Rafael Jiménez-Díaz was born 14 April 1945 in Écija, in the Province of Seville, Spain. He obtained a M.S. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University. He served at the University of Córdoba as assistant professor of genetics, associate professor of statistics, and associate professor of plant pathology. While teaching at the University of Córdoba, he jointly served for 9 years as research plant pathologist at the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias (equivalent to the USDA-ARS). After receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1976 from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, he was named professor of plant pathology at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos of the University of Córdoba. In 1988, he also became professor of research and head of the Department of Crop Protection in the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture in the Spanish Council of Scientific Research. Dr. Jiménez-Díaz currently serves in all three positions. He recently returned to Cornell University for a second sabbatical period.
Dr. Jiménez-Díaz is a leading scientist, agriculturist, and plant pathologist not only in Spain, but throughout the Mediterranean region. He played a significant role in promoting plant pathology in Spain during the post-Franco period, when plant pathology and agricultural research in general were in need of a strong leader to help envision and direct their growth. He provided this leadership and was the primary force behind the establishment of the Spanish Phytopathological Society. His contributions to research are evidenced by the 144 publications and book chapters that have come from his laboratory. Close to 30 students that he has mentored and the positions of importance they now occupy are evidence of his extraordinary ability as a teacher. As an administrator, Dr. Jiménez-Díaz has accepted important appointments at local, regional, national, and international levels that have fostered the advancement of Mediterranean agriculture and the science of plant pathology. He served as research coordinator for the FAO Network on Diseases of Sunflower in Europe, vice president for research at the University of Córdoba, director of the Institute of Agronomy and Plant Protection, scientific coordinator for agricultural research of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research, and a member of the board of directors and vice president of the Mediterranean Phytopathological Union.
Dr. Jiménez-Díaz has worked on the etiological, epidemiological, and control aspects of foliar and soilborne diseases affecting numerous crops important in Spain and the Mediterranean region. In his research, Dr. Jiménez-Díaz has addressed diverse strategies such as assessment of disease importance and distribution; molecular characterization of pathogens; pathotypes and races; quantitative epidemiology; cultural, biological, and resistance management of disease; nematode-fungus interaction breaking resistance; and modeling of diseases losses. His work in the phenotypic and molecular characterization of the causal agents of Fusarium wilt and Ascochyta blight of chickpeas significantly contributed to the breeding of a number of resistant chickpea germ plasm lines and cultivars now used in the Mediterranean region. Similarly, his work in the quantitative epidemiology of Fusarium wilt of chickpea and Verticillium wilt of cotton provided knowledge and tools that facilitated the implementation of integrated management of these diseases in Mediterranean environments. Other diseases of importance investigated by Dr. Jiménez-Díaz’s laboratory are Verticillium wilt of alfalfa and olive trees, Fusarium wilt of melons, yellow leaf blight of corn, damping-off of cotton, pyricularia blight of rice, downy mildew and charcoal rot of sunflower, and lesion and other plant parasitic nematodes of chickpeas.
Dr. Jiménez-Díaz has supervised over 20 students obtaining doctorate degrees and 8 students obtaining master degrees in plant pathology. Three of his former students are currently full professors of plant pathology at different universities in Spain, two students are associate professors of plant pathology at the universities of Córdoba and Venezuela, and six students hold research plant pathology positions in five different research centers throughout Spain.
Much of his efforts have been devoted to the promotion of plant pathology in Spain and in the Mediterranean region. He serves in several professional societies devoted to the science of plant pathology. An active member of APS since 1974, he frequently reviews manuscripts submitted for publication in APS journals and other international publications. He is a member of the British Society of Plant Pathology, the Mediterranean Phytopathological Union, the Spanish Society of Horticultural Sciences, and the New York Academy of Sciences. He helped organize numerous national and international scientific meetings, congresses, conferences, seminars, and workshops in Spain and other countries in Europe and the Mediterranean region, often helping in obtaining the necessary resources. He was a consultant to the directorate general VI of the European Union to evaluate research proposals and to the Spanish directorate general of research and universities to prioritize agricultural research and allocate funding to national research programs.
Among his most recent awards are the Agricultural Research Award “FINUCOSA” in commemoration of the XXV Anniversary of the University of Cordoba in 1997; Best Research Presentation at the VII International Congress of the Latin-American Phytopathological Society in 1995; and the “Jorge Pastor Award” by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture in 1991 and 1993.
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