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Story about Bacon's research

Photo: Microbiologist Charles Wilson Bacon.

Charles Wilson Bacon

Charles Bacon Tops ARS Scientist of the Year Award Winners

By Sharon Durham
February 7, 2001

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 7--Charles Wilson Bacon, a U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist, has been named "Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year" for 2000 by the Agricultural Research Service. It is the top scientific honor given by ARS, the chief scientific research agency in USDA.

Bacon is being honored for conceiving, developing and implementing biological control research to prevent plant disease and to control fungal toxin production in plants.

A supervisory microbiologist and research leader for the Toxicology and Mycotoxin Research Unit in Athens, Ga., Bacon focuses his research primarily on the growth, physiology and biochemistry of toxic fungi.

"Dr. Bacon leads a group of ARS scientists whose creativity is nationally recognized and whose research efforts, individually and combined, have led to many important research findings," ARS Administrator Floyd P. Horn said. "His research has influenced the development of all aspects of research scientists at major universities that study toxic fungi that affect forage plants and other crops."

Horn will present awards to Bacon and other ARS honorees at a ceremony today at the ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The scientists will receive plaques, cash awards and additional research funding.

One aspect of Bacon's research is the control of Fusarium moniliforme, a fungus that attacks corn plants and produces a toxic substance called fumonisin. This toxin--called a mycotoxin--can affect both animals and people that eat infected corn. By understanding the interactions of this fungus with other organisms, Bacon discovered that through a process called competitive exclusion, a bacterial organism called Bacillus subtilis can be used to treat corn and literally "crowd out" other, undesirable fungal organisms. By excluding the undesirable fungus from the corn plant, the production of the mycotoxin is reduced or eliminated.

Charles Bacon

Research conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with industry partners indicated that Bacillus subtilis, in addition to controlling the colonization of corn by undesirable fungi, reduced the mycotoxin content in corn under field conditions. A new CRADA will focus on molecular modification of B. subtilis, identification of the substance it produces to block invasion by F. moniliforme, and determination of its potential as a commercial control for F. moniliforme.

Bacon earned bachelor's degrees in biology and chemistry from Clark College in Atlanta and his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan. In addition to his research activities, Bacon serves on the board of the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and is a founding member and the treasurer of the International Symbiosis Society.

During his career--including one year as a research associate at the University of Michigan and 27 years as a research scientist at ARS' Russell Agricultural Research Center at Athens--Bacon has written or co-written more than 150 scientific publications and more than 135 abstracts, and co-edited three books.


Photo: Chemist Agnes Rimando and plant physiologist Stephen Duke use steam distillation to determine the essential oil content of wormwood leaves.
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Photo: Animal physiologist Mohammad Koohmaraie observes technician Julie Dyer as she steam vacuums a section of a beef carcass.
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ARS will also honor Barbara J. Baker, Stephen O. Duke, and Mohammad Koohmaraie as "Outstanding Senior Research Scientists of 2000." Baker directs research at the agency's Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany, Calif. Duke leads research at the Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, Miss. Koohmaraie directs research activities at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center's Meats Research Unit in Clay Center, Neb.

Baker is being recognized for her outstanding achievements in research, leadership and training activities, especially in advancing the scientific understanding of the mechanism of plant disease resistance for crop improvement.

Duke is being honored for outstanding performance in fundamental plant physiology research in support of weed science and natural product research.

Koohmaraie is being cited for innovative research and project leadership to enhance meat quality and safety.

Ag engineers Terry Howell (left) and Thomas Marek: Link to research story
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The agency also named four "Area Senior Research Scientists of 2000." They are:

  • Terry A. Howell of the ARS Water Management Research Unit in Bushland, Tex. Howell is being honored for outstanding advances in irrigation management to conserve groundwater resources in the Texas High Plains.

Scientists Ralph Scorza (left) and Richard Bell: Link to research story
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  • Ralph Scorza of the ARS Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement and Protection Research Management Unit in Kearneysville, W.Va. Scorza's is for research, leadership, and the practical application of innovative approaches to tree fruit improvement award

Carrots: Link to research story
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  • Philipp W. Simon of the Vegetable Crops Research Unit of Madison, Wis. Simon is being honored for the improvement of the carrot through the development of unique carrot germplasm with high levels of carotene, and the genetic characterization of economically important traits.

Scanning electron microscope image of yellow mite: Link to research story
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  • William P. Wergin of the ARS Nematology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. Wergin's award is for internationally recognized leadership in the development of electron microscope methodologies to solve agricultural problems.

ARS is also honoring scientists who are in the early years of their careers. These "early career awards" recognize the achievements of scientists who have been with the agency for seven years or less, and earned their highest academic degree within the past 10 years.

Nutritionist Cindy Davis: Link to research story
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This year, the top award in this category will go to Cindy D. Davis as the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist of 2000. Davis supervises research at the Chronic Disease Laboratory of the ARS Grand Forks (N.D.) Human Nutrition Research Center. She is being honored for new insights about nutritional determinants of cancer--information that may improve public health.

Seven other Area Early Career Scientists are being honored by ARS. They are:

Daniel Chellemi (left) and organic grower Kevin O' Dare: Link to research story
More about Daniel Chellemi:

  • Daniel O. Chellemi, South Atlantic Area, at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Ft. Pierce, Fla., for outstanding research and technology transfer in the area of vegetable crop production.


  • Steven J. Lehotay, North Atlantic Area, at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., for outstanding achievements in the development of advantageous new analytical methods to determine chemical residues in foods.


  • Hong Li, Pacific West Area, at the Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., for innovative research leading to the discovery of methods for detection and control of malignant catarrhal fever virus in agriculturally important animals.


  • Janet Novotny, Beltsville Area, at the Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md., for development of a creative research program with demonstrated major impact in nutrition, especially in the areas of carotenoid metabolism and nutrient bioavailability.

Fish: Link to research story
More about Craig Shoemaker:

  • Craig A. Shoemaker, Mid South Area, at the Aquatic Animal Health Research Laboratory in Auburn, Ala., for outstanding research in aquatic animal health and co-development of the first modified live vaccine licensed for fish in the United States.


  • Christopher D. Skory, Midwest Area, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., for the development of novel metabolic engineering technologies of microorganisms and plants to convert renewable agricultural materials into value-added bio-products.


  • Thomas H. Tai, Southern Plains Area, Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Ark., for significant contributions to knowledge of plant molecular genetics in pepper and for scientific leadership in the area of research on functional genomics of rice.