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Dr. Joseph Russo
Joseph Russo was born in Connecticut. He obtained a B.S. in Meteorology from St. Louis University (1971), a M.Sc. in Meteorology from McGill (1974), and his Ph.D. in Agricultural Meteorology from Cornell (1978). Prior to his entering industry, Dr. Russo was an assistant professor of Agricultural Climatology at Penn State (1981-88). In 1987, Dr. Russo founded ZedX Inc., an information technology (IT) company. ZedX specializes in custom weather databases, decision-support algorithms, and data visualization tools and works with agricultural industries, universities, and government agencies. Dr. Russo, as president and ZedX lead scientist, has designed and operated numerous interactive, web-based, decision-support systems for agroindustry.
ZedX, under Dr. Russo’s leadership has offered a variety of IT platforms for plant disease risk assessment and management to plant pathology researchers, extension communities, private citizens, and companies. Each of these platforms is noted for providing “state-of-the-art” technologies to support innovative problem solving. Recent platforms have mobile devise applications (apps) to enable data collect from the field and instant access to information for in-field crop and pest management decision-making. These innovative platforms also provide information products derived from observations and output from weather driven dynamic crop and pest models and enable Extension professionals to conveniently communicate with growers, consultants, and other stakeholders. Dr. Russo’s work over the last two decades has been instrumental in catalyzing cultural change in collecting and sharing pest data.
After the 2004 US discovery of
, the causal agent of soybean rust (SBR), Dr. Russo and collaborators develop the online USDA SBR-PIPE to integrate monitoring, diagnostics, databases, models, forecasts, maps, and information dissemination activities associated with SBR. An unprecedented level of cooperation among USDA and state agencies, universities, industry, and grower organizations supported the system, which coupled aerobiological modeling with an extensive monitoring network. The USDA ERS concluded that the management decision support provided through the SBR-PIPE website increased producers’ profits in 2005 by $11 to $299 million. The following year, Dr. Russo and collaborators created the Integrated Pest Management-PIPE (ipmPIPE), to provide producers with information about SBR spread as well as about other legume pests and diseases.
From 2006-2010, the ipmPIPE expanded including monitoring and decision-making tools for soybean aphid, diseases of common beans, cucurbit downy mildew, pecan nut casebearer, and southern corn rust. Sites in Canada and Mexico were added to the monitoring network. Use of the Internet platform by producers, crop consultants, Extension specialists, and administrators during this period was high, especially with the introduction by ZedX of a bilingual (Spanish- English) format. Growers’ use of the SBR component of the platform alone saved $207 million in fungicide application costs in 2007 and about $200 million/yr in 2008 and 2009. More than 90% of 361 Certified Crop Advisors who responded to a survey in 2008 indicated that they valued the SBR ipmPIPE website and sentinel plot network, and that they felt “somewhat” to “very” confident in the information obtained from them.
Dr. Russo has worked with APHIS-PPQ and NCSU to develop the NAPPFAST system. NAPPFAST supported predictive pest-mapping needs of the APHIS-PPQ Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program and risk assessment activities of the Plant Epidemiology and Risk Assessment Laboratory. It used templates to facilitate modeling and mapping biological events such as plant pathogen infection and was built upon ZedX IT tools for mining large crop, pest, weather, and other environmental databases and for modeling pest movement and development.
In 2008, Dr. Russo and colleagues built the Cereal Rust Information Platform (CRIP) as part of a national effort to prepare for the possible incursion of new wheat stem rust races (Ug99) into the U.S. CRIP accommodated data, communication tools, model output, maps, and commentary about barley leaf rust, oat crown rust, oat stem rust, wheat leaf rust, wheat stem rust, and yellow (stripe) rust on wheat, barley, rye, oats, barberry, and buckthorn.
The following year, Dr. Russo spearheaded a project with Mexico to construct El Sistema Coordinado de Operaciones para el manejo de Plagas reglamentadas y su Epidemiología (SCOPE), a Spanish language IT platform for wide-area monitoring and management. SCOPE, based on the advanced CRIP design, integrates aerobiology modeling products and IT tools from NAPPFAST. SCOPE initially targeted citrus greening as a model system to train Mexican specialists in using the tools, products, and communication interface. It has since expanded to include other pests with high regulatory importance. In 2013, SCOPE was successfully transferred to the Mexican government for oversight and operation.
The iPiPE was initiated in 2010 by Dr. Russo and colleagues and became a USDA Cooperative Agricultural Program (CAP) in 2015. The system incentivizes growers and consultants to submit observations on important pests by providing tools and information products for timely management decision-making. Its mission is to contribute to our nation’s infrastructure for food security, build local and regional capacity to respond to food security problems involving crop pests, reduce adverse environmental effects from pest management practices, and enhance farm profitability. Dr. Russo directs IT services for the iPiPE CAP and is the co-director of the pest risk-modeling component.
There is a critical need to develop a national infrastructure that supports and networks private and public professionals who routinely monitor crop health and pest incidence so that their shared knowledge and observations can be quickly translated to mitigation measures to limit food security impairment. Sharing pest observations constitutes an important change in stakeholder behavior. Over the past two decades Dr. Russo has strove assiduously to catalyze this cultural change, to empower agricultural stakeholders to contribute their pest observations to a common database so that these data and information products derived from them can be effectively used for managing pests. He has made truly outstanding contributions to the plant pathology research and extension communities.
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