Jim Frank was born in Cleveland, OH, and received his B.S. degree in botany from Ohio University and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Illinois in 1969 and 1970, respectively. Frank has extensive experience in both academia and industry and his career has been spent equally between them. From 1970 to 1978, Frank worked for the USDA-ARS at the University of Maine, where he codeveloped the potato varieties ‘Atlantic’ and ‘BelRus’. He established the importance of Rhizoctonia on potato yields, demonstrating the importance of the cumulative effects of the disease on yield and quality from sprout nip through black scurf on the tubers. In 1978, he accepted a USDA-ARS plant pathologist position as the original member of the Center for Cereals Research at The Pennsylvania State University. Frank’s research focused on the epidemiology of cereal diseases with an emphasis on the impact of agronomic practices. He was instrumental in introducing High-Input Management cereal production into the northeastern United States. In 1987, Frank became a senior plant pathologist with Syngenta (then ICI Americas/Zeneca) and led the initial evaluations of azoxystrobin in North America.
Within the industry, Frank made significant contributions in several areas of plant pathology. Among the most noteworthy of his accomplishments was the development of a leading team of pathologists to promote, develop, and introduce new fungicides in the United States. His efforts to educate and mentor the field biology team, which was made up primarily of weed scientists and entomologists, led to a very successful fungicide introduction. Azoxystrobin was registered in the United States for the control of more than 200 diseases on more than 50 crops. Azoxystrobin quickly became the most widely used fungicide globally. This translated into disease control, increased crop yields, and improved crop quality for growers, which accounted for an estimated savings to growers in excess of 10 million dollars annually. Frank produced a series of technical training manuals for azoxystrobin to educate Syngenta’s sales and research teams, as well as growers and distributors. He then established a world-class training program and converted a predominantly herbicide-oriented company into a leading fungicide company.
Frank was an active member of the North American Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) for strobilurins since its formation and he chaired the committee at one time. His contributions to FRAC and the establishment of guidelines on the number of strobilurin applications that can be applied in a season have been essential to the longevity of the strobilurin fungicides. Frank persuasively encouraged Syngenta to obtain chlorothalonil and fluazinam from ISK to be used in a resistance management strategy for azoxystrobin. This move proved to be extremely important for Syngenta.
During his 19-year career in industry, Frank was an active member of APS. He served on a number of APS committees, including the Industry Committee, the Soil-borne Disease Committee, the Chemical Committee (ad hoc), and the Office of International Programs. He chaired the Industry Committee in 2005. Frank participated annually in the industry-hosted graduate student breakfast to promote the profession and to encourage students to consider industry as a career opportunity.
Frank authored more than 47 refereed publications, one book chapter, and 38 nonrefereed publications. His ability to impart technical knowledge via an entertaining fashion is truly unique. Frank has always been a strong advocate of the industry and recognizes the importance of collaborative efforts between the industry and academia. The grower, the ultimate customer, was a common theme throughout Frank’s career—be it better potato varieties, increased wheat yields via higher inputs, managing the longevity of an excellent fungicide utility via resistance management guidelines, or providing training and guidance internally and externally. He should be proud because his contributions have resulted in improved crop yields and quality that have benefited many growers in the United States. Frank’s commitment to ensuring effective disease management for the long term is still visible in the Syngenta fungicide strategies and product use labels he helped create over the last 10 years of his career. Frank has retired and he is currently consulting.