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AgriLife Research recognizes plant pathologist as Senior Faculty Fellow

Dr. Charlie Rush, a Regents Professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo, was named a Senior Faculty Fellow. Dr. Rush has garnered more than $16 million in grants. Rush’s work includes more than 25 years addressing the needs of Texas farmers and threats to U.S. agriculture.

Dr. Charlie Rush, a Regents Professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo, was named a Senior Faculty Fellow at the annual Texas A&M AgriLife Conference Jan. 8 in College Station.

AgriLife Research established the Faculty Fellow honor in 1998 to recognize outstanding and productive faculty who have contributed to the scholarly creation and dissemination of new knowledge. Once named a Faculty Fellow, an individual may be nominated as a Senior Faculty Fellow to reflect continued scholarly contributions through leadership in a research program.

Rush was recognized as an AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow in 2006 and the following year, with the Texas A&M Regents Fellow Service Award.

His nomination stated: “While Dr. Rush may have been successful in receiving both of these distinguished awards, he did not rest on his laurels. Quite the opposite. Dr. Rush has spent the past five years expanding his plant pathology program to take on the leading crop disease threats faced by Texas producers.

“In his effort to help farmers, he has garnered more than $16 million in grants to conduct the applied research needed to provide practical solutions. He has continued to expand his national and international recognition as a plant pathology research leader and is often sought out as an expert speaker.”

Rush’s work, outlined in the nomination, includes more than 25 years addressing the needs of Texas farmers and threats to U.S. agriculture, including sorghum ergot, karnal bunt of wheat and rhizomania of sugar beet. During the past five years, he has focused on zebra chip of potato and triticum mosaic of wheat.

“He tries to be early on the scene and early with the solutions to evolving biotic stress problems in High Plains crops, finding common grounds with researchers in other regions,” said Dr. John Sweeten, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center resident director at Amarillo.

When sorghum ergot first entered the state, Rush and his research team worked closely with the Texas seed sorghum industry and developed a disease forecasting model, based on climatic conditions that were identified to be conducive for disease development.

When karnal bunt of wheat was first detected in the state, Rush established a diagnostic lab to detect the pathogen and provide farmers with documentation needed to certify a “disease-free crop” before it could be sold. He conducted research on pathogen distribution and potential for spread, which resulted in several publications that were used to develop a pest risk assessment, and ultimately to help provide the documentation necessary to deregulate quarantined farms.

With rhizomania of sugar beet, Rush initiated research to understand the interactions between irrigation frequency and duration on disease incidence and severity. Based on this work, recommendations were made to revise irrigation scheduling practices, resulting in water savings and reduced losses to disease. While the sugar beet crop and industry have left Texas, the industry still supports Rush’s research, evidenced by acquisition of approximately $800,000 for research in the last five years.

With zebra chip of potato, Rush’s research again was early and at the forefront of a disease that almost destroyed the potato industry in Texas, when Frito Lay could not find answers and had started moving its potato-chipping processing out of the state. Rush secured a $6.9 million federal grant to focus on pathogen/vector ecology and epidemiology for this disease. He continues to collaborate with researchers across the state and nation on this issue.

Rush’s wheat research program focuses on mite-vectored virus diseases such as wheat streak mosaic, triticum mosaic and High Plains disease. Recently, he was named as a part of a $3.3 million collaborative grant to look at adoption of integrated pest management practices for this complex of diseases. His lab has developed crop-loss models that quantify economic losses to these diseases, as impacted by incidence and severity, and provide growers with information needed to make informed management decisions.

“Dr. Rush’s research, usually involving multidisciplinary teams he has organized, has significantly impacted both the direction of research and the way farmers manage these diseases,” Sweeten concluded in the nomination.

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