Peter Cotty

Adjunct Professor and Research Plant Pathololgist, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Research Plant Pathologist, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture
520-626-5049 / 520-626-6775 (Lab)

Educational Background

  • Dr. Cotty is internationally recognized for work on aflatoxin contamination. He contributed insights on the population biology and physiology of aflatoxin producing fungi and the management of aflatoxin contamination. An authority on the process of aflatoxin contamination and on the etiology and management of this difficult problem. Works from this lab on the biology, ecology, and evolution of fungi that cause contamination are bases for work by many groups. Dr. Cotty has worked with farmers, gins, elevators, and the cotton, maize, and tree-nut industries for over twenty years. The most prominent innovation has been use of atoxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus to limit aflatoxin contamination. Several of these naturally occurring strains of the causal agent of contamination have been registered as biopesticides with the U.S. EPA and are used in the USA to limit contamination of several crops. With his close colleague, Dr. Ranajit Bandyopadhyay at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Dr. Cotty adapted atoxigenic strain biocontrol to use throughout sub-Saharan Africa where these efforts have already led to registration of several atoxigenic strain based biopestides. Equally important has been delineation of fungi with S strain morphotype as contributors of most of the aflatoxin producing potential of fungal communities in several regions with severe contamination; these fungi have previously frequently been overlooked due to distinct appearance. With colleagues and students Cotty has addressed many issues ranging from the functions of fungal hydrolases to influences of agronomic practices on contamination to the genetics of aflatoxin-producing and closely related fungi. Maintaining both fundamental and field-based applied aspects his laboratory has repeatedly challenged and, when necessary, altered previously accepted paradigms. Dr. Cotty received a B.A. in Biology from Boston University, an M.S. in Plant Pathology from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Arizona. Dr. Cotty is a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and has been recognized by the USDA Secretary’s Award for Personal and Profession Excellence, the ARS Technology Transfer Award, the ARS Early Career Scientist award, and twice by the Southern Regional Research Center with its Outstanding Scientist Award. Dr. Cotty has also received the Environmental Technology Award from the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, the Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, the Arizona Cotton Growers Association Industry Appreciation Award, and the Agents of Change Award from the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) of the African Union.

Research Interests

  • Food Safety
  • Mycotoxins,Aflatoxins

Research Areas

  • Microbiology
  • Plant Protection and Pathology