Gregory L. Tylka
Gregory L. Tylka was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He earned B.S and M.S. degrees in biology from California University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and 1985, respectively. He earned a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from the University of Georgia in 1990 and joined the faculty at Iowa State University (ISU) the same year, where he currently serves as professor with research and extension responsibilities focused on the soybean cyst nematode (SCN), Heterodera glycines. Tylka also is the founding director of the Iowa Soybean Research Center, which was established in 2014 at ISU.
Tylka is an internationally recognized expert on SCN. His notoriety stems from his well-balanced and innovative extension and research programs. Tylka’s research focuses on the biology and management of SCN, which has led to the generation of new, science-based information that is used in extension education programs throughout North America.
Tylka has used a regional approach to research and extension education relating to SCN. In the early 1990s, SCN was becoming a devastating soybean pathogen throughout the Midwest. Tylka and collaborators in Missouri and Illinois conducted coordinated field experiments that revealed SCN could reduce yields by 30% or more without causing obvious aboveground symptoms. Realizing that absence of obvious symptoms was a serious obstacle to successful management of the nematode, Tylka organized and led an innovative, region-wide farmer education project that focused on scouting for and quantifying SCN population densities to better manage SCN. The 5-year project, known as the SCN Coalition, involved extension plant pathologists and nematologists from land-grant universities in 10 Midwestern U.S. states and was groundbreaking in many respects. To improve awareness and knowledge of SCN in the region, the project utilized farmers as spokespersons for educational efforts, and Tylka worked with a public relations firm to conduct market research to assess and monitor farmer awareness and knowledge of SCN. The project built formal public–private partnerships among state soybean checkoff organizations, land-grant universities, and soybean seed companies and used professional print and radio advertising to complement traditional extension efforts to educate farmers about the threat of SCN. There was a tremendous increase in testing for SCN in the states involved in the project as evidenced by the results of market research in later years of the project and the numbers of soil samples submitted for SCN analysis to universities involved in the project.
A major strategy to manage SCN once it is detected in a field is to grow resistant soybean varieties, and there are hundreds of soybean varieties described as resistant to SCN. But no industry or legal standard exists in the United States for the amount of nematode control a resistant soybean variety must provide. Tylka realized that soybean farmers needed unbiased information on the effectiveness of SCN-resistant soybean varieties to mitigate yield losses. In 1991, Tylka established the ISU SCN-Resistant Soybean Variety Trial Program, which continues to this day and provides farmers with research-based information about the nematode control and yield potential of hundreds of SCN-resistant varieties under field conditions. Annual reports of the variety trial results are mailed to 85,000 farmers in the Midwest, and reports also are posted online at www.isuscntrials.info. Results from the program now are being used to understand the relationship among SCN reproduction on resistant soybean varieties, agronomic performance, and nematode population dynamics in the field and the impact of SCN populations developing increased ability to reproduce on SCN-resistant soybean varieties.
Tylka has created many high-quality education materials, including state, regional, and national print publications, award-winning computer training modules, and websites such as www.soybeancyst.info. Tylka also organized (solely or as coorganizer) each of the national SCN conferences held in the United States in 1995, 1999, 2002, and 2008 and served as coeditor of the national SCN Management Guide print publication.
In addition to his nationally recognized extension program, Tylka’s peers hold his research accomplishments in high regard. In collaboration with colleagues, Tylka’s research has answered numerous questions about the biology of SCN—including reproduction of SCN on resistant soybean varieties and potential weed hosts, the natural distribution and dissemination of SCN by tillage implements, the relationship of SCN with soil pH, and the effects of herbicides on SCN. Tylka and colleagues also have discovered and characterized significant interactions of SCN with the soybean brown stem rot and sudden death syndrome pathogens and the soybean aphid. He has led regional efforts in the Midwest to determine the effects of soybean cultural practices and, most recently, nematode-protectant seed treatments on SCN population dynamics and soybean yields. The results of Tylka’s research not only have advanced knowledge of the biology of SCN, but they form the basis of management recommendations for SCN throughout North America.
In service to APS, Tylka is a frequent reviewer of manuscripts for APS and Plant Management Network (PMN) journals and has served as an active member on a number of APS committees. He just finished serving as chair of the APS Nematology Committee in 2014. He was director of the APS Office of Public Affairs and Education from 2000 to 2003 and served as a member on the advisory board during formation of the Plant Management Network. As PMN began to flourish, Tylka became heavily involved in establishing the Focus on Soybean resource. He developed the standards and guidelines for webcasts and eventually became chair of the committee that oversees Focus on Soybean, which was the first of PMN’s numerous “Focus on” topic areas and currently has more than 75 soybean webcasts viewed nearly 200,000 times.
Tylka’s innovative, broad-reaching work to educate farmers and agribusiness professionals about SCN, his leadership in regional and national research and extension education efforts relating to SCN, his research contributions to the knowledge of the biology and management of SCN, and his contributions to APS and PMN make him a worthy recipient of the honor of APS Fellow.
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