rot of stone fruits (Monilia fructigena, now Monilinia fructicola in our area). The second spray, Bordeaux mixture and an insecticide, was aimed at the apple diseases orange rust (Gymnosporangium macropus, now G. juniperi-virginianeae); and brown leaf spot (attributed to Phyllosticta pirina but most probably was caused by the black rot fungus, Botryosphaeria obtusa); and the stone fruit diseases peach leaf curl (Exoascus deformans, now Taphrina d.), and leaf spot (Septoria cerasina, or probably bacterial blight or shot-hole, true identity uncertain). Additional sprays were recommended at different stages of flower and fruit development each illustrated by a drawing. Preparation of the various fungicide-insecticide sprays was described, and spray equipment was illustrated. Although the bulletin was dated May 1899, it was actually issued March 1900. This gave Alwood time to append a section on fire blight of pear and apple, prompted by a severe outbreak in 1899. Although M. B. Waite in 1891, had shown that bees transmitted the fire-blight bacterium, Alwood cautiously stated about the bacteria exuding from overwintered cankers, "They may be carried by insects which visit sap exudations or in some other manner to the tender parts of the growing plants." Pruning of diseased plant parts at the end of the growing season was strongly recommended.

In Experiment Station Bulletin no. 102, July 1899, The Crop Pest Law, enacted and approved by the General Assembly of Virginia March, 5, 1900, was presented verbatim; the bulletin was issued May 7, 1900. (Note: I do not yet comprehend the dating of Experiment Station bulletins.) R. H. Price, former Assistant in Horticulture, also noted the discrepancy and suggested that it was a scheme to give the impression that bulletins were published monthly (Sou. Planter 1903, p. 646). The oddity here is that the bulletin, from the cover date, appears to anticipate legislative action.) Although the law was precipitated by the San JosÚ scale, the scope and operation of the law was broadened by a Board created by the law to include the wooly aphis, peach yellows, black knot of plums, and fire blight of pear and apple. A previous act directed only toward the scale had been approved on March 5, 1896. The 1900 act gave teeth to the ineffective peach yellows law of 1890. The pertinent points of the act were as follows:

  1. The Board of Control of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station was created as the State Board of Crop Pest Commissioners; J. T. Brown was elected President of the Board, and J. M. McBryde, Experiment Station Director and President of the College, was elected Secretary. The Board appointed W. B. Alwood State Entomologist and Pathologist, with J. L. Phillips and H. L. Price as assistants.
  2. The Board was empowered to list dangerous insects and diseases, and describe them and give the manners of their dissemination, and provide rules and regulations under which the State Entomologist and Pathologist shall proceed to control, eradicate, destroy, and prevent the dissemination of said pests.
  3. The Board of Commissioners was empowered to establish quarantines and regulations against the sale and transportation of nursery stock within the State when the same is found infested with specified pests.
  4. The Board was empowered to regulate nursery stock entering the State.
  5. The Board of Commissioners was required to inspect annually all nursery stock and issue certificates of freedom from pests to nurserymen within the State and like certificates were required on all stock entering the State.
  6. The law conferred police powers upon the Commissioners and provided for fines of $50 to $100 upon conviction of violators. Those who hindered the work of inspectors were subject to lesser fines.
  7. The generous sum of $1000 was appropriated to support the activities of the Commissioners enforcing the law.
  8. Previous acts inconsistent with the 1900 act were repealed. (This eliminated prior ineffective acts regarding peach yellows and San JosÚ scale).
  9. Rules governing inspectors, nurserymen, appeals, etc., were spelled out. The pests, their symptoms and features, and treatments were described. For yellowed peach trees, total destruction was required; for plum knot, pruning before knots ruptured was required; for fire blight, fall pruning for older trees was required but immediate pruning was required of nursery stock as soon as stock became symptomatic.

Bulletin 102 ended with a summary of work conducted on San JosÚ scale since 1896. The law was the first in Virginia to provide for regulated control of a fungus disease (plum black knot) and a bacterial disease (fire blight). The Commissioners included peach yellows under fungus diseases in their terminology. It would later be attributed to a virus but now is known to be caused by a mycoplasma-like organism.

In 1899, items in the Southern Planter pertaining to plant pathology began in the January issue (pp. 16-17) with J. B. Watkin's comments about how he controlled fire blight of pear in his Chesterfield County orchard. He refrained from using nitrogen fertilizer or legumes as cover crops until late summer nor did he cultivate until late summer. This way he maintained a short stout growth. Even Bartlett pears had very little blight and that was promptly pruned out.

In a report of the proceedings of the annual meeting of the Virginia State Horticultural Society for December 1898 (Sou. Planter, January 1899, pp. 17-18), Alwood spoke on the construction of some recent spray machines adaptable for orchard work.

A complaint by a farmer in Orange County that his cabbage and turnip plants rotted before they matured resulted in a response by W. F. Massey in his Enquirer's Column that club root may have been the disease in question (March 1899, p. 115). The farmer, in the April issue (p. 174) pleaded that he had not provided an adequate description of his cabbage and turnip rot. He elaborated further and Massey concluded that the disease was black rot caused by a bacterium (now Xanthomonas campestris pv. campestris) and that no remedy had been discovered. He advised rotations and strict sanitation.

From Bedford County came some apple leaves which Massey diagnosed as having cedar-apple rust (August 1899, pp. 377-378). He carefully described the disease and its cycle then wrote, "It is very probable that the fungus on the apple trees may continue to live from year to year without re-infection from cedars ... It is perennial, and as soon as the leaves appear that fungus spores begin to develop ... cutting down the cedar trees may check its development, but if it lives over in the apple trees (?) cannot be considered certain to destroy it." (Note: Something was omitted (cedar eradication?) from the end of the statement; it appears as it was printed. Twig infections have been observed on apple, but I know of no record of the rust overwintering on apple.)

To the question, "Is the winter gray turf oat a rust proof oat?", Massey replied, "In the sense of being immune to the attacks of the fungus making what is called rust, no oats or wheat are rust proof. It is thought that the red rust proof oats are more resistant than other varieties."

A farmer from Curl's Neck Farm, Henrico County, described some Irish potato tests to determine their profitability. When the tubers were dug, it was recorded that the foliage had been free of blight and it was obvious that scabby potatoes were a factor in the poorly producing plots (November 1899, p. 523-524).

The spray calendar of previous years was reprinted and again in 1900 (Sou. Planter, Mar. 1900, p. 146-148). There were no publications on plant pathology issued by the Experiment Station in 1900. Presumably, Alwood was heavily committed as the State Entomologist to implementing and enforcing the San JosÚ scale law. He was also preparing the initial manuscripts for his Orchard Studies bulletins, the first of 16 were to be issued in 1901. The February 1900 Southern Planter (p. 88) contained an item reviewing the second report of the State Inspector for San JosÚ scale. The Inspector (presumably Alwood) made the following points:

  1. Proper enforcement of the act, along with the investigations made necessary under its provisions, requires the time of a trained man.
  2. The need for polic legislation is increasing with the widespread occurrence insect enemies and plant diseases, which may be transported upon nursery stock and from orchard to orchard --- examples well known are the woolly aphis of apple, black knot of plum and cherry, peach yellows, etc., and there is a constantly increasing danger of the introduction of pests which do not occur in this State.
  3. This department (= Horticulture, Entomology, and Mycology) ought not to attempt to further conduct such laborious and important work unless money sufficient to organize it on an independent basis is furnished. A sum not less than $2,000 per annum is needed for this purpose.
  4. A Board of Crop Pest Commissioners should be constituted with the power to designate what pests shall be held to be dangerously injurious, and hence be subject to quarantine regulations within the State.
  5. The Board should be invested with powers of quarantine against communities likely to ship diseased plants into this State.

Letters to the Enquirer's Column in 1900 addressed pear fire blight (p. 265), potato scab (p. 140), grape black rot (p. 265), and tomato blossom-end rot for which Massey recommend the useless remedy of spraying with Bordeaux mixture (p. 492); he suggested that a wilt and stem rot was the Southern blight caused by a bacterium for which there was no remedy (p. 492). Pear fire blight was discussed in detail by B. T. Galloway of the U.S.D.A. (pp. 497-498). The principles of control emphasized were to (1) put the tree in a condition to resist blight or to render it less liable to the disease and (2) exterminate the microbe itself, for, if carried out fully, there can be no blight. Details for implementing each principle were provided.

In the October 1900 issue (p. 555), J. L. Phillips, Acting State Entomologist and Pathologist, gave a detailed account of peach yellows paying particular attention to early symptoms and he urged growers to eliminate affected trees as soon as symptoms appeared. He added that "the State law covers the case fully, and there should be no hesitancy about applying it wherever peach growers are in danger. Close attention will do much toward making the growing of peaches a thriving and profitable industry."

Alwood, in 1901, began a series of Experiment Station bulletins entitled "Orchard Studies". The first four of these, published in 1901, contained no plant pathology. However, several items on plant diseases appeared in the Southern Planter that year.

From the Georgia Experiment Station, A. L. Quaintance gave an interesting testimonial on the efficacy of Bordeaux mixture for control of peach brown rot (p. 27). A farmer who had sprayed his peaches several times had no trouble with brown rot in most of his orchard. Next to a road bordering the orchard, fruit rotted badly although properly sprayed. In a strip about 100 yards wide there was diminishing amount of rot progressing inward from the road. Across the road lay the culprit, an unsprayed orchard.

A farmer from Northampton County claimed that potato scab was caused by a worm chewing on the tubers. The editor retorted that scab was a fungoid disease and stated that soil may be infected with the scab organism. He implied that the disease could be remedied only by planting potatoes in soil free of it. Corrosive sublamate was recommended for treatment of seed pieces, i.e., potato sets (p. 148). The spray calendar was reprinted again (pp. 154-156). A farmer from Henrico County, Virginia inquired about the cause and control of sweet potato black rot. The Editor responded that a fungus caused the disease and the only healthy roots and healthy slips or cuttings should be used as propagation material (p. 309). Another farmer from James City County, Virginia claimed guano gave scab-free potatoes but barnyard manure increased it (p. 402). Perhaps guano reduced the pH.

Despite the great number of items on control of fire blight which appeared in various issues of the Southern Planter, it remained number one on the Enquirer's Column list. A farmer asked if using a great deal of stable manure contributed to the havoc played by fire blight in his orchards. The editor reminded him that manure favored sappy growth and, consequently, fire blight. He was advised to reduce the manure (p. 457-458).

A gentleman named Norman Robinson, address unknown, wrote about the dismal failure of pear orchards in southern Georgia and northern Florida (December, 1901, p. 683-684). He claimed that such a loss to the fruit industry was inexcusable and he proceeded to describe his success as a pear orchardist. His strict, frequent pruning and destruction of infected wood was the key to his success. He also advised fertilizing with heavy doses of potash and phosphates, and providing nitrogen only from annual crops of cowpeas. He was apparently well-read on the researches into fire blight control. Although Robinson seemed very confident, even knowledgeable persons such as Alwood were defeated by the disease. A recounting of the situation is presented in Experiment Station Bulletin no. 135, Orchard Studies. VIII. On the Occurrence and Treatment of Fire Blight in the Pear Orchard, dated April 1902 on the cover (but issued June 1903), and authored by Alwood.

The test orchard at Blacksburg was ten years old in 1899. Up to that time, only traces of fire blight had appeared. In "the spring of 1899, ... the blight showed more abundantly, but still not enough to cause much alarm ... We had been able to control the trouble by cutting away the diseased portions, in accordance with old recommendations so frequently made, and we had supplemented this treatment by the thorough use of the Bordeaux spray. The work appeared to show that ... one might be able to grow pear trees successfully with but a slight amount of injury from fire blight. However, beginning with the spring of 1900, the attack of blight upon this orchard became very severe, and, regardless of cutting out diseased wood and thorough application of Bordeaux spray, the attack progressed so rapidly that some of the trees were entirely destroyed." Alwood described the losing battle through the spring of 1903 (despite having the bulletin dated April 1902). The relative resistance of 33 varieties was described and summarized. "After our experience with the blight, we suggest the following list of varieties for home use and commercial planting. Well treated, these would appear to promise the best results:

For summer: Barlett and Tyson.

For autumn and late fruit: Seckel, Bosc (finest quality, amateur only), Louise, Rutter, Kieffer (especially for commercial purposes), and Lawrence."

In addition, Alwood lamented, "Our efforts to stay the fire blight ... have failed to hold the disease in check ... We do not think it would be profitable for orchardists to try to save such badly diseased trees as some shown in the illustrations." Essentially, this was the coup de grace of Virginia's pear industry.

Alwood contributed 16 bulletins in the Orchard Studies series, 12 of these are cover dated 1902 although no. XVI was issued in September 1904. Bulletin no. 132, Orchard Studies. V. Report on Crab Apples, dated January 1902, by Alwood and H. L. Price was issued April 1903. The bulletin is devoted primarily to variety description and culture. The authors mentioned orange rust (Gymnosporangium macropus, now G. juniperi-virginianae), fire blight (Micrococcus amylovora, now Erwinia amylovora) and black rot canker (Sphaeropsis malorum, now Botryosphaeria obtusa) as the primary diseases of crab apple. Surprisingly, scab was not mentioned. Systematic spraying, pruning and culture as required for apples was recommended.

Bulletin no. 134, March 1902 (issued June 1903) co-authored with H. L. Price was no. VII in the series, Spraying the Plum Orchard. Notes on Varieties of Domestica Plums. In the spraying section, protection from the leaf blight (caused by Cylindrosporium padi) and brown rot (caused by Sclerotinia fructigena) was sought. Up to 8 treatments with Bordeaux spray were applied from March 13 to August 2, 1901. Some plots received only the first two or four treatments in which case the leaf blight had induced defoliation by August 1, and poor blossom production and growth in the spring 1902. The authors concluded that season-long spraying with Bordeaux mixture was necessary for successful plum production. In the second part, twenty-one varieties are described, nine of which were mentioned as susceptible to brown rot. No reactions to leaf blight were mentioned.

Bulletins 136 through 139, all by Alwood, were devoted to cider production. Number 140, September 1902 (issued September 1903), Orchard Studies. XI. Some Observations on Crown Gall of Apple Trees, by Alwood was a comprehensive, illustrated description of the disease whose cause was not yet known. (Note: Actually the disease was shown to be of bacterial origin by Cavara of Italy in 1897. Hedgecock first probably isolated the bacterium from grapes in 1903 and reproduced the disease, but Smith and Townsend produced the irrefutable evidence that a bacterium caused the disease in the 1904-1906 period).

First acquaintance with crown gall of apple came in 1896 during surveys for San JosÚ scale in nurseries. Reports of the disease increased to an alarming extent in the next four years. The Board of Crop Pest Commissioners decided to exclude galled apple trees from sale in the State. Several experiments were conducted to determine the progress of the disease, symptoms, and modes of dissemination. Both galls and hairy roots were pictured. Nurserymen were advised to destroy all symptomatic plants and not to sell such plants and planters were to reject all trees showing cancerous growth at the crown or abnormal root development. "There appears to be no hope of remedial treatment." Alwood referred in the text to J. W. Toumey who worked with the disease on almond and named the causal organism Dendrophagus globus, which is a slime mold. There was no formally cited research.

Alwood and J. L. Phillips published Experiment Station Bulletin no. 141, October 1902, Orchard Studies. XIV. The Lime-Sulphur Wash, with 54 illustrations (photographs and drawings by J. F. Strauss). Lime-sulphur was to be used primarily for control of the San JosÚ scale. There was no mention of disease control. Lime-sulphur had been the subject of bulletins published by at least nine experiment stations and the U.S.D.A., according to table I in our subject bulletin 141. Exactly when it was recognized as a remedy for peach leaf curl is not clear, but Californians about 1880-1885 found the combination of lime, sulphur and salt solution used as a dormant spray against San JosÚ scale also controlled peach leaf curl. Surely Alwood knew of this. The bulletin describes preparations, dilutions, timing cautions, and equipment needed. Even though the authors described experiments conducted in the spring of 1903, the bulletin is recognized as being published in 1902. What a sneaky way to gain priority on original discoveries.

The final bulletin, no. 142, cover-dated 1902, in the Orchard Studies series related to plant pathology was XV. The Bitter Rot of Apples. The topic had been discussed in bulletin no. 40, long since out of print. Number XV, though dated in November 1902, was actually issued in February 1904. Alwood gave a detailed account of the various discoveries and names given the bitter rot fungus beginning with Berkeley in 1854, and ending with Von Schrenk and Spaulding in 1902. At least eight names were given the fungus in that period. Alwood summarized with, "Therefore, out of a plentitude of names, the bitter rot fungus has, we will hope, reached a stable designation - viz., Glomorella refomaculans, as given by Spaulding and Von Schrenk in Bulletin 44, Bureau of Plant Industry, United States Department of Agriculture." Note the misspelling of "Glomerella." Alas, the fungus was to be given at least one more name that is currently used,

Glomerella cingulata. Only the common name, bitter rot, has remained stable.

As for control of bitter rot, the basic procedures described in the 1894 bulletin had not changed. Cankers on limbs were added as sources of infection and, thus, pruning was specified for their elimination. Removing rotted fruit and spraying with Bordeaux mixture, now simply called "Bordeaux", were re-emphasized. New figures illustrating twig and limb cankers were beautifully illustrated by J. F. Strauss.

Although Alwood refers to others in his historical review of bitter rot, he did not append a literature cited section (nor did anyone else who prepared Station bulletins in the Alwood era) and one would have to search other publications for references to original papers. Since this would be Alwood's last bulletin on plant diseases, someone else would have to set the precedence of citing literature in Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station publications. Furthermore it would be another eight years before the Station printed a bulletin relative to plant pathology. This left the Southern Planter as the primary source of plant disease information for Virginians.

In 1902, the academic Department of Mycology and Entomology was established with Alwood as Head; John L. Phillips who had assisted him since 1899, joined him in the new department. Phillips was also named Assistant State Entomologist and Pathologist; he was not a member of the Experiment Station staff. In the 1902-1903 College catalogue, Alwood and Phillips listed the following pathology-related courses:

MYCOLOGY, 2 lect./wk. - Fungus systematics

LABORATORY MYCOLOGY, 2 3-hr. labs./wk. - Determinative mycology, especially of fungi causing diseases of plants, artificial culture, and on plant tissues. Students must collect and determine 50 species and write a thesis on some species studied in the laboratory. (Note: It would be interesting to see a list of 50 specimens collected by students since this is more than the number of plant diseases mentioned in Station bulletins through 1902.)

ADVANCED WORK - Courses in special groups of fungi, pathology of cultivated plants, study of yeast ferments (industrial mycology).

In the 1903-1904 catalogue, William A. P. Moncure, M.S., V.P.I., was listed as Instructor in Mycology. In addition to the courses listed above, there appeared for the first time a course in Plant Pathology:

PLANT PATHOLOGY, 3 lect./wk., - text, Plant Diseases by G. Massee, required by juniors majoring in Horticulture.

As Moncure remained Instructor of Mycology through 1908, course listings remained the same except for adjustments required when the College changed from the semester to the quarter system of terms. More will be said about Moncure later; plant pathology in the Southern Planter 1902 through 1904 will be now reviewed.

Farmers in Dinwiddie (1902, pp. 8, 80; 1904, p. 324) and Lunenburg Counties (1904, p. 167) registered the first complaints about a white leaf fleck of tobacco. The disease was not diagnosed but was thought to be fungoid in origin and actually may have been "weather fleck" which was described in the 1920's and recognized as being caused by ozone in 1964 (see Lucas, G. B., 1975. Diseases of Tobacco, 3rd ed.:571-578).

Spray calendars were published each year (1902, pp. 154-155; 1903, pp. 172-173; 1904, pp. 174-175); although the content remained essentially constant, the format was changed and R. H. Price edited the calendars beginning in 1903. Only copper compounds were recommended for fruit and vegetable sprays. Lime-sulphur had not been introduced but its forerunner, a lime, sulphur, and salt mixture was recommended in 1904 as a dormant spray for San JosÚ scale. Its fungicidal value would soon be recognized. Mercuric chloride was recommended for a potato seed-piece dip from the inception of the calendar in 1896. (Note: a calendar from Cornell published in an 1895 issue preceded the one compiled specifically for the Southern Planter).

Fire blight of pear and apple was the disease that precipitated the most letters to the Enquirer's Column and Editor (1902) pp. 156, 405, 458, 520; 1904, 332, 666). Apparently one learned gentleman had not yet subscribed to the germ theory of disease but clung to Unger's theory that microorganisms associated with disease were the result of and not the cause of disease (1904, pp. 666). More scholarly, and scientifically correct for the era, discussions appeared at intervals (1902, p. 579; 1903, pp. 507-508 1904, pp. 332). Alwood presented a review of Orchard Studies. VIII., which thoroughly covered the Station experiences with fire blight (1904, pp. 507-508). Bitter rot was the subject of comments (1904, p. 332); there were reviews of bulletins from the Delaware Station (1902, p. 579), the U.S.D.A. (1903, p. 764), and Alwood's Orchard Studies. XV. (1904, pp. 255-257). Crown gall was the subject of items contributed by M. B. Waite (1902, p. 634) and Alwood (p. 693). In the latter, differentiating between crown gall symptoms and wooly aphis damage was stressed. Alwood's bulletin Orchard Studies. XIII., on crown gall was reviewed briefly in 1903 (p. 776). From Fauquier County came a complaint, the first, about apple root rot (1902, p. 213). No diagnosis was provided; most probably it was the black root rot, caused by Xylaria mali, which Fromme in the future would study in detail (Va. Agri. Expt. Sta. Tech. Bul. 34, 1928). Alwood reviewed his bulletin no. 134, Spraying the Plum Orchard (1903, pp. 571-574) and Waite provided suggestions for controlling peach leaf curl with a mix of lime, sulphur, and salt solution; tomato blight and rot with Bordeaux mixture; and cantaloupe blight with the same (1903, p. 253). An article reprinted from the American Agriculturist discussed "running-out" of potato seed stocks (1902, p. 221). The viruses causing it had not yet been recognized. The author suggested that shifting potatoes to different soils will prolong the vigor of the stock. Other inquiries about horticultural crops included information about sweet potato black rot (1903, p. 309) which could be remedied by using vine cuttings from sound roots sprouted in clean soil, and a request for a description of peach yellows (1904, p. 662).

Agronomic crops began receiving more attention. A Halifax farmer described how he controlled wheat smut by soaking seeds in a solution of bluestone (1902, p. 69). J. W. Ingham wrote an essay on the smuts of grains (1902, pp. 209-210), in which he gave a reasonable but slightly inaccurate description of the smut cycle. He cited Hilgard of California and Swingle of the U.S.D.A. as his sources. He clearly differentiated between bunt and loose smut of wheat and knew that the latter was difficult to control. He only mentioned the hot water treatment but gave detailed accounts for use of copper sulphate soaks. He erred by saying corn smut infects the kernels.

A Lunenburg County, Virginia farmer described wheat head blight (= scab) almost perfectly (1904, p. 528) but the disease was not generally known in 1904. M. S. Carleton, a Cerealist for the U.S.D.A., ascribed the disease to a bacterium and flatly stated that the pink fungus associated with it was not the cause. We learned in 1909 from the work of Selby and Manns that Gibberella saubinetii, now G. zeae and Fusarium roseum, now F. graminearum are teleomorph and anamorph of the same fungus. What Carleton had seen no doubt was the early Fusarium stage of scab.

A North Carolina farmer wanted to know what caused corn to smut and would the smut harm livestock that consumed it (1903, p. 628). The Editor attributed it correctly to Ustilago zeae, described the disease cycle, and said that it would not harm livestock. There was one other disase, not previously mentioned in Virginia, that when diagnosed, drew a surprizing reply. A Mecklenburg County farmer sent in an alfalfa specimen badly spotted and defoliated. The diagnosis by C. L. Shear, U.S.D.A. Pathologist, was that Pseudopeziza medicaginis was spotting the leaves. If the plants were badly diseased, the farmer was advised "it would probably be best to burn the field and plant it to some other crop." We know better now.

The reader may wonder why I have detailed so many items from 15 years of the Southern Planter, coinciding with Alwood's tenure at Blacksburg. My motive was to provide insight into our status of knowledge as perceived by authorities and laymen and to point out that farmers had disease problems with agronomic crops even though they were totally ignored by Alwood and his associates. It is pretty obvious that fruit crops had the greatest problems of the era, that perishability of harvested fruit was tied to diseases of the trees and vines and therefore successful remedies were required. Since Alwood was a trained pomologist, he probably felt more comfortable dealing with fruit problems. In addition, a strong State Horticultural Society (in reality a fruit growers society) lobbied to ensure the Station would solve problems of its members. Thus, the diseases of grains, cotton, peanuts, and tobacco were ignored. Except for a few, notably beans, tomato, sweet potato, and Irish potato, vegetables were given only token notice.

There were very few remedies available; the repeated recommendation to spray with Bordeaux mixture must have been frustrating and monotonous. So now, in 1904 we find Alwood, the savior of the Virginia fruit industry, suddenly at a crisis according to D. L. Kinnear in The First 100 Years: A History of V.P.I. "In 1904, President McBryde effected a more thorough administrative plan by organizing the College into four departments, each with its own dean and faculty." Among them were the Agricultural Department, Professor A. M. Soule, Dean. "At the same time, McBryde relinquished the direction of the Experiment Station to Soule. The first results were both unhappy and unexpected. As McBryde reported it, Professor Alwood resigned because he had not been appointed director of the Experiment Station ... Alwood's resignation had been particularly distressing to McBryde, since it had resulted from complete misunderstanding between the two men. Alwood, one of the truly great scientists of early V.P.I., after more than a decade of dedicated service, had become greatly discouraged over lack of financial support for his research. About a year prior to his resignation he had gone to McBryde to discuss the situation. In the lengthy discussion and planning that followed, Alwood got the impression he was in line for the directorship of the station and perhaps for the deanship of agriculture. McBryde, on the other hand, got the impression that Alwood did not want either the directorship or the deanship. With the announcement of the appointment of Andrew Soule as dean of agriculture and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Alwood immediately demanded an explanation from McBryde regarding the change of plans. McBryde's surprised answer and detailed explanation had been unsatisfactory to Alwood, who immediately protested to the board and then resigned," effective September 1, 1904.

Alwood had not exactly burned all the bridges behind him. In 1895, he had initiated the first of nine bulletins related to utilization of apples by fermentive processes. These dealt with cider and vinegar production. He was also an expert viticulturist and he studied winemaking. Apparently, he excelled at the latter because he was a member of the Jury of Awards at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, and Vice-President of the International Congress of Viticulture, France, 1907, where he was decorated by the French government for his contributions in pomology and enology. He moved to the Charlottesville area to a home he called "Stonehenge." There he established an enological laboratory which was later incorporated into the U.S.D.A. Bureau of Chemistry. He was named Chief of Enological Investigations. About 1915, the U.S.D.A. laboratory was moved to Sandusky, Ohio but it appears that Alwood remained at Stonehenge. In 1923, he was awarded a certificate of merit by V.P.I. The Alwood era effectively ended on September 1, 1904 but he continued to be loyal to V.P.I. The Alwood era ended forever on April 13, 1946.


VT History | Digital Library and Archives | Special Collections | University Archives

Send questions or comments to:

Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist
University Libraries
Virginia Tech
P.O. Box 90001
Blacksburg, VA, 24062-9001

Last Modified on: Friday, 13-Oct-2017 15:39:23 EDT