Dr. Charles W. Bacon is the Supervisory Microbiologist and Research Leader for the Toxicology and Mycotoxin Research Unit, USDA, ARS, Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center, Athens, GA and Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology, Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. He is a fungal physiologist and mycologist at these two institutions.
He is a native of Bradenton, FL. He earned bachelor's degrees in biology and chemistry from Clark College in Atlanta, GA, and his doctoral degree in fungal physiology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In addition to his research activities, Dr. Bacon served on the board of the Journal of Food Protection, and currently on the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. He is a founding member and past treasurer of the International Symbiosis Society.
He has conducted research at the R. B. Russell Agricultural Research Center for more than 25 years. Prior to USDA employment, he worked one year as a research associate at the Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research interests include the regulation and biosynthesis of mycotoxins, fungal endophyte-grass relationships, bacterial endophytes, and the co-evolution of secondary products, primarily mycotoxins, with grasses and other plants, as an adaptive strategy for mutualistic associations. He is also concerned with biological control strategies utilizing microbial endophytes for the control of pathogenic fungi, and the utilization of endophytic organisms for uses in plant improvements.
His basic and applied research activities have concentrated in the area of endophytic microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) of pasture grasses and corn, and the involvement of mycotoxins in human and livestock performance problems. For example, his paper on the discovery of the endophyte and cause of tall fescue toxicity is a classic and serves as one of the most cited references for this area. He is a recognized world authority in the area of fungal endophytes as indicated by invitations to write a book, contribute book chapters, participate and present research findings at symposia and workshops, and receives national and international requests for technical assistance.
Dr. Bacon has written or co-written more than 200 scientific publications, and co-edited four books dealing with the biology, evolution and biotechnology of microbial endophytes.
He had major roles in initiating and leading projects such as (1) discovery of the endophyte in toxic tall fescue pasture grass and its relationship to animal toxicity, (2) discovery of still other endophytic fungi of weed grass species and their involvement in cattle toxicity, (3) development of media and methods useful for their detection and in vitro culture, and (4) development of concepts establishing that endophyte-infected grasses are mutualistic associations which can be utilized for their benefits to other grasses, particularly turf and conservation grass species; (5) the discovery of the life habit of a the newly erected species Bacillus mojavensis, a desert dwelling bacterium, as a natural endophyte, conferring protective factors against fungal pathogens, as well as beneficial traits to infected plants.
In recognition of the importance of this line of research, he was part of a team who was awarded the USDA Superior Service Award in 1984 for discovering the cause of tall fescue toxicity.
In 2000, he was awarded the Distinguished Scientist of the Year by ARS in recognition of his life efforts of achievements in establishing endophytic microorganisms as a basic and applied tools for agricultural research. A fungal grass endophyte, Epichloe baconii, was named in his honor for his contributions in the field of fungal endophytes.