Wm. Ronald Landis has served the agricultural crop protection industry for more than 40 years. After receiving his doctorate degree in plant pathology at Michigan State University, he worked as a research plant pathologist, project manager, and ultimately director of worldwide research and development for three major agricultural chemical companies: FMC Corporation, Merck (now a division of Syngenta), and Griffin Corporation (now owned by DuPont). Landis began his professional career at FMC in 1969 as a field plant pathologist. His contributions to the company began immediately with the introduction of novel fungicide and growth regulator evaluation techniques. He was the principal contributor to the initial development of two products, triforine, a novel fungicide, and carbosulfan, a reduced toxicity insecticide. Triforine was successfully introduced as a crop and ornamental fungicide and is still being aggressively marketed in the United States and worldwide; carbosulfan is still used as a crop insecticide worldwide. In the case of carbosulfan, Landis was the project manager who selected the molecule from 21 analogs and managed the work that led to the ultimate registration and commercial development.
At Merck, Landis was director of worldwide agricultural research and development. In this capacity, he was involved in all phases of agricultural product development, from biological efficacy and formulation to environmental safety and sales support. Under his direction, the fungicide Arbotect, based upon solubilized thiabendazole, was developed. This product was effective in controlling Dutch elm disease and was successfully commercialized. The first of the “mectin” products, which have had broad commercial development in both plant and animal protection, was discovered by Merck during Landis’s tenure. These products remain important in plant and animal protection today.
At Griffin, where he was director of global agricultural chemical development, Landis continued to hone his skills as a project manager and agricultural scientist through the research and development phases of various Griffin products. During his Griffin years, Landis learned how to bring science and business disciplines together. This experience would later be valuable in starting his own company. It was the Griffin experience that sparked the idea for what would become LANDIS International, Inc. In 1982, Landis cofounded LANDIS International, Inc., where he introduced the concept of contract project management to the agricultural chemical industry. He has advanced this new R&D option from basic project management tools utilized in the beginning of the company to today’s computer-assisted project and program management. LANDIS International has managed the research and development of every type of plant protection and animal protection compound from its initial discovery through regulatory approval, including more than a dozen new molecules for clients around the world. During the company’s 30 years, Landis and his colleagues at LANDIS International, under his direction, have brought hundreds of agricultural products to registration and have assisted more than 550 clients in reaching their research, development, and regulatory goals.
Landis is internationally known and recognized as a leader in agricultural project management. Because of his cooperative problem-solving approach with the EPA and other regulatory agencies worldwide, he has a reputation within the industry as an individual who is capable of achieving positive results efficiently utilizing available resources and time. Landis has not followed the road familiar to most plant pathologists but has shown how the plant pathologist with an entrepreneurial spirit can make a major contribution to agriculture, APS, and society in general. He is an avid supporter of APS and everything plant pathology. He was a member of the APS Private Practice Committee for many years and served as chair for 2 years. His ongoing support of APS is demonstrated through LANDIS International becoming a sustaining associate of the society shortly after its founding in 1982 and through the funding of an APS Student Travel Award.
Landis’s numerous contributions to plant pathology and the agricultural chemical industry make him a fitting recipient of the 2012 Excellence in Industry Award. There may be no other individual in the society today whose research, development, and regulatory activities over the past four decades have impacted as many in the agricultural chemical industry as Landis.