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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, 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. My applied research endeavors have focused on understanding the prevalence, development, selection, and mechanisms of practical antimicrobial resistance to both antibiotics and fungicides in populations of fruit pathogens. 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 20% extension, 30% Teaching, and 50% research. Because of this split, I endeavor to interweave my research program goals with those of my extension and teaching programs such that my research endeavors lead to stakeholder-relevant extension deliverables and illustrations of real world teachable moments. In turn, I allow my student, grower stakeholder needs, extension concerns to guide my research efforts. Therefore, my research, teaching, and extension efforts focus on applied disease management for NY crops where accomplished have impacts and can be realized in short time frames.
To address both applied and basic research philosophies, and both research, teaching, 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 precision agriculture forecasting systems for plant disease. 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 have been teaching several 6000 graduate level professionalism courses based on student driven content for several years. I have now taken on principal instruction for the 3000 undergraduate level course on the biology of pathogens that cause plant diseases, and the diagnosis and management of plant diseases. Topics include the biology of bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, viruses, and nematodes; disease cycles; plant disease epidemiology; and the principles and practices of plant disease management. The course is intended undergraduate plant science for students who want a practical knowledge of plant diseases and their control, as well as for students preparing for advanced courses in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology. With my research and extension appointments, I’m able to integrate example and experiences with real-world problems of agricultural stakeholders and illustrations of how Cornell applied research can address those problems and lead to solutions. In addition to my formal appointment, I have been a guest lecturer for several courses in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS). With the new emphasis on undergraduate teaching in our school and college (CALS), it will be important to continue to seek and capitalize on opportunities to participate in undergraduate and graduate teaching for greater impact of my research and extension