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Jake Phillips, University of Arkansas entomologist, dies

Dr. Jake Phillips, a retired University of Arkansas professor of entomology who helped pioneer the communitywide approach to controlling insect pests in cotton, died in Fayetteville, Ark., April 25. He was 76.

Phillips, who introduced a number of Arkansas cotton producers to the new concept of integrated pest management, retired from the university in 1991. He then began a second career as the leader of a care ministry at Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas in Lowell, Ark.

During his university career, Phillips had a major impact on cotton farmers and their production practices, said Laudies Brantley Jr., an England, Ark., producer who participated in one of the first community-wide programs organized by Phillips.

“I met Dr. Phillips when he came to Coy, Ark., to secure the use of a 160-acre cotton field for his first communitywide program in 1974,” said Brantley. “His work helped me and other farmers in our community probably more than we appreciated at the time.”

Brantley said he was only three years out of college when Phillips began the program, which included weekly meetings with members of the community under a shade tree at a nearby farm.

“He was working not only on insects, but on cotton production systems as well,” said Brantley. “He could make things simple so that even young farmers like me could understand. My late father, Laudies Brantley Sr., was on the opposite end of the technology spectrum, but he held Jake Phillips in high regard.”

Brantley says he remembers Phillips telling growers that planting too dense a stand could be contributing to their problems with plant bugs. “He said it was putting growers on a treadmill that often led to a farmer wiping out beneficial insects with an early insecticide application and then having to spray 12 times before the season was over.”

Phillips helped farmers make the transition to pyrethroid insecticides in the 1970s. “He also introduced me to the Beltwide Cotton Conferences,” said Brantley. “I remember watching him speak to other scientists. He was comfortable talking to farmers or scientists.”

Phillips helped more than one would-be researcher embark on their careers, said Don Johnson, retired Extension entomologist with the University of Arkansas, and Frank Carter, senior scientist, pest management, with the National Cotton Council.

Johnson said he first met Phillips when Phillips was assigned to be his undergraduate adviser after Johnson changed majors from chemistry to entomology at the University of Arkansas.

“He asked me about my plans for graduate school when I was a sophomore, which was something I had never thought about,” said Johnson. “When I was approaching graduation, I mentioned to him that if I could get into ROTC then I would try to get into graduate school. This was during the Vietnam War, and I knew I would be drafted on graduation.

“He told me, ‘you get into ROTC, and I will get you into graduate school,’” said Johnson. “Within 48 hours I was in both, and my life had changed forever. As a result of his encouragement, I went on to finish a masters’ at Arkansas and a Ph. D. at North Carolina State University.”

“I’m biased because I was Dr. Phillips’ second graduate student,” said Carter. “I think his biggest contribution was working with growers, particularly in managing crops and pests from an areawide approach.

“I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Phillips helped lay the groundwork for boll weevil eradication. His work with the communitywide approach showed what growers could do by working together.”

“Jake was always full of new ideas,” said Johnson. “He developed the areawide concept on heliothine management, saving our farmers an enormous amount of money and making tobacco budworm control much easier. He was one of the first leaders in promoting boll weevil eradication in Arkansas, developing use of boll weevil traps as field monitors, studying fall diapause in weevil and providing research for cotton insect control throughout his career.”

Carter said Phillips used his communication skills to launch his “second career,” the care ministry he founded at his church in Lowell. As part of that effort, he was ordained to the ministry as pastor of Care Ministries at Fellowship Bible Church in 1997.

A memorial service was held at the church on April 29.

Survivors include his wife, Carol; a daughter, Carol Louise Phillips Burdette of Des Moines, Iowa; a son, Drew Phillips of Tulsa, Okla.; a brother, William S. “Bill” Phillips of Newport, Ark.; and four grandchildren.

The family requests that memorials be sent to the Jake Phillips Scholarship Fund, University of Arkansas Foundation, c/o Department of Entomology, Attn: Janet Funk, 319 Agri Building, Fayetteville, AR 72701. Checks should be made payable to the University of Arkansas Foundation.

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