Native to Connecticut, Brian D. Olson received his B.S. degree in biology from Nasson College in Springvale, Maine, in 1975. He then earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology at Michigan State University in 1979 and 1983, respectively. Olson’s M.S. research explored the interaction of ozone and common bacterial blight in two dry bean cultivars, and his dissertation research was focused on the epidemiology and control of bacterial canker on Montmorency sour cherry caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. morsprunorum. Following his graduate work, Olson served as a post-doctorate research associate in the Plant Pathology Department at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station before joining Dow AgroSciences in 1984. Residing in Geneva, New York, Olson served as technical expert and field R&D scientist in field crops, tree fruits, vegetables and turfgrass throughout his career with the company. During his career with Dow AgroSciences, Olson personally conducted applied agricultural research on diverse crops and pests, as well as interacted with university researchers across the northeastern United States. Olson retired in May 2014 after a successful 30-year career with the company.
Olson extensively served APS and other scientific organizations throughout his career. His list of volunteer leadership contributions to APS include serving as both member and director of the Office of Industry Relations for more than 11 years (2002–2007, member; 2007–2013, director); member of the APS Nominations Committee (2010–2012); Plant Management Network Joint Executive Committee (2007–2010); Plant Management Network APS Advisory Committee (2009–2011; 2009–2010, chair), and Leadership Development (2009); editor of Plant Disease Management Reports (2006–2013); and member of the Industry (1992–1995, 2005–2008; 2007, chair), Chemical Control (2004–2014), and Pathogen Resistance (2008–2013) Committees. Throughout this time, Olson also served as the Turfgrass Section chair, secretary/treasurer, vice president, and president of the Northeastern Weed Science Society; secretary, treasurer, vice president and president of the Pesticide Association of New York State; and member of the Turfgrass Advisory Board at Cornell University. Olson was elected fellow of Northeastern Weed Science Society in 2007.
Olson’s contributions to APS are numerous but his passion was for connecting industry with the APS membership, particularly the student membership. He was instrumental in the development of the industry lunch networking opportunities for students at the regional and national APS annual meetings. This lunch is an opportunity for students to interact with industry representatives to find out what it is like to work in industry, what industry looks for in applicants, and how they can best prepare for a career. This event has been exceptionally well received since its inception, with each year having greater attendance. Olson also reached out to students by presenting seminars on careers in industry and obtaining funding through Dow AgroSciences for students to gain hands-on experience in industry field research. His contributions to the improvement in academic relations with industry do not end there. During Olson’s tenure in the Office of Industry Relations, he spearheaded efforts to develop a video series on careers in the private sector. The Office of Private Sector Relations (formerly OIR) is still working to develop this series.
Olson’s scientific and technical contributions span the disciplines of plant pathology, entomology, and weed science. Through his position encompassing 13 northeastern states, Olson worked closely with IR-4, the state regulatory agencies, universities, commodity groups, and industry partners to write and obtain new and supplemental labels and to define best management practices and emergency use exemptions. He also served as technical expert for this geography, educating growers, distributors/retailers, and the local Dow AgroSciences sales organization in the technical aspects of all pesticide and seed products, including best practices and responsible stewardship.
Olson’s diversity in contributions is also reflected in authored patents, spanning synergistic herbicide mixtures to control glyphosate-resistant weeds and insecticide/termiticide delivery methods for controlling urban insect pests. His innovation in research directly benefited the advancement of agricultural products that are either currently offered in the marketplace or recently received regulatory approvals prior to an impending commercial release. In the weed science arena, for example, patent US 2009/0005248 A1 demonstrates synergism in weed control when tank mixing the herbicides 2,4-D and glyphosate. This tank mix concept was then expanded to include numerous formulation and application technologies and was recently registered in the United States for a premix product offering called Enlist Duo. Enlist Duo will be sold globally in conjunction with the Enlist seed technology, which confers glyphosate and 2,4-D tolerance in corn and soybeans. Then, in the plant pathology arena, Olson recently submitted a patent application for the control of bacterial Pseudomonas diseases using the fungicide quinoxyfen. Olson’s leadership in this research directly resulted in a 2ee Recommendation for Quintec for the suppression of bacterial spot in peppers in numerous states. Lastly, in the entomology arena, patent 5704172 demonstrates an innovative technology in which a foundation insulation system consists of a rigid polymer foam board with diagonal crossing grooves, allowing for the application and reapplication of insecticides and termiticides in urban pest scenarios. This innovative application technology allows direct contact of the pesticide with the foundation material while limiting environmental exposure to the pesticide. All of these technologies serve to provide farmers with novel tools for pest control, whether it’s a new use pattern, a new active for a plant disease, or a safer and more effective application technology.
Olson is known and respected across the United States in multiple disciplines of agriculture, and he professionally influenced many people throughout his career as a peer, educator, advisor, and mentor. At APS, he has been a tireless advocate for improved industry–academic interactions.