University Libraries Logo University Archives of Virginia Tech

A History of Plant Pathology in Virginia: The Couch Era (1965-1974)

Houston B. Couch was named Professor of Plant Pathology and Head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology soon after S. A. Wingard retired on October 31, 1964. However, since he did not move to Blacksburg until January 9, 1965, R. G. Henderson served as Acting Department Head for the interim. Couch at the time of his appointment was Associate Professor of Plant Pathology, specializing in turfgrass pathology at Pennsylvania State University. He had published several articles in Phytopathology and a book entitled Diseases of Turfgrasses.

As of January 1965, there were 28 faculty level persons or positions in the Department, 20 of whom were plant pathologists; eight of these were located at field stations. There were nine Professors (W. E. Chappell, S. B. Fenne, K. H. Garren, A. B. Groves, R. H. Gruenhagen, R. G. Henderson, L. I. Miller, G. M. Shear, and of course Couch); ten Associate Professors (C. R. Drake, M. G. Hale, A. H. Kates, J. L. LaPrade, W. W. Osborne, R. Pristou, C. W. Roane, J. L. Troutman, A. S. Williams, and W. H. Wills); six Assistant Professors (S. W. Bingham, C. Fordyce, Jr., C. W. LeFevre, O. E. Rud, L. Spasoff, and J. Sterrett); and two Instructors (J. J. Albert and T. O. Evrard). G. C. Smart of the Holland Station had resigned in May 1964; his position was to be filled in 1965. Nine of the faculty were plant physiologists (Bingham, Chappell, Evrard, Hale, Kates, LeFevre, Rud, Shear, and Sterrett).

In 1965, seven plant pathologists were located at three field stations. Miller and Garren (a U.S.D.A. pathologist) were located at the Tidewater Research Station at Holland in Nansemond Co., now the city of Suffolk; both worked on peanut diseases. LaPrade, Troutman, and Wills were at the Tobacco Disease Research Laboratory at Chatham, Pittsylvania Co. Albert and Groves were at the Winchester (Fruit) Research Laboratory. In addition to those at field stations, Henderson and Spasoff worked with tobacco, and Drake worked on fruit diseases; thus, five pathologists had tobacco projects, three had fruit projects and two were assigned to peanut diseases. At the Virginia Truck Experiment Station, T. J. Nugent worked in vegetable pathology at Norfolk (actually in Princess Anne Co. which became Virginia Beach) and R. E. Baldwin worked at Painter, a substation of the Norfolk Station in Accomack Co. No doubt the V.P.I. professionals named above were devoted to the most valuable cash crops in Virginia but the total value of grain crops, handled by Roane, and forage crops, handled by Williams, exceeded the value of tobacco, peanuts, and fruits but did not command as much attention because they were grown primarily for on-farm use. Two pathologists, Gruenhagen and Fordyce, were assigned to study ornamental plants.

Henderson, Roane, and Williams conducted classroom chores, which in a way diluted the effort devoted to crop pathology. The teaching program will be described later.

A Plant Disease Clinic had been organized by Fenne; since due to multiple sclerosis he had been restricted to the campus, Gruenhagen was hired as extension project leader. Osborne and Pristou handled the off-campus field crop extension work; namely, demonstrations, meetings, etc.

Soon after Couch arrived, he began implementing suggestions made by members of the 1963 Comprehensive Review Panel for the Department; in addition, he imposed the mandates of the administrators who had hired him and, of course, he implemented some of his own ideas. The faculty was not privy to the Review Panel written suggestions and administrative mandates; consequently, they perceived that Couch himself originated all changes. Changes in research assignments and office space impacted the faculty almost immediately. Each researcher was required to reduce his federal projects from two or several to one. For example, the two projects on corn and small grains were combined into one on cereals and genetics. Projects had to be revised by a certain time, regardless of field commitments such as planting schedules, crop and disease development. It seemed to the faculty that getting research results was not as important to Couch as getting papework in order. Thus, there was considerable friction between Couch and the faculty from the onset that persisted for some time. For faculty who had been accustomed to calm contemplation, Couch personified a pressure-cooker style under which several faculty found it difficult to operate. Some sought employment elsewhere, some took extended leaves of absence, and some simply retired; others persevered, trying to accommodate Couch while devoting attention to research and teaching, albeit somewhat distracted. The faculty dubbed the period "A.C.", after Couch, and before 1965 as "B.C.", before Couch. In fairness to Couch, many changes were needed and when made resulted in a stronger Department. Couch had been appointed as a "hatchet man". Anyone else who might have been named Head of the Department would have had to perform similarly. The only difference would have been in personality. The Couch years coincided with a rapid expansion in plant pathology at a national level. Jobs were plentiful, graduate students abounded, and grant funding was lucrative. In essence, it was a golden age of plant pathology. The golden age was a significant era in Virginia; it is hoped that it will be appropriately described.


Since there were several staff changes during the Couch era, it might be well at this point to list the plant pathology faculty and show their status during those nine years.

Professors (in 1965 or at time of appointment):

Associate Professors (in 1965 or date of appointment or promotion in Couch era):

Assistant Professors (in 1965 or date of promotion in Couch era):



Instruction in the Department had changed drastically during the Wingard era. From the outset, the Department was a service Department at the undergraduate level. The introductory Plant Pathology course met the curricular needs of Agronomy and Horticulture majors; Forest Pathology provided a course for Forestry, Wildlife, and Conservation majors. There was no undergraduate curriculum in the Department. In 1953, the Department was authorized to offer a program leading to an M.S. degree and in 1961, a Ph.D. program was authorized. Courses having approved syllabi as of January 1965 were (Pl.P.P.):

The Catalogue, published in December 1964 for the academic year 1965-1966 indicated that only one new item was added:

However, syllabi were approved for new courses that could be presented in 1965-1966 after the catalogue was published:

A course, Methods of Research in Plant Pathology, was proposed but rejected by the University Graduate Committee. All of the above courses were proposed in the 1961 Petition to offer a Ph.D. degree in the Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology. There were several courses in Plant Physiology and Weed Science that were also included in the Petition, some of which Plant Pathology majors found quite pertinent. The faculty was in place to offer all courses; thus, the Department was ready to enter the instructional phase of the Couch era.

There were several changes in faculty during 1965-1969, leading to changes in teaching assignments and consequent changes in catalogue listings. In 1965, Couch relieved Williams of teaching Plant Pathology (303) and assumed that assignment himself. Williams would teach the Laboratory sections and the courses he had originated; namely, Plant Parasitic Nematodes (508) and Plant Virology (509). Although Williams had reluctantly taken over Plant Pathology in the mid-fifties, he had grown to enjoy it, and reluctantly relinquished it to Couch. He taught Plant Parasitic Nematodes (508) once in fall of 1964 and Plant Virology (509) once in fall of 1965. Before he could teach 508 again, J. A. Fox, a trained plant nematologist, was hired and assigned all teaching in nematology. Before Williams could teach 509 again, Sue A. Tolin, a trained virologist, was hired and assigned all teaching in plant virology. Williams had now been eliminated from control of both courses he had originated and from Plant Pathology. His contributions to instruction were reduced to advisor of graduate students and presentation of some Plant Pathology lectures. Claude Fordyce was made instructor for Plant Pathology Laboratory for 1965 and 1966. This assignment changed in 1967, when Fordyce resigned and W. H. Wills who had been transferred from Chatham to Blacksburg was assigned responsibility for Plant Pathology Laboratory. Williams was instructor of only two periods of Plant Pathology in 1968. This turned out to be Williams' last contribution to the instruction program.

Clinical Plant Pathology (512, 522) was created in lieu of the failure of Methods of Research in Plant Pathology to be approved by the University Graduate Committee. In the first quarter, methods were emphasized; in the second quarter, diagnosis of diseases and identification of causal agents were emphasized. It was a smoke-screen to present a methods course. In the 1968-69 catalogue, it was listed as:

It was reivsed in the 1971-72 catalogue to:

Later, it was shifted to quarters II, III.

Forest Pathology underwent several changes between 1950 and 1974. Henderson organized the course for presentation in spring of 1950. In those days, forestry students were required to take one quarter of Pl.P.P. 303, Plant Pathology, and Pl.P.P. 304, Forest Pathology for a total of 7 credits. Later in the 1950's, at the behest of the forestry faculty, the requirement to take Plant Pathology was dropped and Forest Pathology was changed from 2H, 3L, 3C, to 3H, 3L, 4C. In 1968, Pl.P.P. 306, Plant Pathology Laboratory was initiated as a distinct course; Pl.P.P. 303 was renumbered Pl.P.P. 305 as a 3-hour lecture course only. J. M. Skelly, trained in forest pathology, was appointed Assistant Professor in January 1968 and he was assigned to teach Forest Pathology as a 1-credit (3L) course. Students majoring in Agronomy or Horticulture took Pl.P.P. 305 and 306; those majoring in Forestry took Pl.P.P. 305 and the renumbered course 307, Forest Pathology. Thus, Henderson, a tobacco pathologist, who had taught Forest Pathology for 18 years, was freed from it. Henderson coordinated Clinical Plant Pathology from 1966 to 1971.

Several other new courses were installed during the Couch era. Couch himself introduced Principles of Plant Disease Development in 1966 (Pl.P.P. 609). In 1968, he turned it over to R. J. Stipes, newly hired Assistant Professor. This course was to be primarily for advanced Ph.D. students; it was to review the infection process, symptom development, host responses, pathogen reproduction, and propagule dispersal. Attention was given to writing for publication and to one's behavior as a professional. Students were forced to review their entire education in plant pathology. In fact, the course was an excellent preparation for students soon to undergo their oral preliminary or final examinations.

Diseases of Ornamental Plants (Pl.P.P. 5011) was to be initiated in 1967; however, the intended instructor, Claude Fordyce, resigned to take a position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The course was listed in the 1967-1968 Graduate Catalogue but apparently was never taught.

J. A. Fox, plant nematologist, was a philosophical sort. He prepared a course entitled Concepts in Nematology (Pl.P.P. 5010) which would give him a stage to discuss his ideas in nematode taxonomy, host-nematode interactions, and a history of plant nematology. Apparently, at least during the Couch era, there were never enough students registered to warrant presenting the course.

Physiology of Pathogenesis (Pl.P.P. 608) was first offered in winter of 1969; L. D. Moore, newly hired Assistant Professor, was the instructor. Much attention was devoted to biochemical processes involved in disease development.

By the end of the 1960's, much thought was being given to providing inducements to undergraduate students to elect a second course in plant pathology. The course Diseases of Crop Plants (Pl.P.P. 404) was proposed and first presented in 1970; C. R. Drake was the instructor. The course was intended for both undergraduate and graduate students but it did not attract many undergraduates.

In 1971, there were discussions in the Department as to how the number of graduate students could be increased and how students could be specifically trained to fill non-research, non-academic positions. A graduate program in plant protection was conceived in which insects, phytopathogens, weeds and their control would be emphasized. C. R. Drake was named Coordinator. In lieu of a research thesis, a course entitled Project and Report, Pl.P.P. 590, was established. Students took more course work than those in an M.S. thesis program. Their report was to be an extensive review of literature on some specific topic and a simple demonstration of some host- pest interaction or efficacy of a pesticide. Ironically, some reports, but not all, were superior to some M.S. theses.

The non-thesis program served its purpose well; graduate student numbers increased, classes were fuller, more degrees were granted, and the students found employment. Several continued in Ph.D. programs in the Department or elsewhere. The initiation of the non-thesis M.S. program lead to installation of a new course available for both graduate and undergraduate credit.

The consequences of smog in metropolitan areas and the industrial out-pouring of sulfur-laden smoke, unexplained death or stunting of forest trees, created interest by researchers in developing projects to investigate the effects of air pollution on vegetation. Skelly began studying air pollution effects on Virginia forests and in 1972, with L. D. Moore, initiated the course Air Pollution Damage to Vegetation, Pl.P.P. 405 (2H, 3L, 3C, III). It was a required course in the M.S. non-thesis program. This became a popular course. Phytopathology News featured it as a cover story [P.N. 7(2):1. Feb. 1973]. The flying classroom was shown, a Queen Air Beechcraft twin engined airplane, in which students were flown aloft to observe inversion layers and plumes from power plants. There were 9 students in 1972, 30 in 1973. Enrollment grew over a period of several years. The flying classroom soon was outgrown and had to be abandoned.

Two other courses were initiated to complete the M.S. non-thesis program. Concepts and Principles in Pesticide Application, 2H, 3L, 3C, III, (Pl.P.P. 5120), was first offered in spring of 1973. It addressed physical properties, formulation, and use of pesticides; types, use, and calibration of application equipment; and safety. Another course was offered under two titles there was a problem getting the syllabus approved. Offered first in spring 1973 as Plant Pathogenic Agents (temporary no. Pl.P.P. 598), it could not be repeated under that name. It was renamed Phytopathogens (again 598) and offered in the fall of 1973. Later it was permanently titled and numbered Plant Pathogenic Agents, 3L, 3H, 4C, I, Pl.P.P. 5130.

When Couch stepped down as Department Head in 1974, the following plant pathology courses were listed in the catalogue. Note that they have been renumbered in a University wide system:

3010 Plant Pathology.
3020 Plant Pathology Laboratory.
3030 Forest Pathology.
4010 Air Pollution Damage to Plants.
4040 Diseases of Crop Plants.
4050 Phytopathogens.
4060 Principles of Pesticide Application.
4311 Integrated Plant Pest Management I.
4312 Integrated Plant Pest Management II.
4680 Virology.
4960 Field Study.
4970 Independent Study.
4980 Special Study.
4990 Undergraduate Research.
5020 Principles of Plant Disease Control.
5030 Plant Parasitic Nematodes.
5040 Plant Virology.
5090 Genetics of Host-Parasite Interactions.
5111 Seminar.
5120 Concepts and Practices of Pesticide Application.
5130 Plant Pathogenic Agents.
5150 Diseases of Field Crops.
5170 Epidemiology of Plant Diseases.
5221 Clinical Plant Pathology I.
5222 Clinical Plant Pathology II.
5311 Pest Management Systems I.
5312 Pest Management Systems II.
5900 Project and Report.
5970 Independent Study.
5980 Special Study.
5990 Research and Thesis.
6020 Principles of Plant Disease Development.
6040 Physiology of Pathogenesis.
7990 Research and Dissertation.


The Couch era coincided with the beginning of the "publish or perish" era practiced by universities nation wide. As a consequence, papers were published on research before the research was ripe for publication. Thus, there were many preliminary, fragmented reports in an effort to amass publication titles. There was also an increased dependence on granting agencies for funds and a corresponding reduction of funds from federal and state governments. Successful renewal of grants often was determined by the ability of researchers to show progress via publication. This caused a burgeoning of journals filled with unnecessary redundancy and this in turn taxed libraries to find a means to store the outpouring.

To record the progress of plant pathology during the Couch era would be an impossible task if it were done entirely chronologically; also, it would be a hodgepodge wherein the logic of the research would be difficult to follow. Therefore, the research is presented under commodities and to a lesser degree under categories of pathogens.

Fruit pathology was the oldest activity in the Department, extending back to the appointment of W. B. Alwood as Vice-Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station in 1888. The first article relating to plant pathology was an article appearing in The Southern Planter magazine in which Alwood described equipment available and how to maintain and utilize equipment for applying pesticides. Alwood wrote several articles and bulletins on fruit diseases between 1889 and 1904. Activity in fruit research became so intense and specialized that a fruit research laboratory was established at Winchester in 1922 and a fruit pathologist, F. J. Schneiderhan, was appointed and assigned there that year. Schneiderhan, thus, became the first field station pathologist in the Experiment Station. Fruit pathology has remained an important and continuous departmental activity since 1888.


During the Couch era fruit pathologists were A. B. Groves, C. R. Drake, K. D. Hickey, and J. J. Albert. Groves had been at Winchester since September 1929; his career ended abruptly on January 26, 1966 when he died of a second heart attack. After Groves' first heart attack in 1962, John J. Albert had been appointed Instructor in 1962 to assist him with orchard work. When K. D. Hickey was appointed Assistant Professor to succeed Groves, Albert resigned to pursue a Ph.D. degree at V.P.I. & S.U. At Blacksburg, Drake was essentially a replacement for R. H. Hurt who had retired from the Piedmont Fruit Laboratory at Charlottesville, resulting in closing of the laboratory.

Toward the end of his career, Groves was working on the interregional project IR-2, which was organized to isolate and maintain virus-free tree fruit propagating stock. In an article, "Apple viruses, a newly recognized disease problem" (Va. Fruit 53:113- 116, 1965), Groves outlined his research on apple virus diseases. Through January 1966, he reported that he had found only one virus-free tree, a Golden Delicious. Thus, the effect of viruses on horticultural performance of apple varieties could not be evaluated and was unknown. Apple viruses are spread through propagating practices and probably through root grafting. Groves anticipated that virus-free stock would become available but not soon (Va. Fruit 53:113-116). The foregoing statements attest to the basic research underway at Winchester in the twilight of Groves life. They also pointed out that pesticide testing need not be the only function of a fruit disease laboratory.

Kenneth D. Hickey replaced Groves in late 1966, but did not move to Winchester until early 1967. Since Hickey was transferring from the Pennsylvania fruit laboratory at Arendtsville and he had cooperated with Groves on a number of projects and programs in the Cumberland-Shenandoah Fruit Workers conferences, he was well prepared to replace Groves and continue his projects. He immediately became Groves replacement on IR-2.

Hickey's research can be tracked very well from the papers he presented at annual meetings of the Virginia State Horticultural Society. He kept growers appraised of new fungicides and application methods. Results from several tests with fungicides and individual diseases were summarized in the American Phytopathological Society annual publication, Fungicide and Nematicide Tests, for which he served as either editor or business manager during the Couch era (Fungicide. Nemat. Tests vols. 23-30, 1967-1974). Generally, he would publish a technical summary and follow this up by less technical oral presentations at annual meetings of the Cumberland-Shenandoah Fruit Workers Conference and Virginia State Horticultural Society. In 1969, Hickey promoted the use of concentrated sprays applied with airblast sprayers (Va. Fruit 57:81- 84, 1969). Savings resulted from the reduction of spray volume, spray machine costs, and labor.

Apple powdery mildew was a topic of intensive research by Hickey. Many new products were tested but only a few were adequate. Dikar 80W was first recommended during these studies. Triamirol and Benlate appeared promising in later studies and were recommended as soon as they were properly labelled (Va. Fruit 59:85-90, 1971).

The various chemical usages can be traced through the recommendations issued in Extension Service Bulletin 131 (up to 1968 and renumbered 219 in 1969). Hickey contributed extensively to these publications.

Hickey advised one graduate student, D. A. Smith, through an M.S. thesis project. Smith's thesis was titled "Fungicidal control and related studies on black root rot of apple (Malus pumila Mill.) caused by Xylaria mali Fromme (1973). Smith also worked at Winchester on the apple powdery mildew problem; Hickey and Smith read a paper on movement of benomyl and thiabendazole in apple seedlings as determined by bioassays and mildew occurrence (Va. J. Sci. 24:113, 1973).

Charles R. Drake became a State employee in 1962 after having worked as a U.S.D.A. employee in Blacksburg from 1956 to 1962. Drake was named Associate Professor of Plant Pathology in the Agricultural Experiment Station; in 1966, he became Associate Professor and Extension Specialists in fruit pathology.

Since there were no orchards near the V.P.I. and S.U. campus, Drake in 1965 established an experimental-demonstration planting of apple, pear, peach, and nectarine trees. With this small orchard and through cooperation with orchardists in Carroll, Patrick, Albemarle, and Nelson counties, Drake studied disease problems in the western Piedmont and southwestern Virginia. Most of these studies led to the publication of numerous 1-4 page leaflets in the Extension Service Plant Disease Control Notes, Control Series. In most of these, a single disease was described and illustrated, and recommended control practices were outlined. Once published, they were revised almost annually in the Couch era.

Drake prepared or coordinated the preparation of three Extension Publications, 35, 374, and 4745 having the outside and inside (4 pages) adorned with color illustrations of diseases. He prepared "Fire Blight of Apple and Pear and is Control in Virginia" (Extension Publ. 35, 1968); a colored diagram of the disease cycle was featured. The second in this series, "Apple Diseases and Their Control in Virginia" (Ext. Publ. 374, 1970) prepared in a similar format was authored by Hickey, G. M. Shear and coordinated by Drake. Four disease cycles were diagrammed. The final one, "Diseases of Stone Fruits and Their Control in Virginia" (Ext. Publ. 475, 1972) was prepared by Drake abone. These three publications were beautifully illustrated and executed; they represent the acme of perfection in Extension plant pathology.

Drake revised "Diseases of Grapes and Their Control in Virginia" (Ext. Publ. 32, 1974). It is also excellent but with black and white photographs.

Apparently, Drake was well-trained in plant histology. He developed a histology laboratory for the Department (long since dismantled) and studied the pathological progress of several diseases. He had a special interest in Botryosphaeria ribis, cause of a stem canker and fruit rot of apple, and he reported on several occasions about the justification, and pathological histology and control of B. ribis (Fungicide Nemat. Test Results 22:35-36, 1966; 23:29, 1967; 24:6, 6-7, 1968; 26:7-9, 19, 1971; Phytopathology 56:876, 891, 1966; 57:645, 1967; 58:884, 1968; 60:1014, 1970; 61:883, 1971; Va. J. Sci. 19:165, 1968).

Drake's contributions to disease control in orchards may be tracked through reports published in Fungicide and Nematicide Test Result and in Proceedings of the Cumberland-Shenandoah Fruit Workers Conference, 1965-1975. The essences of these reports were incorporated into the Extension Service Control Series and the annual Virginia Spray Service Bulletin 131/219.

An outbreak of peach powdery mildew occurred in 1968 in Patrick and Nelson Cos. Two species of powdery mildew fungi occurred on peach but since only the oidial stage was found Drake did not determine whether it was Sphaerotheca pannosa or Podosphaera oxyacanthae (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 54:686-688, 1970). Most likely it was the latter which is now (1998) report as occurring in the range of the host (Farr et al. P. 477). It was not found again until 1973 when it occurred in Albemarle Co. and in 1974 in Nelson and Patrick Cos. again (Va. Fruit 63:89, 1975).

With fruit pathology anchored by Hickey at Winchester and Drake at Blacksburg, fruit growers felt that their disease problems would be capably managed, and so it was through the Couch era.


Research on tobacco diseases probably involved more people and more man- hours than diseases of any other commodity. Before the Couch era, much effort had been devoted to tobacco ringspot, tobacco mosaic, black shank, blue mold, Granville wilt, wildfire, angular leaf spot, and several nematode diseases. Breeding for pathogen resistance had become the most time-consuming phase of research. Blue mold and nematodes required testing fungicides and nematicides and techniques for their application. From 1965 through 1974, significant progress resulted in the release of several new tobacco varieties and new preventatives for blue mold and nematodes.

From 1929 to 1973, Robert G. Henderson worked steadfastly to improve tobacco, tobacco production, and the lot of tobacco growers. He worked with farmers on their land, with agronomists, other plant pathologists in Virginia and in all tobacco- producing states to facilitate interchange of information and germplasm. Thus, under his leadership through the Couch era, important results accrued.

Henderson was located at Blacksburg but he cooperated with plant pathologists W. H. Wills, J. L. Troutman, and J. L. LaPrade at Chatham agronomists E. M. Matthews also at Chatham, J. W. Crews and later T. R. Terrill at Blacksburg, and R. D. Sears at Charlotte Court House. Henderson emphasized flue-cured and burley tobacco but he also worked on sun-cured tobacco problems. Later, L. D. Moore joined the research; he investigated the physiology of tobacco diseases, especially the pectolytic enzymes involved.

Henderson and his associates released a number of tobacco varieties in the 1965-1974 period. In the following list the reactions to diseases and the cooperating breeders are included:

From the list above, it can be seen that Virginia's tobacco pathologists were quite active in tobacco breeding. The benefits to growers were immeasurable. It had been demonstrated that most of the diseases they targeted could be controlled only by growing resistant cultivars. Most of the greenhouse-laboratory techniques for classifying plants and populations for disease reactions had been developed in Virginia. One notable achievement was the discovery that the PVY virus produced vein-banding on plants susceptible to root knot incited by Meloidogyne incognita but produced vein necrosis on plants resistant to root knot. By inoculating with PVY, populations could be classified homozygous resistant or susceptible to root knot and heterozygous. Developing this procedure was a major accomplishment in tobacco breeding (LaPrade & Henderson. 1968. Tob. Sci. 12:158-160).

Troutman and LaPrade reported on the effect of pH on black shank; high pH favored it, low pH suppressed it. Moore and Wills established that increased calcium in a hydroponic growing medium and not merely a high pH was directly correlated with increased severity of black shank (Phytopathology 59:346-351, 1969; Tob. Sci. 16:168, 1972). Although the effect of pH has been clearly elaborated, management of pH and calcium receive little emphasis.

Through extension demonstration plots Wyatt Osborne greatly aided tobacco growers by showing how much crop loss was caused by nematodes; he showed they could be suppressed by application of soil fumigants. He made up-to-date recommendations for nematode control in a variety of Extension Service publications. He realized that a cyst nematode causing damage to tobacco in Amelia County was an undescribed species. It became known as the Osborne's cyst nematode although Osborne did not describe it; Miller and Betty Gray (Technician at Holland) described it as Heterodera solanacearum (Nematologica 18:404-413. 1972). Later, it was renamed Globodera solanacearum and it is commonly called the Virginia tobacco cyst nematode.

In this zeal to create an awareness of the magnitude of nematode damage to plants, Osborne developed a systematic nematode assay program. This, coupled with his field nematode clinics led to the construction of a mobile disease control laboratory. The vehicle was a van dubbed "the Worm Wagon". The self-contained unit was equipped with electricity, water, a centrifuge, and microscopes. It was used primarily at field days in the tobacco, peanut, and soybean production areas. Osborne was a convincing, effective Extensioneer. He could have canned and sold nematodes.

Wills had been hired to study the ecology of Phytophthora parasitica. This work was continued into the late 1960's. The effect of pH had been demonstrated so Wills joined with Moore to determine the precise roles of pH-modifying ions in the black shank disease. They found that increased calcium levels and not merely higher pH levels were directly correlated with increased black shank severity. This same effect on another soil Phycomycete, Pythium myriotylum could not be demonstrated (Plant Dis. Reptr. 51:641-644. 1967; Phytopathology 59:346-351. 1969; Tob. Sci. 16:168. 1972).

Research workers from Virginia contributed extensively to interstate, even international cooperation, through the Tobacco Workers Conference. Wingard and Henderson were prime movers in the organization of this group. Henderson was General Chairman of the Conference in 1965; Member of the Advisory Committee on Variety Releases, 1965-66; Chairman of the Flue-cured Tobacco Quality Committee, 1965-70; Member of the Editorial Board for Tobacco Science, 1965-66; Member of the Resistance Evaluation Committee, 1966-69; and Member of the Tobacco Disease Loss Committee, 1972. In 1970, Tobacco Science, vol. 14 was dedicated to Henderson.

Others who served on committees of the Tobacco Workers Conference were Osborne who was Chairman of the Disease Council, 1969; Chairman of the Disease Council Subcommittee on Nematode Control, 1970; and Member of the Disease Loss Committee, 1972; LaPrade who was on the Regional Tobacco Disease Evaluation Committee, 1968-69; Spasoff who served on the Committee on Tobacco Diseases, 1965; and who was the recipient of the Conference Research Award in 1965; Troutman who served as Chairman of the Tobacco Disease Council, 1967; Wills who participated in the Conference programs through 1967; Tolin who was a member of Tobacco Disease Council, 1973.

In 1967, the Disease Laboratory at Chatham was closed. Wills was transferred to Blacksburg to investigate root diseases of ornamental crops; Troutman resigned and LaPrade continued his breeding project until he retired in 1970. In 1974, all remaining Chatham personnel were transferred to a new location at Blackstone. The Charlotte C.H. station was also closed in 1974; no faculty members were at Charlotte C.H. but tobacco seed-bed and field experiments were still in progress under the direction of Blacksburg personnel. The opening of the Southern Piedmont Research Station at Blackstone was dawn of a new era in tobacco disease research. Henderson, LaPrade, and Spasoff retired during the Couch era; Troutman resigned; and Wills was transferred into ornamental crop work. A new generation would pick up tobacco work in the Foy era.


Peanut disease research began at Holland in 1938 when Miller began studying methods to control peanut leaf spot. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and returned to the Station afterward. In 1946, he took an educational leave to study for a Ph.D. degree. He returned in 1949 and remained there until he was transferred to Blacksburg in 1969. Garren was assigned by the U.S.D.A. to Holland in 1955. Miller became an expert nematologist at Holland; Garren emphasized control of stem rot and pod rot.

Prior to the Couch era, Miller discovered a new virus disease of peanut in September 1964. Troutman worked diligently with Miller and others to characterize and control this new disease and its viral pathogen which they called peanut stunt and peanut stunt virus (Plant Dis. Reptr. 50:139-143, 1966; Phytopathology 56:587, 904, 1966). The virus was found to be non-persistently aphid-borne, mechanically transmissible, seed-borne, reactive to a homologous antigen but not to that of squash, pea enation, southern bean, and cucumber mosaic viruses. The virus was never photographed by Troutman with an electron microscope; eventually it was found by others to be an icosahedron of the cucumovirus group. Troutman and T. W. Culp (U.S.D.A. at Holland) found that seed transmission occurred only in seeds that passed through an 18/64 inch screen. Larger seeds were found to be virus-free. Thus, a mechanical means of obtaining virus-free seed from infected, symptomless plants was available to growers (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 52:522-523, 1968).

In 1970, Cylindrocladium crotalariae was discovered by Garren et al. on peanut plants in Nansemond County. It caused a disease called black rot (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 55:419-421, 1971). Work ensued to seek varietal resistance as it seemed that it would become very destructive (J. Am. Peanut Res. & Edu. Assoc. 4:14-17, 1972). The organism infected soybeans; this created a problem for growers in the peanut-producing counties as soybeans and peanuts were rotated through the same fields. Remote (aerial) sensing was investigated in an attempt to estimate disease losses rapidly. N. L. Powell, Garren, G. J. Griffin and D. M. Porter, who had been appointed to a U.S.D.A. position in 1966, cooperated and were able to solicit the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Wallops Island, Va., for the flights and infrared photography (Peanut Sci. 3:21-24, 25-29, 1976). Although the work revealed new infestations and field patterns of diseased plants, it was discontinued as a routine survey procedure because of the expense.

In 1971, Porter and M. K. Beute found an outbreak of peanut blight incited by Sclerotinia minor now S. sclerotiorum, the first occurrence on peanut in the United States (J. Am. Peanut Res. & Educ. Assoc. 5:199, 1973; Phytopathology 64:263-264, 1974). Later, Powell, Porter, and Pettry demonstrated that aerial infrared photography as described above could be used to detect Sclerotinia blight and assess losses caused by it (Peanut Sci. 3:21-24, 1976). In experiments conducted in 1973 and 1974 Porter and Beute obtained excellent control of the blight with DCNA, PCNB, and benomyl (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 59:697-701, 1975).

Porter, from the outset of his appointment to the Holland station, tested new fungicides for control of Cercospora leaf spot. At first, benomyl was efficaceous (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 54:955-958, 1970), but later other products were introduced. Complications developed when it was discovered that captafol or chlorothalonil, although excellent for leaf spot control, resulted in more destruction by Sclerotnia blight (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 61:995-998, 1977).

Porter cooperated with Garren, and F. S. Wright on studies of proliferation of Aspergillus flavus and consequent production of aflatoxin in peanut (Phytopathology 61:1194-1197, 1971). It was determined that to minimize aflatoxin accumulation, pods must be harvested promptly and dried quickly to 9% water content (Proc. Am. Phytopath. Soc. 3:253, 1976).

Garren was a great believer in isolation and culture of fungi as a diagnostic technique. In the early 1960's, he had obtained evidence from tests with soil fungicides that a Phycomycete was involved in peanut pod rot. After thousands of isolations, inoculations and re-isolations, he devised a selective medium that yielded Pythium myriotylum from partially rotted pods. He reported these results in 1966 (Phytopath. Zeitschrift 55:359-367) and verified them in further studies (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 54:840-843, 1970).

Both Garren and Porter were active in the American Peanut Research and Education Association. Garren served as president in 1974. Porter as president in 1986. Miller received the Golden Peanut Research Award from the National Peanut Council in 1965; Garren received it in 1974.


Corn - In the Couch era, maize dwarf mosaic and gray leaf spot received emphasis from the corn pathologist, C. W. Roane, the virologist, S. A. Tolin, and the corn breeder, C. F. Genter.

Maize dwarf mosaic (MDM) was identified in 1964; it had been observed but not identified in 1963 and farmers along the James River declared that it had appeared in 1962. Since it was invariably associated with the presence of johnsongrass, it was found to be widespread in Virginia (Plant Dis. Reptr. 49:665-667, 1965). Troutman assisted Roane in early studies on the host range of the virus (MDMV). When Tolin was hired in 1966, she took an interest in MDMV, and the work underway was greatly refined (Plant Dis. Reptr. 53:307-310, 1969). Roane and Genter, starting in 1966 began a project to breed corn resistant to MDMV. Several hybrids were found to resist the stunting phase of MDM but none were found that would not mottle to some degree. Hybrids that mottled and therefore were regarded as susceptible to MDMV would produce respectable crops; these were recommended to growers. In this respect, Virginia was more successful than states that made recommendations based on freedom from symptoms.

Roane, Genter, and Tolin conducted some experiments from 1970 to 1973 by artificially inoculating corn with a johnsongrass isolate of MDMV. Although it was known that several entries in the test would stunt severely, produce nubbins and bright yellow and red leaves in the presence of johnsongrass, the artificially inoculated corn only mottled and was just a few inches shorter than healthy corn. Yield of grain was only slightly reduced (Crop Sci. 13:531-535, 1973). It was concluded that in association with johnsongrass, severe symptoms in maize were caused by an agent other than MDMV. Shortly thereafter, workers in Mississippi and Ohio demonstrated that symptoms in natural infections were produced by two viruses, an aphid-borne, sap-transmissible, flexuous rod that caused mottling (MDMV) and a leafhopper-borne, isometric particle. The latter was designated the maize chlorotic dwarf virus; it was responsible for the dwarfing and sterility (Phytopathology 63:127-133, 1973). Obviously MDMV is a misnomer as it causes no dwarfing.

R. K. Jones, working with Tolin, studied purification of MDMV for his dissertation. Unlike other rod-shaped viruses, MDMV underwent severe degradation during purification. Field-grown maize produced higher titres of MDMV and maintained the virus at a high level longer than did greenhouse-grown maize (Phytopathology 62:640- 644, 812-816, 1972).

Gray leaf spot (GLS) caused by Cercospora zeae-maydis began intensifying in 1971; by 1973 it was causing heavy losses to corn growers, mostly west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As the no-tillage method of corn production became more widespread, so did GLS. No-tillage allowed crop residues to remain on the surface where viable inoculum could generate spores soon after a new planting of corn emerged. By plowing under corn crop residue, GLS could be effectively controlled. In the Couch era, resistant hybrids were sought, but by the end of the era, little progress had been made (Plant Dis. Reptr. 58:456-459, 1974). MDMV had a predisposing effect on GLS.

Helminthosporium maydis race T, so designated because it was highly virulent and very destructive on all maize lines and hybrids carrying the Texas male sterility factor, appeared in Virginia in August 1970. No effort was made to study this disease because nearly every other eastern state initiated a crash program to bring it under control. Although these programs compiled a considerable fund of knowledge about the disease, the commercial corn breeders reverted to hand detasseling and greatly suppressed it in 1971; in 1972 they virtually eliminated it. This disease is often cited as one where genetic uniformity in the host species is liable to make it vulnerable to disease (Annu. Rev. Phytopathology 11:463-486, 1973; 12:167-179, 1974). Roane in the 1973 article, elaborated on the implications of genetic homo- and heterogenicity (Ibid 11:471-472, 475-476).

Barley - Although equal emphasis had been given to breeding wheat and barley varieties, progress was more rapid with barley. 'James' had been released in 1961; 'Hanover' was released in 1968; 'Rapidan' was released in 1970 (Crop Sci. 6:303, 1966; 10:456, 1970; 13:769-770, 1973). Hanover and Rapidan were similar; they provided resistance to scald, powdery mildew, and leaf rust; stiffer and shorter straw and higher grain yields than did previous varieties; but unfortunately, they were very susceptible to net blotch and they brought it to the forefront.

Inheritance of reaction to Rhynchosporium secalis and Puccinia hordei were studied intensively in the Couch era. The genes conditioning reaction to leaf rust were labelled Pa1-Pa5 (Phytopathology 57:66-68). The standard leaf rust race-differentiating varieties were found to have Pa genes duplicated thus their efficiency was impaired. A new group of differential varieties based on monogenic resistance was proposed. This suggestion was based on the assumption that Flor's gene-for-gene hypothesis was applicable to Hordeum-Puccinia hordei genetics (1971 Barley Newsletter 15:23-28, 1972). Eventually such a system would be adopted.

There were studies to identify leaf-rust conditioning genes in several cultivars useful to breeders. 'Franger' carried Pa4, 'Cebada Capa' Pa5 (Phytopathology 60:788- 790, 1970); 'Kwan' and others were listed by Roane in a book chapter on barley (Breeding Plants for Disease Resistance, Concepts and Applications, R. R. Nelson, ed., Penn. State Univ. Press. 1973).

Inheritance of reaction to R. secalis was investigated primarily by T. M. Starling (Agronomy Dept.) and his student K.-R. Chi (Proc. 2nd Internat. Barley Genet. Symp. 513:519, 1970). Many cultivars were studied all but one, C. I. 8618, had genes previously recognized.

Roane contributed a book chapter on barley (cited above) in which the genetics of disease reactions, sources of resistance, and methods of breeding were summarized for leaf rust scald, powdery mildew, brown loose smut, barley yellow dwarf virus, covered smut, spot, and net blotch.

In 1970, permits to manufacture mercury seed treatment chemicals in the United States were cancelled. In 1972, all labels for such mercury products were cancelled. This action removed from the market the only chemicals known to be effective for controlling cereal smuts and barley stripe. In part, the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) was moved by three events to take this action:

  1. A farmer in Alamagordo, N.M., fed his hogs mercury-treated grain, mercury accumulated in the hogs, they were slaughtered and fed to his family causing mercury-poisoning to his children. The television networks gave the incident national publicity.
  2. A shipment of mercury-treated wheat intended for sowing arrived in a mid- eastern country and many of the bags were stolen, the grain was used for bread, and many people died of mercury poisoning.
  3. Treated grain was transported in bulk from treatment plants to farmers in northern states and Canada. Spillage occurred along the roadways and the toxic grain was consumed by birds, among them pheasants. Birds died and mercury traveled up the food chain in raptors and other scavengers. People consuming poisoned birds became ill.

Most seed treatment mercury compounds were methyl mercuries for which there was no antidote. Armed with these facts and under pressure from environmentalist and health organizations, the F.D.A. clamped down on all agricultural mercury products. Mercury products already distributed after the ban could be used. The impact of this ban most seriously affected the seed grain industry. There was a need to find replacements for mercury. Von Schmeling and Kulka announced the systemic activity of 1,4-oxathiin (= carboxin) derivatives as being especially efficacious toward Basidiomycetes, namely rusts, smuts, and Rhizoctonia (Science 152:659, 1966). For smut control, one of these products, Vitavax, quickly replaced mercury. However, none of the oxathiins controlled seedling diseases nor barley stripe. D. M. Kline (U.S.D.A. at N.C. Ag. Expt. Sta.) and Roane experimented with other chemicals and combinations with carboxin. Cycloheximide + thiram, carboxin + thiram were the most effective materials (Kline & Roane, Plant Dis. Reptr. 56:183-185, 1972). Thiram + carboxin became the standard treatment for barley in the Virginia certified seed business. No other studies were conducted with seed-treatment chemicals during the Couch era.

Ascochyta graminea was found on barley at scattered locations; it did not appear to be a threat to the crop as it colonized only senescent leaves in early spring (C. W. Roane and M. K. Roane, Plant Dis. Reptr. 58:455, 1974).

Wheat - Most of the effort in wheat pathology from 1964 to 1974 was toward breeding disease-resistant varieties. However, Ascochyta sorghi was detected on wheat in 1973 (Plant Dis. Reptr. 58:455-456, 1974). Agropyron mosaic virus and wheat streak mosaic virus found at Blacksburg and Orange by Tolin and Roane were of no economic importance (Plant Dis. Reptr. 53:751-752, 1969). The discovery in 1973 that wheat spindle streak mosaic virus (WSSMV) rather than wheat soil-borne mosaic (WSBMV) is the predominant mosaic-inducing virus present in Eastern Virginia caused a reconsideration of previous claims and helped to explain an inconsistency observed in the mid-fifties. Since this situation was described only in a newsletter (Ann. Wheat Newsl. 30:166-167, 1984), it is repeated here.

In 1951, the wheat cultivars Atlas 50 and Atlas 66, released by the North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station, were widely planted in Virginia and neighboring states. In the spring of 1952, wheat soil-borne mosaic (WSBM) was observed in seven eastern Virginia counties where Atlas wheats were being produced. In 1953, WSBM was observed in 5 additional counties. In cooperative experiments with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the North Carolina and Virginia Agricultural Experiment Stations, plantings of several hundred cultivars were made at Statesville, N.C. in 1951 and in 1952 and China Grove, N.C. and near Lyells, Westmoreland County, Va., on the W. D. Edwards farm in 1952. As mosaic developed in 1953, a number of cultivars were severely mottled in both North Carolina and Virginia, some were severely mottled in both North Carolina and Virginia, some were severely mottled in Virginia and not at all in North Carolina. We attributed the different responses to occurrence of difference virus strains of WSBMV in North Carolina and Virginia (Plant Dis. Reptr. 38:14-18, 19-24, 1954). 'Atlas' wheats were replaced with more resistant cultivars and WSBM was not observed for a number of years.

In 1970, Slykhuis described the wheat spindle streak mosaic (WSSMV) and Polymyxa graminis was later shown to be the transmitting agent for this virus (Phytopathology 60:319-331, 1970). In 1973, several cultivars of wheat displayed mosaic symptoms in plots at the Warsaw, Virginia Station. Symptoms were severe in 'Arthur', 'Arthur 71', 'Abe' and some numbered lines. 'Oasis', 'Blueboy', and 'Blueboy II' were non-symptomatic. We presumed the disease to be WSBM but were suspicious because Arthur, Arthur 71, and Abe had been described as resistant to WSBMV. Sue Tolin examined the specimens provided with an electron microscope and found virus particles characteristic of WSSMV. No particles of WSBMV were found. Since then, wherever a soil-borne wheat mosaic has been encountered in Virginia, only WSSMV particles have been associated with the symptoms. Collections were obtained from several locations where WSBM had occurred in Atlas wheats had only WSSMV type particles. If in the 1952-3 experiments, WSBMV occurred in N.C., but WSSMV occurred in Va., as appears to be the case, the reasons for different responses to viruses in the two states is apparent. Two different viruses, WSBMV and WSSMV, rather than two strains of WSBMV occurred at the two locations.

The advent of new discoveries, new technologies including the availability of an electron microscope, and a person (Tolin) capable integrating these factors, made it possible for an enigma to be unscrambled.

Oats - The project for breeding disease-resistant oats had been abandoned by the beginning of the Couch era. Oats were no longer an economic factor in Virginia agriculture. Work on oats was reduced to testing available varieties for adaptability to Virginia conditions and cooperating with the U.S.D.A. by growing the hardiness tests. The breeding work culminated in the release of 'Windsor' winter oat in 1971.

In 1960, late winter snows kept some of our nurseries covered until April 10 during which the halo blight bacterium (Pseudomonas coronafaciens) caused an unusual type of damage to winter oats which breeders were prone to write off as winter- killing (Plant Dis. Reptr. 44:69, 1960). Roane found that 'Dubois', 'Mid-south', and 'Victorgrain 48-93' were resistant and several other varieties were susceptible. C. P. Cheng chose to study the inheritance of reaction to the halo blight bacterium for his Ph.D. dissertation project (Phytopathology 58:1402-1405, 1968). He found the varieties Dubois and Victorgrain 48-93 to be monogenic resistant but that their genes were closely linked (1.8 ± 1.04 C.O. units). The genes were labelled Pc2 and Pc3.


There had been no continuous work with soybean diseases in Virginia until the soybean cyst nematode was found in 1958. Grover Smart was soon hired at Holland to work on the disease and its pathogen, Heterodera glycines. However, Smart resigned before the Couch era began and Miller began to take an interest in the soybean cyst nematode. Most of his work addressed variability in the nematode, its host range and interfertility of various species of cyst nematodes. He published several papers on the subject throughout the Couch era. He repeatedly demonstrated their interspecific and intergeneric compatibility and proposed that species within each genus may have had a common ancestor but by geographic isolation they have become relatively host specific and morphologically distinct. Miller did not forsake the practical aspect of soybean cyst nematode work. He described in news releases and extension notes satisfactory methods of disinfesting machinery and moving marketable peanuts from infested farms to intra- and interstate markets without risk of disseminating the nematode. This eased the problem that had developed among farmers, pathologists, and enforcement agents when a quarantine was imposed upon farms having an infestation.

In 1965, Roane was asked by Couch to cooperate with T. J. Smith of the Agronomy Department in breeding disease-resistant soybean cultivars. Smith and H. M. Camper of the Warsaw station had bred 'York' and 'Essex', both high-yielding, high quality soybeans. They had emphasized ridding Virginia soybeans of purple stain and streaking or bleeding hilum and they had succeeded so well that Virginia soybeans had become coveted in the market. Smith knew that viruses, purple stain and brown stem rot were diseases to be dealt with and he though a pathologist could wave a magic wand and eliminate the problem. He also thought bacterial pustule was a threat. Into this arena, Roane was thrust with great anticipation.

Roane made surveys of soybean fields and found viruses to be very prevalent near forage legume fields, and in the peanut producing counties. Brown stem rot was commonly encountered, mostly north of the York River. Late in the season, stems everywhere became decorated with anthracnose and pod and stem blight fungi. With Tolin's help, soybean mosaic (SMV), peanut mottle (PMV), and bean pod mottle (BPMV) viruses were identified as most common (Proc. Amer. Phytopathol. Soc. 2:129, 1975). Field symptoms thought to be induced by tobacco ringspot virus were found to be induced by BPMV. As Tolin and Roane, through surveys supported by funds from the Virginia Soybean Commission, clarified the virus situation, numerous varieties were inoculated, the effects of each virus were observed. It became clear that viruses could not be identified from field symptoms. It also became clear that any virus, not just SMV, could cause seed streaking or bleeding hilum. York was found to be resistant and Essex susceptible to SMV and PMV. Lee was resistant to peanut stunt virus (Proc. Amer. Phytopathol. Soc. 1:36-37, 1974). Smith was shown the tests wherein four cultivars were inoculated with four viruses. Essex was obviously severely damaged by all viruses. When Smith saw the test, he commented "You're ruining my Essex". Thereafter, Roane could get no further cooperation from him. It became obvious that he only wanted a pathologist to look over his shoulder; he wanted no one tampering with his soybean breeding program. Little real progress was made in breeding disease- resistant soybeans until Smith retired and Glenn Buss replaced him.

Attempts to establish a nursery for evaluating soybean reactions to brown stem rot failed. The fungus, Cephalosporium gregatum, was easy to isolate but difficult to propagate. Furthermore, soil inoculations failed. It was concluded that naturally infested sites would be more useful than artificially inoculated sites. Since no useful sources of resistance were known, brown stem rot work ceased in favor of virus work.


Not much attention was devoted to diseases of forest and shade trees by the V.P.I. faculty before the arrival of R. J. Stipes in 1967 and J. M. Skelly in 1968. Workers in the U.S.D.A. had studied chestnut blight but came up empty; the chestnuts died. Federal and State Department of Agriculture workers had some success at controlling Dutch elm disease in Virginia, and there had been a project to eradicate the telial host of white pine blister rust in several western counties. Oak wilt had been found and there were efforts to contain it. Records on the latter two problems are unavailable. Numerous diseases had been noted in the U.S.D.A. Agricultural Handbook 165, Index of Plant Diseases in the United States, as occurring in Virginia but there had been no research on them. Gruenhagen had reported a canker of live oak from the Newport News area in 1964, caused by Endothia parasitica (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 49:269, 1965). Thus, there was a fruitful field in forest and shade tree pathology awaiting to be tapped.

Stipes was appointed in 1967 to 65% research, 25% extension, and 10% teaching. He would devote non-teaching time to shade and ornamental tree diseases. His first efforts were to search for systemic chemical controls for Dutch elm disease (DED) and mimosa (Albizzia) wilt. The work was continued throughout the Couch era. Primary methods explored were soil and bole injection of various chemicals. Benomyl, captan, and thiabendazole were most effective. P. M. Phipps conducted research for an M.S. thesis on mimosa wilt (Fusarium). Results of this research are scattered through a number of abstracts, conference proceedings, and short articles (Va. J. Sci. 20:99, 100, 1969; 21:103, 1970; 22:107, 108, 1971; 23:122, 1972; 25:52, 1974; Phipps. M. S. Thesis. V.P.I.-S.U., 1972).

In 1970, a canker disease caused by Endothia gyrosa, was discovered on pin oak in Hampton. This launched Stipes into an extensive study of E. gyrosa and other diseases attributed to Endothia in Virginia (Plant Dis. Reptr. 55:467-469, 1971; Va. J. Sci. 22:86, 1971; 24:136, 1973; 25:74, 1974; 26:65, 1975). Martha K. Roane became involved in the work; she took particular interest in the taxonomy of Endothia spp. (Mycologia 66:1042-1047, 1974). As a result, she was appointed Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology in 1975. John R. Elkins, a Professor of Chemistry at Concord College was interested in the comparative chemistry of Castanea spp., thinking perhaps there was some product in resistant Chinese chestnut that was lacking in American chestnut. He too became an Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology. Stipes furnished the impetus, much of the money, and the laboratory for intensive study of chestnut blight and Endothia spp. At the end of the Couch era, Endothia and chestnut blight research was still gaining momentum.

Fomes annosus was a research topic for several State Foresters at the Virginia Division of Forestry during the Couch era. Involved were C. L. Morris, D. H. Fazier, and J. D. Artman. When J. M. Skelly was appointed in 1968 to a three-way position in research, extension, teaching he, too, became involved in F. annosus research. Morris and Frazier had devised a scheme for site hazard rating in loblolly pine plantations (Plant Dis. Reptr. 50:510-511, 1966). These workers were interested in preventing stump-top colonization after thinning to prevent build-up of F. annosus inoculum which would be a hazard to remaining trees. They investigated the efficacy of borax and urea for preventing stump colonization and found them to be equally efficacious (Plant Dis. Reptr. 53:108-110, 1969).

Artman and W. J. Stambaugh were cognizant of the British discovery that Peniophora gigantea, a sap-rotting fungus, could be used as a biological control for F. annosus. Applications of spore suspension sprays would have the same labor costs as chemical sprays and, therefore, would not become a practice. Artman and Stambaugh conceived the method by which Peniophora spores could be applied in chain-saw chain oil as the trees were being felled. Their experiments with loblolly pine yielded a high success rate. They did not address the problem of making oil inoculum commercially available (Plant Dis. Reptr. 54:799-802, 1970). Later, Artman and E. L. Sharp applied the same technique to white pine but because of excessive resin production on the stumps, Peniophora inoculations were not very successful (Plant Dis. Reptr. 55:834- 836, 1971).

Artman continued experiments initiated in loblolly pine and reported that field tests were not as successful as first reported (Plant Dis. Reptr. 56:66-68, 1972). They attributed failure in part to the high viscosity of SAE 30 oil. In tests with SAE 10 oil, a higher degree of success was obtained. Artman attributed this to a heavier deposition of oil inoculum during felling (Plant Dis. Reptr. 56:958-960, 1972). Apparently, there are no further reports on this work during the Couch era. Artman reported on the occurrence of a canker on white pine caused by Fusarium lateritium (Plant Dis. Reptr. 57:182-184, 1973), and on breeding loblolly pine for resistance to F. annosus (Plant Dis. Reptr. 58:409-411, 1974). Meanwhile, J. M. Skelly was generating funds to explore insect transmission of F. annosus, an area in which he had become proficient while studying oak wilt for a dissertation at Pennsylvania State University [Phytopathology News 5(6):7, 1971; 6(2):7, 1972)].

Both Skelly and Stipes prepared a number of Extension publications on tree diseases. Skelly published on needle cast and sooty molds of conifers; oak wilt, decline, and cankers; eastern gall, fusiform, blister, and needle rusts of pine; mistletoe; pine pitch canker; Fomes root and butt rot of pine; winter drying; Nectria canker; chestnut blight; little leaf of short leaf pine; shoestring rot; leaf diseases, decays, and discolorations of hardwoods. Stipes prepared leaflets on Mimosa wilt, Verticillium wilt, cankers and galls, Dutch elm disease, foliar diseases, Endothia canker of live oak, wetwood, and chemical injuries. R. C. Lambe, working with ornamental plants, prepared leaftlets on juniper twig blight, dogwood spot anthracnose, dogwood Septoria leaf spot, and hemlock twig rust. Most of these Extension publications went through one or more revisions.

Skelly reported finding western gall rust, caused by Endocronartum harknessii, in Christmas tree plantations on Scots pine in Bedford, Nelson, Buckingham, and Roanoke Cos. The discovery was made in 1971 but the rust was not identified until it sporulated in 1975. It is an autoecious rust that was apparently brought into Virginia on nursery stock (Plant Dis. Reptr. 60:222-223, 1976). The rust must not be very destructive. Its discovery was but a ripple on the pond.

Stipes and T. C. Davis, Assistant Professor of Forestry at Auburn University and former graduate student who had earned an M.S. degree in the Department and who had studied hemlock rust for his thesis project, prepared a list of 101 landscape tree diseases observed in Virginia, 1968-1970 (Plant Dis. Reptr. 56:108-111, 1972). Thirty- seven diseases were previously unreported. In June 1971, Davis also collaborated with Stipes and Skelly to organize and host the Southwide Forest Disease Workshop at V.P.I. & S.U. Davis presided over the Workshop (Phytopathology News 5(9):1, 1971).

Skelly was the leader and advisor of a number of students who studied forest tree problems and who initiated studies of problems in Christmas tree plantations. They emphasized the effects of edaphic factors (S. A. Alexander), the use of fertilizer to alleviate air pollution damage to white pine (J. B. Will), role of insect vectors for Fomes annosus (W. E. Himes). However, it will be seen that Skelly became most interested in diagnosing air pollution damage to forest trees and seeking ways to alleviate the damage.


Traditionally, vegetable pathology has been in the province of the Virginia Truck Experiment Station at Virginia Beach and Painter although some tomato and bean work was done at Blacksburg. In the Couch era, Robert Pristou was assigned to Extension vegetable pathology at Blacksburg, T. J. Nugent was the pathologist at Virginia Beach, and R. E. Baldwin was located at Painter. The latter two had the responsibility for research in vegetable pathology. In 1967, Nugent became Associate Director of the Truck Station. The truck cropping industry in the Norfolk-Portsmouth area was declining; the burden of vegetable research had shifted to Eastern Shore. Ornamental plants were becoming the principle subject at the Virginia Beach station.

The principle publication outlet for Truck Station professionals was the Vegetable Growers News (VGN). Baldwin authored or co-authored 49 articles in VGN from 1965 to 1974. In the same period, he published 26 items in the American Phytopathology Society Fungicide and Nematicide Test Results (FNTR). Items in the publications were on similar subjects; those in VGN for growers, those in FNTR for professionals. The topics of Baldwin's publications pretty well describe the truck crop grower's problems in eastern Virginia; namely, cucumber anthracnose, scab, powdery and downy mildew, and Cercospora leaf spot; strawberry fruit rot and leaf scorch; tomato early and late blight, gray leaf sot, and anthracnose; potato early and late blight, and seed piece decay; sweet potato soft rot; snap bean rust; and root knot nematodes on cucumbers, snap beans, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. He published repeatedly on these subjects, thus providing growers information on the latest products and procedures. Data were sometime collected at both Painter and Virginia Beach by Baldwin and Nugent.

There were gardeners and truck croppers outside of Tidewater who were not specifically served by the Truck Station. Pristou served these growers by visiting problem farms with County Extension Agents. He also prepared several leaflets in the Control Series on vegetable diseases. These included bacterial spot of pepper, cucurbit diseases, early blight and blossom-end rot of tomato and root and stem rot of beans. Sadly, our cabbage industry in Southwest Virginia was not specifically treated in publications but cabbage diseases were treated in the bulky annual, general publication, "Virginia Plant Disease Guide", to which both Pristou and Baldwin contributed.

Much of the vegetable Extension pathology was handled by responses to specimens sent to the Plant Clinic. Pristou was in charge of the Clinic and he managed vegetable pathology through personal contacts and letters. However, during the Couch era, vegetable pathology was not a major topic for Blacksburg faculty.


In 1965, R. H. Gruenhagen was the Extension Project Leader in the Department and Claude Fordyce, Jr. was assigned to research and teaching; both worked in the pathology of ornamental plants. Gruenhagen did not leave a very impressive paper trail in the Couch era before he transferred out of the Department to the Chemical Pesticides Unit on October 1, 1966. He was an interesting, amusing speaker and lady's garden organizations enjoyed his presentations. In this respect, he represented the Department well and, therefore, was good for the Department. Fordyce published very little on ornamental plants but contributed greatly to the establishment of a gnotobiology laboratory in the Department. He resigned on May 31, 1967 to join the U.S.D.A. at Beltsville.

Robert C. Lambe was appointed Associate Professor and Extension Project Leader on April 1, 1967, presumably to replace Gruenhagen. Lambe proved to be very industrious and soon prepared a group of illustrated publications for the Florist and Nursery Notebook much in the style that Gruenhagen had initiated earlier. Later revisions of these were issued in Plant Disease Control Notes. Since this was the principle contribution of the Department to flower garden and nursery crop pathology, they are listed here. All are in the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service Control Series; the series number is given at the beginning of each:

49. Chrysanthemum Septoria Leaf Spot.
85. Black Spot of Roses.
86. Powdery Mildew of Roses.
87. Gladiolus Corn Rots.
88. Fire Blight of Ornamentals.
89. Scab of Apple and Pyracantha.
90. Phytophthora Root and Crown Rot.
91. Hemlock Twig Rust.
99. Camelia Flower Blight.
100. Fire or Botrytis Blight of Tulip.
107. Dogwood Septoria Blight.
108. Chrysanthemum Rust.
109. Dogwood Spot Anthracnose.
111. Hollyhock Rust.
116. Ovulinia Blight of Azalea.
118. Juniper Twig Blight.
119. Azalea Leaf and Flower Gall.
120. Peony Botrytis Blight.
128. Rust of Ornamentals.

Each of the above was issued in 1969 and revised for reissue in 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973. Later, lambe and Drake added MR-34, Powdery Mildew of Ornamentals, and Lambe, R. E. Baldwin (Eastern Shore Station), and R. S. Lindstrom (Horticulturist) added MR-37, Propagating and Growing Disease Free Plants.

Lambe conducted experiments to control powdery mildew on crape myrtle, drooping Leucothoe and rose; he found Benomyl to be the best product [Fungicide and Nematicide Test Results, A.P.S. 25:101-103, 1969 (four items); 26:113, 115, 1970]. He conducted many such experiments but apparently only incorporated the results into the Control Series publications.

When Wills moved from Chatham to Blacksburg in June 1967, he was assigned in part to work on diseases of woody ornamental plants. Boxwood became his principle subject. Boxwood decline flared up in the late 1950's and was still causing concern into the 1970's. Wills took an interest in the disease because a Phytophthora had been isolated from some boxwood plants and he had worked with Phytophthora at Chatham. George Montgomery decided that an investigation of boxwood decline would be a suitable dissertation subject. The American Boxwood Society and the Westmoreland Davis Memorial Foundation provided financial support for the resarch. Davis had been a governor of Virginia early in the 1900's and was owner of the Southern Planter. Boxwood is a valuable plant on many old Virginia estates, around historical buildings, and in some parks such as Colonial Williamsburg. To caretakers, the loss of a single decades-, even centuries-old plant would be a catastrophe. Thus, there seemed to be ample incentive to find a cause and prevention of boxwood decline. The most complete summaries of the situation appear in Montgomery's dissertation [The Etiology of Root Rot and Decline of English Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens cv. suffruticosa L.), VPI & SU, 1975], and a paper by Lambe and Wills (Decline of English boxwood in Virginia (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 59:105-108, 1975). They rejected Phytophthora spp. as causing decline but implicated Paecilomyces buxi and Fusarium oxysporum. No control measures were devised but study of the disease would be continued into the Foy era and beyond.


For people who lived in Blacksburg, pure, bracing mountain air had been tauted as characteristic of the area. Yet, one only had to look westward after 1940, to see that on quiet days, a haze hung heavily over the New River Valley. The Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RAAP) had begun production in 1941 and its emissions vastly beclouded the valley. However, most of the residents looked upon air pollution or smog as a problem of metropolitan areas. Tobacco farmers had to contend with a phenomenon known as weather fleck which was attributed primarily to ozone. However, there was a growing awareness that air pollutants were damaging our biota and probably ourselves. Skelly and Moore developed a special interest in the potential for damage from the emissions of the RAAP on local biota, especially forest trees. The RAAP was conveniently located to provide a natural study arena. With the assistance of graduate L. L. Stone, the RAAP was identified as an isolated source of oxides of nitrogen and sulfur. They correlated growth in conifers with periods of maximum production at RAAP and described symptoms of NOx and SO2 damage to white pine and yellow poplar (Phytopathology 60:1314, 1970; 63:805, 806, 1973; 64:773-778, 1974; Plant Dis. Reptr. 56:3-6, 1972). Growth data were obtained on trees progressively remote from the source of pollutants, from climatic data, and from production data at RAAP. Increment borings showing width of annual growth rings revealed a high inverse correlation with RAAP production (Phytopathology 64:773-778, 1974). These results led Skelly and his associates to seek funding to construct open- top, filtered-air chambers wherein air could be freed of pollutants and ambient or controlled amounts of pollutants could be introduced, and greenhouse chambers in which temperature, humidity, edaphic factors could be controlled and their effects isolated and measured. This, in effect, made our Department one of the most advanced centers in the East for research on air pollution damage to plants. The work was continued into the 1980's. Moore made studies of the RAAP emissions on tobacco and reported oxides of N induced leaf flecking and abscission, and generally stunted growth (Phytopathology 63:804, 1973).

The joint efforts by Moore and Skelly and the developing interest world-wide in air pollution and its control led to the creation of the course on "Air Pollution Damage to Plants" (PlPP 405), first-offered in 1972. Armed with preliminary data and awareness of air pollution problems, Skelly and Moore were able to obtain lucrative grants to continue and expand air pollution research.


Couch gave particular attention to developing nematology. When he became Department Head, Williams was teaching the course in nematology and investigating nematode problems in forage legumes and turfgrasses. Miller at Holland was investigating nematodes in peanuts and in crops rotated with peanuts and W. W. Osborne, the only truly trained nematologist, was the Extension nematology specialist, especially for tobacco and peanuts. J. A. Fox was hired in 1965 as a truly trained nematologist. It was not clear why four nematologists were needed unless Couch did not regard Miller and Williams as nematologists.

Williams' interest in nematodes originated when he inherited forage pathology from R. G. Henderson during the late 1950's. The alfalfa stem nematode had been a subject of their research. When the grass nematode, Hypsoperine graminis was found in 'Tifgreen' Bermuda grass putting greens in eastern Virginia in 1964, Williams shifted his nematode research to this species (Plant Dis. Reptr. 52:162-163, 1968; Nematologia 13:155-156, 1968). Later this nematode was classified as Meloidogyne graminis. Under Williams' guidance, C. W. Laughlin began a Ph.D. research project on the biology of H. graminis (VPI & SU Ph.D. dissertation, 1968). About the time Laughlin completed his work, A. J. Webber began his Ph.D. program under the guidance of Williams and opted to study factors affecting sex determination in Meloidogyne graminis. Williams resigned in late August 1968 to take a position in Kentucky and Webber continued his program under the guidance of Fox. It was a loss to the Department when Williams departed. He had a number of good ideas that he had begun to implement; those that he had not implanted in Webber's dissertation proposal, and it is unknown what they were, probably never bore fruit. Williams potential became apparent when he was later appointed Head of the Department of Horticulture (!) at the University of Kentucky.

Miller's work at Holland was centered around the soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines = SCN), peanut root knot nematodes (especially Meloidogyne arenaria), and a group of cyst nematodes affecting tobacco production (Osborne's cyst, horsenettle cyst, and tobacco cyst). Miller co-authored papers with P. L. Duke, Nancy T. Whitfield, and his extra-ordinarily talented technician, Betty J. Gray, a high school graduate whom he had trained and who had participated in the advanced nematology course given at North Carolina State University. As leader of the group, Miller studied the host range and pathogenic specialization of isolates of the SCN. In addition to soybean, pathogenic specialization was observed for several leguminous species and the host range was extended to three Penstemon species and spinach (Va. J. Sci. 16:314, 1965; 17:245, 246, 1966; 18:143, 1967; 20:99, 1969; 25:51, 1974; Phytopathology 55:1068, 1965; 56:585, 1966; 59:1558, 1969.

Other cyst nematodes had been detected in Virginia; Miller's investigations on the SCN stirred his interest in those species and in resolving their uncertain taxonomic relationships. This led to descriptions of the horsenettle cyst nematode as H. virginiae (Nematologia 14:535-543, 1968), and the Osborne's cyst nematode as H. solanacearum (Ibid 18:404-413, 1972). Betty Gray made the critical measurements and drawings for these publications. Through host range studies and critical measurements, Miller and Gray were able to distinguish these species from H. tabacum and each other. (Currently, all three are classified as subspecies of H. tabacum). Miller and Harrison (Cornell Univ.) studied the host range of H. tabacum and extended it by 45 species, mostly Solanaceae, including eggplant and sweet peppers. Distinct differences for the host ranges of H. tabacum, H. virginiae, and H. rostochiensis were evident (Plant Dis. Reptr. 53:949-951, 1969). In an effort to find resistance among tobacco species, cultivars, and lines to H. tabacum and H. virginiae, Miller and Duke examined numerous such materials but they reported those which supported reproduction but not those apparently resistant (Va. J. Sci. 20:99, 1969; 21:102, 1970). Miller's work was disrupted by his relocation from Holland to Blacksburg on May 1, 1969, after which his co-authors became J. A. Fox and L. Spasoff and his interests shifted to H. solanacearum and its relationship with the potato nematode, H. rostochiensis. Meanwhile, Halima Baalaway under the guidance of Fox completed an M.S. thesis on "Resistance in Nicotiana species to Osborne's cyst nematode" (1969). Her studies encompassed known resistant species and cultivars and some of their F1 hybrids. She reported there were different mechanisms of resistance among the different species.

Miller was also involved to a lesser extent in the pathology of Meloidogyne arenaria, the peanut root knot nematode. He reported that these nematodes were not disseminated in peanut hay and fruit (Va. J. Sci. 22:84, 1971), and that some isolates could reproduce on two of 18 corn inbred lines (Ibid 24:110, 1973). No hybrid varieties were tested but there was some indication from field sampling that M. arenaria could reproduce on corn (Ibid 23:100, 1972).

Although Miller was well established in nematological circles at the beginning of the Couch era (1965), Fox had yet to establish his identity. Most of his publications during the era were as co-author with his student advisees, especially A. J. Webber. Themes were sex determination and factors influencing it in Meloidogyne graminis (J. Nematol. 1:212-215, 1969; 3:332-333, 1971; J. Parasitology 56:105, 1970; Nematologia 13:143-144, 1967; Phytopathology 60:1319, 1970; 62:673, 1972; 63:801, 1973); resistance to and inheritance of resistance to cyst nematodes in soybean and tobacco (Phytopathology 59:1555, 1969; 62:673, 776, 1972; J. Nematol. 3:329-330, 395-398, 1971; 4:224, 225, 1972). As might be deduced from the pagination, most of these were abstracts of papers presented at professional society meetings.

Fox collaborated on an interesting publication with Spasoff and Miller. Spasoff had been seeking a quick method for indexing the reaction of tobacco to the OCN (H. solanacearum). He described his preliminary results at the 22nd Tobacco Workers Conference in 1968. In 1971, Spasoff, Fox, and Miller described a procedure whereby the resistant reaction to Pseudomonas tabaci (wildfire bacterium) was perfectly correlated with the resistant reaction to OCN. It was much easier to test for reaction to wildfire than to OCN; therefore, populations could be screened for resistance to both organisms using only one (J. Nematol. 3:329-330, 1971).

Osborne contributed numerous Extension Service publications on tobacco, peanut, cotton, soybean, vegetables, fruits, and nursery plants. He also summarized the results of various nematicide tests in the American Phytopathology Society annual publication "Fungicide and Nematicide Test Results". Several popular articles were published in "Virginia-Carolina Peanut News", "The Flue-Cured Tobacco Farmer" and "Virginia Nurserymens Assocation News". In essence, Osborne performed an excellent service to growers with nematode problems. He made one national contribution to academics; namely, an exercise for the "Recovery of nematodes from soil by the centrifugation-flotation method", published in the Sourcebook of Laboratory Exercises in Plant Pathology' (W. H. Freeman & Co. 1967).

Miller was gaining international fame among nematologists during the Couch era. Alan R. Stone of the Rothamstead Experimental Station chose to be a visiting professor in the Department June-December 1973 because of Miller's stature and intimate knowledge of cyst and root knot nematodes. In August 1973, Miller made a collecting trip to Mexico to find cyst nematodes parasitizing solanaceous plants. Specimens obtained would benefit both Stone and Miller and lead to a better understanding of the origin and taxonomic relationships among cyst and root knot nematodes. As will be seen in the Foy (1974-1980) and Hooper (1980-1984) eras, Miller became more renowned.

In addition, to the dissertations by Laughlin and Webber and the thesis by Baalawy mentioned previously, Barbara Muse prepared a dissertation on, "A study of the pathogenic relationship of two populations of Ditylenchus dipsaci on Wando pea" (1968), which she had started with Williams as her adviser but completed under L. D. Moore. Salim B. Hanounik completed one on, "Population dynamics and effects of Meloidogyne incognita on tobacco plants" (1974) under the guidance of Osborne. Hanounik's project was the first to utilize gnotobiotic conditions for the study of a nematode disease. He reported that under these conditions, nicotine movement into leaves was reduced by nematodes in a susceptible cultivar but was unaffected in a resistant cultivar. D. E. Weber under the advice of Williams, conducted a thesis study of, "Population behavior of three parasitic nematodes on selected Gramineae and an analysis of the centrifugation-flotation extraction technique" (1967). He fould that different concentrations of sugar were differentially efficient for separating Helicotylenthus and Criconomoides spp. but not Hoplolaimus sp. from soil. He also found that recovery was more efficient from 150 cc than from 600 cc for Criconomoides; recovery from the two quantities was not affected for the other two species. Oddly, this thesis may have had more impact on nematology than the dissertations.


Viruses, like nematodes, are not crop or commodity specific; thus, some studies with viruses may have been mentioned in preceding sections. The following discussion is offered to show how virology gained momentum as discipline during the Couch era.

Prior to 1965, Troutman had monitored tobacco viruses, and had cooperated with Miller on identifying peanut stunt virus and with Roane on manipulating maize dwarf mosaic virus. Of course he had cooperated with several tobacco workers on control of tobacco viruses. Couch foresaw the need to have a modern virology laboratory and a person competent to acquire and use the modern instruments and procedures essential to research in virology. He therefore hired Sue A. Tolin as Assistant Professor, effective September 15, 1966.

The first major effort by Tolin was to obtain a grant from the Virginia Agricultural Foundation with which she could purchase a hood, laboratory furniture, density gradient fractionator, a cold room, and other lesser items, all vital to virology. Coincidentally, in early 1967, a new building on Glade Road was readied for occupancy; the virology laboratory was housed there; a greenhouse was attached. An electron microscope was available whereby shapes and dimensions of virus particles could be ascertained. None of this equipment had been available to Troutman or Williams. Once the laboratory was equipped, the course Plant Virology (PlPP 5040) changed sharply. Students were introduced to modern equipment and methods. A graduate program with emphasis on virology was now available. Tolin emphasized laboratory aspects of virus identification; Troutman emphasized field aspects; Williams retreated to nematology, and forage and turfgrass pathology.

There was heavy emphasis by Troutman and Tolin on peanut stunt virus (PSV), which Miller and Troutman had first recognized in 1964 (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 50:139-143, 1966). In their 1966 publication, Miller and Troutman described symptoms and transmission of PSV. Troutman also gave a paper on thermal death point, infectivity duration of expressed sap, dilution end-point, purification, and serology. He distinguished PSV from viruses causing squash mosaic, pea enation mosaic, southern bean mosaic, and cucumber mosaic (Phytopathology 56:904, 1966). Tolin refined the purification process and with electron photomicrography found the PSV particle to be an icosahedron measuring 25 mµ (Ibid. 59:1560, 1969). Troutman resigned in December 1966, to take a position with the Arizona Experiment Station at Yuma, but before he departed, he completed experiments with W. K. Bailey and C. A. Thomas (U.S.D.A.) that revealed transmission of PSV through peanut seeds. They reported that transmission occurred only in seeds passing through an 18/64-inch screen. Seeds too large to pass through the screen bore no viruses. Thus, they found a mechanical means of providing PSV-free seeds (Ibid 57:1280-1281, 1967). Troutman also published two papers with T. W. Culp (U.S.D.A. at Holland) in which they reported that the yield of sound, mature kernels was reduced from 1500 to 300 lb/ac as the incidence of stunt increased from 25 to 100% (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 51:856-860, 1967).

Troutman and Culp also examined several hundred peanut varieties, introductions, and breeding lines for reaction to PSV. None was immune, but several showed less severe symptoms than others (Ibid 52:914-918, 1968). In this connection Couch decreed that all plant pathology graduate students would go to Holland and assist in artificially inoculating the plants. This did not set well with advisers and students but Tolin and Troutman had done a good selling job, Couch was adamant, and the students went.

Tolin continued working with PSV. In 1969, she reported on refinements in the purification process (Ibid 59:1560, 1969). The occurrence of white clover fields near peanut fields where PSV was prevalent had been reported in North and South Carolina, in 1967 and 1968, respectively, and by W. H. Matheny and D. H. Kludy of the Virginia Department of Agriculture at Richmond (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 51:169-170, 1967). In 1970, Tolin, O. W. Isakson (a graduate student in Entomology) and Troutman described the association of white clover with PSV and experiments on transmitting it with the cowpea aphid. They recommended isolation of peanuts from white clover (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 54:935-938, 1970).

John Groelk, with Tolin as his advisor, presented an M.S. thesis in 1970 in which he made serological comparisons among PSV, CMV, tomato aspermy virus (TAV), and chrysanthemum virus L (CV-L). He concluded the CMV and CV-L were unrelated but that CMV and TAV were related. All had been shown to be related to PSV; thus, Groelk concluded that PSV was most likely the hypothetical parent strain of the CMV group. In 1973, additional research reported by S. Boatman (Hollins College, Organic Chemist), J. M. Kaper (U.S.D.A. Virologist), and Tolin had the conclusion that PSV is a strain of CMV (Phytopathology 63:801, 1963). This was the last PSV study reported in the Couch era.

When Tolin arrived in 1966, Roane was involved with C. F. Genter in field work to control maize dwarf mosaic. However, Couch had requested that Roane work with T. J. Smith (Soybean Breeder, Agronomy Department) on breeding disease-resistant soybean varieties (see the section, Soybean). In the summer of 1966, Roane had collected a number of soybean plants displaying symptoms of viral infection but he lacked the knowledge for identifying them. When Tolin examined them, she savored the challenge and therefrom a fruitful soybean virology research team was born. During the Couch era, Roane and Tolin surveyed Virginia for virus-infected soybeans. Surveys, purchase of laboratory, field, and greenhouse supplies were supported by grants from the Virginia Soybean Commission. Soybean mosaic, peanut stunt, and peanut mottle viruses were the most prevalent; PMV and PSV were very damaging in the peanut-producing counties; SMV was scattered throughout the State. Bean pod mottle occurred in soybean near red and crimson clover fields (Proc. Amer. Phytopathol. Soc. 1:36-37, 114, 1874; 2:129, 1975). After recognizing the affects of viruses on soybean and finding that a number of cultivars were apparently immune from SMV, PMV, and PSV but not from BPMV and tobacco ringspot the stage was set for extensive studies on the genetics of reaction to these viruses. Such studies would be made in the years after the Couch era.

As previously stated, when Tolin arrived, Roane and C. F. Genter, corn breeder had field work underway to provide farmers with maize dwarf mosaic virus (MDMV)- resistant corn varieties. Although some progress had been made the expertise of a virologist located at Blacksburg promised greater, more rapid success. Fortunately, Tolin became interested in MDMV and soon provided techniques for rapidly inoculating field and greenhouse plants. The team assembled a tractor mounted apparatus for inoculating field corn. The apparatus was built from a two-row tobacco planter. A gasoline-powered air compressor mounted on the planter supplied air to two artists' air brushes. Operators were seated astride corn rows and could be lowered or raised with the tractor's hydraulic system. From the lower position operators moving at a very low speed could inoculate plants at the 1- to 6-leaf stages. Thousands of plants could be inoculated in a half day. The team's first objective was to locate inbred lines and hybrids resistant to MDMV. Many were resistant under artificial inoculation that severely stunted reddened and yellowed in natural conditions. Therefore, a concerted effort was made to study the effects of MDMV. Nine inbred lines that had displayed a wide range of reactions under natural conditions on the farm of C. W. Wood at Virginia, Nelson Co. were selected to create a diallel series of hybrids. In Wingina, lines Oh07B, T8, and Pa884P were resistant; Pa91, Oh43, and VaLE8 were susceptible; and CI21E, H84, and Va36 were intermediate. Under conditions of artificial inoculation, in the absence of johnsongrass, no yellowing, reddening or severe stunting occurred as it did near johsongrass. Lines and hybrids that were severely damaged at Wingina only mottled and were slightly to moderately less productive at Blacksburg their uninoculated counterparts. The team concluded that, "In association with johnsongrass, severe symptoms in maize are caused by an agent other than MDMV" (Crop Sci. 13:531-535, 1973). About the time this work was concluded, others began reporting that a second, leaf hopper-borne isometric virus was associated with the yellowing, reddening, and severe stunting (Phytopathology 62:748; Pl. Dis. Reptr. 56:652-656, 1972). The second virus was named maize chlorotic dwarf virus (MCDV); it was more damaging than aphid-borne MDMV but, fortunately, not as efficiently transmitted. In Virginia, we had relied on natural infection to find and recommend resistant hybrids to our growers. We also depended on yielding ability more than symptom expression because some hybrids that mottled were superior yielders. Apparently, they were moderately susceptible to MDMV but immune from MCDV.

This chapter on corn virology cannot end without paying tribute to Cliff Wood on whose farm much of the corn virus work was done. Wood was an excellent observer. We taught him about the disease cycle, including transmission and overwintering. When we told him the virus needed johnsongrass rhizomes to over-winter, he figured out a way to break the cycle. He grew sudangrass-sorghum hybrids (SSH) for greenchop feed for his dairy herd. He noticed that after a vigorous growth of SSH, johnsongrass had failed to produce new rhizomes. New growth the following spring came from seeds. He tested Eptam® for controlling emergence of johnsongrass seedlings; it worked. He found that a crop of soybeans treated with Treflan® ahead of corn worked well as did barley whose stubble was plowed down ahead of corn. Double- cropping soybeans after barley was especially effective. These methods were described to farmers who had excellent bottom land farms but had given up because of johnsongrass and corn viruses. Eventually, corn once again became a profitable crop in Virginia's johnsongrass-infested fields.

Roane and Tolin expanded the host range of MDMV through numerous inoculation experiments and from collections of naturally infected specimens. Several hosts were perennial but only johnsongrass was deemed epidemiologically significant as the overwintering source of MDMV (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 53:307-310, 1969).

Wheat soil-borne mosaic virus (WSBMV) had been described as the cause of a widespread virus disease in Virginia. Tolin decided to examine the virus particles with the electron microscope. Roane collected samples of mottled wheat from several fields in eastern Virginia. Tolin found long flexuous rods characteristic of wheat spindle streak mosaic virus (WSSMV) but could find no short stiff rods characteristic of WSBMV. As described in the section on cereals/wheat, this explained an inconsistency that had been observed in the '50's (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 53:751-752, 1969).

A major accomplishment in breeding tobacco for root knot resistance was the discovery by Henderson and Troutman that a strain of potato virus Y (PVY) produced a vein necrosis on lines and varieties resistant to root knot and vein banding on those susceptible to root knot (Tob. Sci. XII:158-160, 1968). Tolin and others studied this strain of PVY and found it to have the basic characteristics of other PVY strains; the relationship with root knot reactions was apparently unique to the Virginia strain (Pl. Dis. Reptr. 57:200-204, 1973). In this case a virus was used to enhance progress in breeding for resistance to another pathogen.

Into the Foy era, there would be emphasis on viruses of peanut, soybean, maize, and tobacco would be emphasized.


When H. B. Couch became Head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Physiology in January 1965, he was already well-known for his resarch on turfgrass diseases and for his ability as a teacher. He had published a book, "Diseases of Turfgrasses" (1962); at the time, the only book on the topic. Naturally, he wished to continue research in that area. The only significant work on turfgrass diseases in Virginia had been done by A. S. Williams. He had conducted fungicide tests on dollar spot and brown patch but no major research reports came from that work. His expertise seemed to lie in extension type presentations to the annual Virginia Turfgrass Conferences and to Nurserymen's Short Courses. Williams had also become somewhat of an authority on nematode diseases of turfgrass, having discovered Hypsoperine graminis, now designated Meloidogyne graminis, on putting greens in Virginia Beach in 1964 (see the section on Nematology). Both the fungus and nematode research had evolved from his research on forage grass fungi and the alfalfa stem nematode. Since Couch planned to continue as a turfgrass pathologist, there developed a conflict of interest between Couch and Williams which contributed to Williams' resignation in 1968.

Couch established a comprehensive program for study of turfgrass diseases in Virginia. Emphasis was on disease recognition and control. One student, R. R. Muse, studied turfgrass pathology but his dissertation was more a study of enzymes (Pectolytic and cellulolytic enzymes associated with Helminthosporium sativum-blighted common and Merion Kentucky bluegrasses, 1968). Beyond assessing the value of various fungicides on various diseases and species of grasses, Couch produced no publications of fundamental importance while he was Department Head. A revised edition of "Diseases of Turfgrasses" was published in 1973.

Couch's forte in turfgrass pathology lay in his ability to describe the principles and practices of pathology, and to describe disease phenomena in an entertaining fashion. This put him in demand as a speaker for various turfgrass and golf course maintenance groups all over North America.

In 1965, there was a dearth of literature for Extension work in turfgrass pathology. Couch and Williams prepared two publications: Diseases of Turfgrasses (Va. Coop. Ext. Ser. Leaflet 209, 1967); and Chemical control of turfgrass diseases (In Guide for Chemical Control of Turfgrass Diseases and Turfgrass Weeds, Va. Coop. Ext. Ser. Cir. 1034, 1967). Beginning in 1969, Couch published fourteen publications addressing individual diseases; these are in the Control Series, in the following list the publication number precedes the title:
57. Lawn Diseases: Fairy rings.
58. Lawn Diseases: Red spot of bentgrasses.
59. Lawn Diseases: Stripe smut.
60. Lawn Diseases: Melting-out of Kentucky bluegrass.
61. Lawn Diseases: Slime molds.
74. Lawn Diseases: Helminthosporium blight (netblotch) of fescues.
112. Lawn Diseases: Helminthosporium leaf spot.
113. Lawn Diseases: Powdery mildew.
114. Lawn Diseases: Pythium blight (cottony blight).
115. Lawn Diseases: Fusarium patch (pink snow mold).
131. Lawn Diseases: Fusarium blight.
132. Lawn Diseases: Sclerotinia dollar spot.
133. Lawn Diseases: Rhizoctonia brown patch.
134. Lawn Diseases: Rusts.

Thereafter, various authors joined with Couch to publish annually the "Guide for Chemical Control of Turfgrass Diseases" in the Control Series. These publications represent a very significant contribution by Couch to turfgrass pathology in Virginia.

Couch was able to induce the International Turfgrass Society to hold its 1973 conference at V.P.I. & S.U. Twenty-one pathologists participated in the meeting.

When Couch retired from the Department Headship, he continued his turfgrass research and later published a third book on turfgrass pathology.


When Couch became Head of Plant Pathology and Physiology, he wanted to establish a gnotobiology laboratory. I am frank to say I didn't know the meaning of gnotobiology, however, I soon learned that it was a form of axenic culture involving one or few organisms. It was a very useful system for studying host-parasite interactions. Our laboratory initially contained 8 large isolation chambers and several other small chambers. Artificial lighting and temperature controls were also installed. Maynard Hale (Plant Physiologist) and Claude Fordyce were the supervisors and principle researchers. The chambers were used to study root exudations and, in plant pathology, mycotrophy in loblolly pine, interactions of Penicillium spp. with marigold and broomrape with tomato.

Fordyce and Hale described the equipment and experiments in progress or planned in a paper read to the Virginia Academy of Science (Va. J. Sci. 17:242, 1966). Because of the widespread publicity given the laboratory, the Department attracted and hosted two conferences on the Ecology of Root-Infecting Microorganisms in 1969 and 1971 [Phytopathology News 3(8):5, 1969; 5(11):3, 1971]. These meetings generated considerable favorable publicity for the Department. The research in gnotobiology also generated active cooperation between the major disciplines of the Department.

Burwell Wingfield conducted a dissertation research project on loblolly pine (Mycotrophy in loblolly pine: I. The role of Pisolithus tinctorius and Rhizoctonia solani in survival of seedlings. II. Mycorrhiza formation after fungicide treatment. V.P.I. & S.U. Ph.D. Diss. 1968). He was guided through the research initially by Fordyce and later by W. H. Wills. Wingfield, using isolator chambers, found that P. tinctorius provided some protection to seedlings from destruction by R. solani if a mycorrhiza was established before there was an encounter with R. solani. Wingfield obtained conflicting results in studies on the effects of fungicides. Some favored establishment of seedlings with or without mycorrhizae; some interfered with establishment of mycorrhizae. Wingfield suggested that better tree seedling stands could be obtained by mixing seeds with mycorrhizal fungi in a manner similar to that for applying of Rhizobium spp. to legume seeds.

K. M. Hameed used the same isolator chambers for his dissertation research (Influence of Penicillium simplicissimum (Oud.) Thom and Penicillium citrinum Thom on growth, chemical composition and root exudation of axenic marigold, V.P.I. & S.U. Ph.D. Diss., 1971). Hameed's dissertation contains several excellent photographs of the chambers. The two fungi he studied did not severely affect the growth of marigold plants nor were any major changes in root exudates apparent. In his, M.S. thesis research, Hameed had studied the effects of P. lanosum on marigold. He had reported significant increases of amino acids, carbohydrates, nitrogen and phosphorus in exudates from inoculated plants.

There were several attempts to initiate gnotobiologic projects with broomrape on tomato, black shank of tobacco, and nematodes on various plants but these efforts led nowhere in the Couch era. The plant physiologists were more successful and opportunistic in the gnotobiology laboratory than were the plant pathologists.

Studies on soil-inhabiting and root-infecting fungi were initiated by Gary J. Griffin as soon as he was hired in August 1967. K. H. Garren had been involved in such studies as they related to peanut diseases; Griffin added some new methodologies to this work. Ted Pass conducted dissertation research under the supervision of Griffin (Studies on the physiology of conidial germination by Aspergillus flavus Ph.D. Diss., V.P.I. & S.U., 1971) whereby he implemented several techniques suggested by Griffin to determine the edaphic and rhizospheric effects on A. flavus spores. Although responses of germinating spores to various edaphic factors were evaluated, there was little discussion relative to the development of A. flavus mold in peanut.

Griffin's research provided fundamental knowledge of the interactions of rhizospheric components with plant resistance, pathogen survival, pathogen propagation, and disease potential. It laid the foundation for manipulating and controling soil-borne pathogens.


During the Couch era, faculty involvement in professional societies greatly increased. For plant pathologists, shifting from participation in the American Phytopathological Society Southern Division to the Potomac Division made it economically possible for most to participate in every annual meeting. The remotest meetings were held in Morgantown, West Virginia or Newark, Delaware; they were frequently held in the College Park and Beltsville, Maryland areas. On the other hand, Southern Division meetings were held as far away as Texas, and frequently in New Orleans. It was usually feasible to transport students to Potomac Division but not to Southern Division meetings. Despite this shift in participation, Osborne and Garren continued with the Southern Division, primarily because they dealt with the southern crops peanut and tobacco and with nematodes. During the Couch era, Couch and Miller served as Potomac Division presidents and councilmen.

Although not documented here, pathologists were also active in the Virginia Academy of Sciences, the Tobacco Workers Conference, the Cumberland-Shenandoah Fruit Workers Conference, Ecology of Root Diseases Conference, Virginia State Horticultural Society, Mycological Society of America, and American Peanut Research and Education Association. Activity in the American Phytopathological Society and Society of Nematology is detailed below:

American Phytopathological Society

Society of Nematology


A number of plant pathologists and their students were honored for their achievements in research. It is also deemed an honor to be elected chairman or president of a scientific group or to be named an administrator at one's station. The following were recognized in these categories during the Couch era:


Being a member of a regional project committee contributed in a way to one's status as an achiever. It was somewhat of an honor because there could be only one representative on the committee from each state. Therefore, the nature of one's research and expertise was usually the governing factor for being appointed to a regional or inter-regional project. The following persons represented Virginia on regional projects:

Diseases first reported in Virginia, 1964-1974:


Plant pathologists were involved in many projects, organizations, and events that contributed to advancement of the Department and enhancement of disease control. There are some noteworthy national and international discoveries and events that occurred during the Couch era which influenced plant pathology in Virginia. These are taken from the 1979 book, "A Chronology of Plant Pathology" by G. K. Parris who worked at the Virginia Truck Experiment Station during World War II:

The Couch era is appropriately named. Houston Couch forced numerous changes in departmental procedures and attitudes. Although many of his directives were somewhat difficult to accept, there was a remarkable increase in accomplishment and camaraderie. A few, able faculty were added; a new building, greenhouses, and laboratories were constructed; projects were more focused, and new curricula became available. Annual summaries of departmental activities in research, extension, and teaching were assembled. These greatly facilitated the preparation of this history of the Couch era. Unfortunately, these summaries were not extended beyond the era. Couch initiated a remodeling of Price Hall. He had ceilings lowered, modern lighting installed, ugly wainscoat removed, new laboratory tables and cabinets installed, offices renovated and new equipment purchased. The improvements to Price Hall greatly lifted the morale of the Department. He established a departmental library and saw to it that it was properly maintained. He established an annual alumni magazine, The Physiopath, which had it been continued after his era, would have been a boon to loyalty among our graduates. He established a secretarial and technician pool that were successful in some respects but failures in others. He promoted the non-thesis Plant Protection Curriculum for students at the M.S. level; a Plant Protection Newsletter, and the Control Series Extension publications. Annual picnics brought families together for fun frolic and good eats.

Our reputation began to rise among our peer institutions; we could hold our head high among the achievers of our profession. Much of what we were and what we had in 1974, we owed to Houston Couch.

C. W. Roane
February 1999

Previous Table of Contents Next

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: Thursday, 21-Oct-2004 13:00:16 EDT Mark B. Gerus