Kerik Cox

Kerik Cox

Associate Professor

218 Barton Laboratory
(315) 787-2401

My program specializes in applied plant pathology, mycology, and community/stakeholder education. The programÕs mission is to provide a better understanding of the relationships between life history features of fungal plant pathogens of fruit crops and applied disease management practices. Understanding the impacts that management practices have on aspects of pathogen life history such as survival, inoculum production, community structure, and propensity for resistance development will, in turn, allow for the sustainability and refinement of such practices to better manage disease.

Research Focus

My research program focuses on integrating basic and applied research to develop improved management strategies for fruit diseases of concern to New York producers. In recent years, basic research endeavors in the form of plant biotechnology have made considerable contributions to the management of fruit diseases. However, efforts are still needed to improve the concepts and products of basic research so they may be more readily applied to solve disease problems. Hence, although much of my research is concerned with applied aspects of fruit diseases, a portion of my research program will be dedicated to conducting basic research in the hope of developing products with potentially broad or far-reaching applications.

Currently, my appointment is 50% extension and 50% research. Because of this split, I endeavor to interweave my research program goals with those of my extension program such that my research endeavors lead to stakeholder-relevant extension deliverables. In turn, I allow stakeholder needs and extension concerns to guide my research efforts. Therefore, both my research and extension efforts focus on similar disease problems in NY and lead to related accomplishments.

To address both applied and basic research philosophies, and both research and extension aspects of my appointment, I have established the following goals: 1) Investigate the biology and management of fungal and bacterial diseases of apple, stone fruit, and small fruit using cultural, chemical, biorational, and organic approaches; 2) Understand the biology and management of single-site fungicide resistance and antibiotic resistance in pathogen populations responsible for diseases of apples, stone fruit, strawberries; 3) Develop plant biotechnology for improving perennial fruit crops. My specific research objectives are to: 1) Understand cryptic infections of bud wood by the fire blight pathogen Erwinia amylovora and the prevalence and mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in regional populations of E. amylovora; 2) Manage diseases of apples, stone fruit, and bush berries using chemical, cultural, organic, and biorational approaches; 3) Understand the prevalence, mechanisms, and potential to manage practical resistance in populations of Monilinia spp., the causal agents of brown rot, shoot blight, and blossom blight of stone fruit; 4) Investigate the persistence, prevalence, mechanisms, and factors resulting in the development and selection for practical resistance in populations of Venturia inaequalis, the causal agent of apple scab.

Outreach and Extension Focus

New York State has a substantial fruit industry with apples being the premier fruit crop. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service in 2015, New York ranked second in the nation in terms of total bearing acreage (40,000 acres) and total utilized production value ($274.5 million USD) for apples alone. My extension program develops educational programming and provides services for the diagnosis and management of fruit diseases in New York. The specific goals of my program are to work with stakeholders, cooperative extension, private consultants, and regulatory agencies to 1) develop educational material and tools to improve the diagnosis and management of fruit diseases in NY and promote pesticide stewardship practices, and to 2) provide services to help fruit stakeholders identify emerging disease concerns and overcome barriers to disease management specific to their operations. There is considerable interrelation between the two goals as the products from my service oriented goal will improve the relevance and quality of the educational materials and tools developed in the first. As the number of small diversified farms and interest in local farming increases, educational tools available to the stakeholder and services that provide support specific to individual stakeholder operations will be of critical importance for the sustainability of fruit crops in NY. The specific objectives of my program are to: 1) Online disease management decision aid support systems for New York apple stakeholders through consolidated efforts with other Cornell and State institutions; 2) Provide comprehensive disease information and educational programming on pesticide stewardship for New York fruit stakeholders and the community at large; 3) Establish a program for field evaluating and refining cultural, organic, and conventional chemical management options for fruit diseases of concern to New York fruit stakeholders; 4) Develop a program for the diagnosis of emerging disease concerns for both tree and small fruit stakeholders in New York. 5) Provide a sustainable statewide antibiotic and fungicide resistance-monitoring program for pathogens of apples, stone fruit, and strawberries.

Teaching Focus

Presently I do not have a teaching appointment as part of my official responsibilities. However, I have been a guest lecturer for several courses during my appointment thus far. With the new emphasis on undergraduate teaching in my department and college (CALS), I hope to have the opportunity to capitalize on my teaching expertise at previous institutions, and fully participate in undergraduate and graduate teaching at Cornell. My teaching experience at previous institutions and my eagerness to participate in teaching and outreach activities should attest to my potential to conduct a successful teaching program in the future.