Ph: (706) 546-3142
FAX: (706) 546-3116
Dr. Bacon is the Research Leader and Supervisory Microbiologist for the Toxicology and Mycotoxin Research Unit, and an Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology, Department of Plant Pathology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. He is a fungal physiologist and mycologist at these two institutions. He has conducted research at the R. B. Russell Agricultural Research Center for 20 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 coevolution 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, the utilization of endophytic organisms for identifying, at the molecular level, beneficial traits for future 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 cereals, and the involvement of mycotoxins in 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 this area as indicated by invitations to edit books, contribute book chapters, participate and present research accomplishments at symposia and workshops, as well as participating in national and international requests for technical assistance.
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
(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 that the entire new bacterial species, Bacillus mojavensis, a desert dwelling bacterium with very close affinity to B. subtilis, is 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. In 2001, 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.