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Faculty Focus

Five Questions for David Gadoury

David Gadoury received his PhD from the University of New Hampshire in 1984, and joined Cornell AgriTech in November of 1985 as a postdoctoral scientist working with the late Dr. Roger Pearson, and later with Dr. Robert Seem.  He is presently a senior research associate in the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section, and is well-known for his work on powdery and downy mildews of several specialty crops, including grapevine, strawberry, and hops.  He was elected a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in 2008, and served as Communications Officer of the Society from 2012 to 2017.  His present research emphasis is on the practical uses of light to suppress plant pathogens, and the biological and optical aspects of high-throughput phenotyping for resistance to powdery mildew.  When he is not hiking in the White Mountains, he is generally writing articles like this one.  Sometimes, he does both at once.  

David Gadoury on a mountain summit

What inspired you to work with grape disease management?

My major professor gave me some great advice: Pick a crop that’s grown in the most beautiful places in the world.  So, I chose apples, and when I got the chance to come to Geneva in 1985 and work on grapes, I jumped on it and never looked back.  I’m now in the 34th year of a 2-year postdoc.

What are the major challenges in your field, and how have those changed since the beginning of your career?

If you write well, and can do so quickly, this job is a lot easier.  You need to communicate effectively with diverse audiences, and still have time to think strategically, and pass those skills on to others.  Your ability to obtain funding for research, and to translate it simultaneously for peer scientists, growers and the general public requires that you acquire and perfect these skills.  What’s changed?  The communications hardware I started with is in museums now (thankfully).

What projects are going on in your lab right now?

We are working on building UV lighting arrays for autonomous robots that will work all night and not complain about the hours.  We’ve also combined a high-end digital camera, the robotic stage of a 3-D printer, and a neural network system to produce a high-throughput phenotyping system.  Eighteen months ago, we were sitting at microscopes, rating 30 samples a day.  Today, we are processing 3000 samples per day, and with greater accuracy.

How will your research benefit the grape industry?

You can find the work on pathogen and host biology that came out of our lab in just about every advisory system used for grapevine powdery and downy mildew in the world.  The UV work is especially exciting, as it suppresses powdery mildews on a number of crops, and this pathogen group has always been a challenge to control with fungicides alone.  The work on high-throughput phenotyping is identifying sources of disease resistance for breeding programs at an unprecedented rate.

If your office and lab were on fire and you could only escape with one item, what would it be?

My laptop.  It contains my life.  It’s humbling to know that every thought you’ve ever committed to writing, every picture you’ve ever taken, every PowerPoint presentation you’ve prepared, and all of your videos, fit on a 1 TB drive with half of it left over for headspace.