"Because of this, U.S. researchers were able to accurately diagnose and predictably control several plant diseases by 1908," she added. "U.S. plant pathologists were also making progress in identifying and utilizing plants with resistance to diseases of economic importance, although genetics and plant breeding were still in their infancy."
Despite these successes, however, the new-style plant doctors felt a need to distance themselves from botanists in order to define their profession, Scholthof explained, and they also needed a specific journal in which their studies could be published for peers.
"Scientists professionally are defined by where they come together as a group and where they publish their research," noted Peterson, a plant pathologist and historian.
Leaders in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several agricultural experiment stations in various states pushed to get a separate section to meet during the 1909 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
They invited scientists from across the nation and urged them to present their findings "to put together the strongest possible program ... that would command respect and attention," Scholthof and Peterson wrote.
As a result, 38 men and three women from 15 states - as far away as California - made their way to Boston on Dec. 30-31, 1909 to present 45 scientific papers, according to Scholthof. They covered virtually every crop still of importance to U.S. agriculture from fruits and fibers to forages, field crops and forests. Many of the diseases described in that first meeting are no longer of economic consequence because plant pathologists helped develop methods to control outbreaks.
"The early researchers in the field were incredibly insightful," Scholthof said. "They observed and learned what they did with what we would consider rudimentary tools."
Their lead in developing the study of plant di
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Texas A&M AgriLife Communications