Koon-Hui Wang was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She received her B.S. degree in horticulture from the National Taiwan University in 1993. She then enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and received her M.S. degree in horticulture in 1996 and Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 2000. After leaving Hawaii, she became a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Florida in Gainesville and was promoted to assistant research scientist in 2005.
Wang’s research has focused on the integrated management of soilborne pest problems, including nematodes, fungi, and weeds. For some crops, such as new species and cultivars of commercial cut flowers, little information was available on pests and their management. In these cases, Wang conducted basic studies to determine pathogenicity of the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne incognita and soilborne fungi (Fusarium oxysporum, Pythium aphanidermatum) to lisianthus and snapdragon. In addition, she determined which cultivars of these and other cut flower species are resistant or tolerant to these important pathogens. She has demonstrated the efficacy of soil solarization against a range of soil pests. However, in pest management, her main focus and strength has been the integration of multiple tactics including soil solarization, cover crops, organic amendments, plant resistance, and biological control as alternatives to methyl bromide for managing soilborne problems. Fumigation with methyl bromide has long been the standard practice for pest management in soil systems. By combining several nonchemical tactics, Wang has achieved levels of control of nematodes, diseases, and weeds that approach the performance of the methyl bromide standard. She continues to research and perfect these nonchemical alternatives individually and in combination. She is particularly interested in crops such as sunn hemp and cowpea that can function as both rotational cover crops and amendment sources, and has conducted experiments to show that the rotation effect was more critical than the amendment in suppressing root-knot nematodes. Rather than restricting her work to one agricultural commodity, Wang has shown that many of these pest management principles and practices are transferable to a wide range of crops, including a number of vegetable crops, and ornamentals such as cut flowers and caladiums.
While she has made much progress in the integrated management of soilborne pests, the most impressive feature of Wang’s work is that these efforts have been integrated into the larger context of management of soil health in agroecosystems. Her objective is overall plant health, of which pest management is only one part. Pests and plant pathogens are not alone in the agroecosystem, but are surrounded by a great diversity of other organisms, many of them potentially beneficial in improving plant health. She emphasizes that free-living nematodes involved in nutrient cycling benefit plants by improving overall nutrient uptake and ultimately plant health. Using her knowledge of soil ecology, she is perfecting the use of cover cropping in sustainable agricultural systems. She integrates the concept of cover cropping for nematode management with soil nutrient management, to recommend the optimal timing for cover cropping in subtropical regions. She has documented the impact of several soil management practices on the entire soil nematode community, finding greatest impact on beneficial omnivorous and predatory nematodes following severe practices such as fumigation with methyl bromide. She is especially interested in biological control and the potential of practices such as use of organic amendments for simulating biological control agents. She has made much progress in understanding and clarifying the ecological conditions useful for stimulating omnivorous and predatory nematodes as well as nematode-antagonistic fungi. The stimulation of nematode-trapping fungi is especially problematic. There is a need to add organic matter to stimulate such fungi, but if the carbon-nitrogen ratio of the organic matter added is not appropriate, the fungi will not form traps. Wang has discovered the response of the fungi depends on the types of fungi involved, as well as on soil and field history, particularly the quantity and quality of organic matter already present in the soil.
Wang’s research findings have been presented in five invited symposia at recent national meetings, in an APSnet Feature Article in January 2005, and in 19 refereed journal articles and 18 papers and chapters in meeting proceedings. Wang also has been very active in working with growers and presenting her results so that they can readily apply her findings in managing their soilborne pest problems and ecosystem health. She has developed two websites and published several online articles that are userfriendly and very useful for growers. She has been invited to present her work to growers not only in Florida, but in two other states as well.
In addition to her many research accomplishments, Wang has served APS as chair and vice chair of the Nematology Committee, organized a nematology symposium at the 2005 meeting in Austin, and co-organized a nematology symposium at the 2004 meeting in Anaheim. She also has been active in the Society of Nematologists (SON) and served as chair and vice chair of the Biological Control Committee, organized two symposia at SON national meetings, and initiated the First Nematode Biological Control Images Competition at the SON meeting in 2005. She has also organized and taught a course on nematode biological control for graduate students at the University of Florida.