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Published October 26, 2012, 08:48 AM

North Dakota State scab disease expert retires

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota State University researcher widely known for her work fighting the crop disease scab has retired.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota State University researcher widely known for her work fighting the crop disease scab has retired.

Plant pathologist Marcia McMullen had been a fixture on the Fargo campus for nearly three decades and in 1996 became the first woman to obtain the rank of full professor in what was then known as the NDSU College of Agriculture, Agweek reported. She stepped down earlier this month and plans to remain in Fargo, writing and overseeing her business doing scientific editing and grant review work.

McMullen was widely known for her work fighting scab, a cereal grain disease brought on by wet weather at flowering that caused billions of dollars in losses in the upper Midwest during the 1990s. She became one of the leaders of the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative.

"When scab devastated (North Dakota's) wheat crop in 1993, Dr. McMullen immediately made managing the disease her mission," said Jack Rasmussen, head of the NDSU Plant Pathology Department.

The federally funded Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative funds scab research around the country, including work at NDSU that helped develop scab-tolerant hard red spring wheat varieties that are currently in use.

During her career, McMullen received the highest honors in extension service work and frequently was invited to speak about scab, even overseas.

McMullen was a "trailblazer, a world authority on management of wheat and barley scab," Rasmussen said.

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