Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Plant Pathology Welcomes New Chair

Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist Tim Murray has been named chair of Washington State University’s plant pathology department.

Renowned for his research in wheat disease management and pathogen resistance, Murray’s appointment marks the second time that he has served as department chair.

Effective July 1, 2019, Murray succeeds Interim Department Chair Lori Carris.

“Tim Murray is an experienced leader and a highly respected scientist whose research has profoundly impacted wheat disease management in the state of Washington and far beyond,” said André‑Denis Wright, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “We’re thankful to outgoing chair Lori Carris for her effective leadership and for raising the impact and standing of WSU Plant Pathology at the national and international levels, and to Tim for his willingness to carry the torch of leadership once again.”

Recent retirements mean that Murray will help lead the department in hiring new faculty. It’s an opportunity he looks forward to.

“It’s always exciting to bring in new faculty,” he said, “to be part of shaping the future of the department.”

The next few years could see as many as six new faculty hires, including a new potato pathologist.

“These positions are important to agriculture in our communities and in our state, and it’s a privilege to be part of the decision-making process as department chair,” Murray said.

A WSU alumnus and career-long Coug, Murray received his bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of California, Davis in 1979, his master’s in plant pathology from WSU in 1980, and his doctorate in plant pathology from WSU in 1983. He joined the WSU faculty that same year and served as chair of the department of plant pathology from 2000–2008.

His research focuses on wheat diseases, pathogen resistance, and sustainable methods of disease management. He is a fellow and former president of the American Phytopathological Society.

Effective July 1, 2019, Murray succeeds Interim Department Chair Lori Carris.

“Tim Murray is an experienced leader and a highly respected scientist whose research has profoundly impacted wheat disease management in the state of Washington and far beyond,” said André‑Denis Wright, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “We’re thankful to outgoing chair Lori Carris for her effective leadership and for raising the impact and standing of WSU Plant Pathology at the national and international levels, and to Tim for his willingness to carry the torch of leadership once again.”

Recent retirements mean that Murray will help lead the department in hiring new faculty. It’s an opportunity he looks forward to.

“It’s always exciting to bring in new faculty,” he said, “to be part of shaping the future of the department.”

The next few years could see as many as six new faculty hires, including a new potato pathologist.

“These positions are important to agriculture in our communities and in our state, and it’s a privilege to be part of the decision-making process as department chair,” Murray said.

A WSU alumnus and career-long Coug, Murray received his bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of California, Davis in 1979, his master’s in plant pathology from WSU in 1980, and his doctorate in plant pathology from WSU in 1983. He joined the WSU faculty that same year and served as chair of the department of plant pathology from 2000–2008.

His research focuses on wheat diseases, pathogen resistance, and sustainable methods of disease management. He is a fellow and former president of the American Phytopathological Society.

Plant Pathology makes WSU News Top 10 research news

Research stories on Lindsey du Toit’s spinach work and the Honeybee Team (including our own Jennifer Han!) made the WSU News top research coverage of 2018, as based on potential audience.

“The WSU Marketing and Communications office analyzed every research news story distributed to reporters from the central news office or posted to EurekAlert, the subscription news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Each story was analyzed in the Cision news database, which monitors the vast majority of news outlets and computes their potential audience based on outlets’ circulations or unique visitors. The potential audience serves as a guide to relative popularity; the number of actual readers is significantly smaller, as readers and visitors rarely take in every story in a periodical or website.

The value of science, let alone rational thought and evidence, is not self‑evident. In fact, it is under attack. It needs to be reclaimed every day and at every opportunity, and media attention for the WSU research enterprise is a vital tactic in that pursuit.”

Murray research on soil acidity

Tim MurrayFrom The Daily Evergreen

Article by HANNAH WELZBACKER, Evergreen reporter

The WSU Extension and The Farmers Network will host a soil acidity workshop on Thursday, Feb. 21, at Banyans on the Ridge at the Pavilion in Pullman.

Timothy Murray, WSU professor and extension plant pathologist, is speaking at the event about “The Effect of Soil Acidity on Wheat Diseases.”

Murray said soils in the Palouse have dropped in pH since the 1980s, causing an increase in acidity. Lower numbers on the pH scale mean the soils are more acidic.

Soil has a natural acidity level, however the soils in the Palouse are often worse because of the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer.

Acidic soils can impact nutrient availability, microbial activity, aluminum toxicity and plant diseases, he said.

Full story

Jewell recognized in the Plantae

Jeremy Jewell
The picture origin is from Jewell as a third-grade science enthusiast.

Jeremy Jewell (Postdoc in our department) was recognized as Plant Physiology First Authors on the ASPB digital platform Plantae, in which his brief profile was featured and published along with the research article online. Jewell was the first author of “Extracellullar ATP shapes a defense-related transcriptome both independently and along with other defense signaling pathways” published in Plant Physiology.

Tanaka’s Research Featured in WSU Insider

Plant Immune response blueprint found; disease resistance targeted
WSU Insider,
January 10, 2019
By Scott Weybright, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Washington State University researchers have discovered the way plants respond to disease-causing organisms, and how they protect themselves, leading the way to potential breakthroughs in breeding resistance to diseases or pests.

four researchers in lab, one holding a research plant specimen
The ATP plant research team included, l-r, David Gang, Joel Sowders (WSU grad student), Jeremy Jewell, Kiwamu Tanaka

The results were published in the journal Plant Physiology and describe how plants respond to a molecule released during damage caused by infection or outside entities. The paper shows how adenosine 5-triphospate (ATP), a part of DNA and energy production in cells, becomes a signal for injury or infection when outside cells. That signal triggers defense responses in plants.

du Toit on the Radio

Lindsey J. du ToitDr. Lindsey du Toit was interviewed by David Johnson at KSVR 91.7 FM about spinach seed production in the Skagit Valley and her work as a vegetable seed pathologist. The interview can be heard at:

http://www.ksvr.org/archives_skagit_talks.html – click on the link to “Skagit Talks 1-3-2018 Spinach Seeds in the Valley”

Shedding light on the world of fungi: Society Fellow Lori Carris

Lori CarrisThe newest Fellow of the Mycological Society of America, award-winning Washington State University scientist and teacher Lori Carris helps us understand the incredible impact that fungi have on our crops, our lives and our world.

One of only three scientists around the world to receive the Fellow Award in 2018, Carris received her fellowship at the 11th International Mycological Congress, held earlier this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The honor recognizes outstanding members of the society for extended service and contributions to mycology in teaching and research.

Full story.

From CAHNRS News

Johnson receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Dennis A. Johnson of the Plant Pathology Department at Washington State University was recently presented the Lifetime Achievement Award frAward plaqueom the Washington Mint Growers Association.

R. James Cook to receive honorary doctoral degree from WSU

From the WSU Insider

See also “Roots of the Matter

R. James CookSoil scientist, emeritus professor and former dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences R. James Cook will receive Washington State University’s highest honor of an honorary doctorate, in recognition of over 40 years of research on soil‑borne pathogens and his service to WSU and the agricultural community of the Pacific Northwest.

The degree will be granted to Cook at the fall 2018 Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. on Dec. 8, in Beasley Coliseum.

Cook arrived at WSU in 1965 as a U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA‑ARS) scientist concentrating on soil‑borne microbes and their effects on crops, with a dual appointment as a WSU faculty member in plant pathology. His seminal work on soil microbial communities established WSU as a leader in the area of soil health and biological control of root diseases of wheat and other grains.

In 1984, Cook established the Root Disease and Biological Control Unit at WSU, which was recognized nationally and internationally as a research group within USDA‑ARS.

His research’s direct impacts on crop productivity and disease management was recognized by the Washington wheat growers with a $1.5 million endowment in 1998 that established the R. James Cook Endowed Chair in Wheat Research. Cook became a full time WSU faculty member that year and served in his namesake endowed chair until 2003.

Cook became interim dean of CAHNRS at the request of WSU President V. Lane Rawlins during his final two years at WSU, retiring in 2005 as an emeritus professor.

Aside from a half‑time appointment from 1993‑1996 as chief scientist for the USDA’s National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program, Cook spent his entire career at WSU.

Cook has garnered many prestigious awards and recognitions, including the 2011 Wolf Prize for outstanding scientific contributions to agriculture, election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1993, president of both the American Phytopathological Society and the International Society for Plant Pathology, and a founding member and past president of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, among others.

Although he held many honors and conducted significant research, Cook never forgot his service to the farmers, always keeping one foot in the lab and another in the field.

“I avoided telling farmers what to do, but rather, set about providing them with enough understanding so they would know what to do,” wrote Cook in his 2017 memoir, “Untold Stories: Forty Years of Research on Root Diseases of Wheat.”

His dedication to soil health and agro‑ecosystems led to development of the Cook Agronomy Farm outside of Pullman, where Cook’s vision came to fruition for long‑term research into conservation-oriented management and issues like soil loss and direct seeding.

Even in his retirement, Cook continues to present at conferences, assist with National Academy of Sciences outreach, and, along with his wife Beverly, helps lead the “Cougars of the Desert” group in Palm Springs, California, which raises money for WSU scholarships.

Cook holds bachelors (1958) and masters (1961) degrees and an honorary doctorate (1999) from North Dakota State University, a doctorate (1964) from the University of California, Berkeley, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Torino (1999).

Batson Awarded Fellowship

Alex BatsonIn recognition of scholastic achievements, leadership, and future promise in your field, WSU Mt. Vernon has awarded Alex Batson the Seed Production Pathology and Seed Health Fellowship for the current fall semester.  The fellowship is funded from a donation by Richard and Marcia Morrison.  Richard spent 35 years as a plant pathologist in the seed industry.

As a student at WSU, Alex is studying effector genes in Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae, the causal agent of Fusarium wilt of spinach, in Lindsey du Toit’s program at the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC. He started as a time-slip employee in this program in spring 2017, and enrolled as an MS student in fall semester of 2017.  Congratulations!