I lead Cornell`s grape pathology program, with attendant responsibilities for research, extension, and undergraduate instruction. I also have served as Associate Chair of my home department, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology and as Chair of the Department of Food Science and Technology-Geneva.
My research program is focused on the applied biology and integrated management of grapevine fungal diseases. Individual components thereof include the effects of specific environmental variables on pathogen biology; effects of various endogenous or imposed (e.g., mineral nutrition status) host factors on disease susceptibility; temporal variability in disease susceptibility and its influence on management programs; influence of variable viticultural practices (e.g., pruning and training systems) on disease development and management; and fungicide characteristics that impact the efficacy of management programs, such as fungicide physical modes of action and the population biology of resistance development.
Outreach and Extension Focus
I lead the Cornell grape pathology program, including its extension function. My own extension activities focus on educational programs provided to key audiences (grape growers, vineyard managers, winery owners, private- and public sector advisers) concerning the identification, biology, and management of infectious diseases, primarily of fungal origin. Educational activities include oral presentations at grower meetings and field days; the production of numerous and varied written materials (Pest Management Guidelines, fact sheets, trade journal articles, newsletter articles, grower conference proceedings, e-mail communications, etc.); and on-farm visits to diagnose problems and propose solutions. My research program is largely "applied" in nature and thoroughly intertwined with my extension program, providing data for educational programs and opportunities to demonstrate specific concepts in the field. These efforts are ongoing throughout the year, although certain specific activities are seasonal (field days and on-farm visits in the summer, grower conferences in the winter). In addition to my primary educational activities, I also perform secondary service functions, including routine disease diagnoses and representation of grower fungicide needs to government regulatory agencies. Although my primary stakeholders are in New York and Pennsylvania (some aspects of the two states' grape extension programs have been combined), I am the only full-time grape pathologist of faculty rank in the east. Hence, written materials that I produce are circulated, and I speak regularly at conferences, throughout the region. Disease management is a critical component of eastern viticulture, and my activities have provided regional growers, many of who come from non-farm backgrounds, the research-based knowledge necessary to do so efficiently and sustainably. Indicators of success include multiple and repeated requests to speak both region-wide and internationally, continued support from industry and industry-directed funding bodies, verbal and written feedback from industry/extension personnel, and speaker evaluation forms at meetings.
Principles and practices of disease management within an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) framework, with particular emphasis on grapes. The focus is on disease biology and how the tools used for management are driven by (a) the mechanisms by which those tools operate; and (b) the biology of each specific disease in question, which is a function of the host-pathogen-environment interaction.
Awards and Honors
- Best Viticulture Paper in 2014 (2015) American Society of Enology and Viticulture
- Best Viticulture Paper in 2013 (2013) Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research
- Best Viticulture Paper in 2011 (2012) American Society of Enology & Viticulture
- Austin, C. N., Grove, G. G., Meyer, J. M., & Wilcox, W. F. (2011). Quantification of powdery mildew severity as a function of canopy variability and associated impacts on sunlight penetration and spray coverage within the fruit zone. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. 62:23-31.