Raghavan (“Charu”) Charudattan
Raghavan (“Charu”) Charudattan was born on April 7, 1942, in Tanjavur, India. He received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in botany and chemistry in 1961 and 1963 and Ph.D. degree in plant pathology and mycology in 1968 from the University of Madras, India, under the tutelage of Professors T. S. Sadasivan and R. Kalyanasundarm. Following post-doctoral studies with Dr. James E. DeVay at the University of California-Davis, he joined University of Florida-Gainesville in 1970 as a post-doctoral associate. He was hired in 1973 as an assistant professor in plant pathology at the University of Florida to initiate a unique program of biological control of weeds with plant pathogens. He became a full professor in 1983.
Dr. Charudattan is a recognized leader in the field of biological control of aquatic and upland weeds by using plant pathogens. He has pioneered methods to study diseases of floating and submerged aquatic plants. He is a foremost expert on diseases of waterhyacinth, a weed of global importance. He has collected and studied pathogens of this weed from many countries and described empirical systems for its integrated management by combining pathogens, insects, and chemical herbicides. Colleagues and agencies around the world frequently seek his advice on managing this weed. At the invitation of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), he organized an expert panel in 1996 to develop management strategies for this weed that are appropriate for the African continent. In 1994, at the request of the WHO/PanAmerican Health Organization and the Mexican Water Technology Institute, he conducted an extensive survey for diseases of waterhyacinth in Mexico to identify pathogens suitable for development as bioherbicide agents at the institute.
Along with his students and post-doctorates, Charu has devised ways to characterize the development, spread, and impacts of fungal diseases on the submerged aquatic weeds hydrilla and Eurasian watermilfoil. He has developed models to describe spore deposition, dispersal, and settling in underwater systems and to assess the effectiveness of microbial herbicides to control submerged weeds. As the centerpiece of his research resource, he has built a collection of about 2,000 microbial cultures that he has personally collected through surveys for weed pathogens. Cultures from this collection are used regularly by his students and cooperators in several countries.
Dr. Charudattan is a founder of the highly ranked, multidisciplinary, refereed journal Biological Control: Theory and Application in Pest Management, devoted to the science and technology of biocontrol. As the coordinating editor of the journal since its inception, he helps to set editorial policies and procedures, assembles teams of editors and editorial board members, and edits and selects papers for publication in the area of weed biocontrol. In its 15th year of publication, Biological Control has emerged as the leading biocontrol journal with a high impact factor.
In addition to the demands of journal editorship, Dr. Charudattan has maintained a very active and large research program supported by competitive grants and industry support. He has published extensively in the areas of etiology, epidemiology, and host–parasite relationships. His group has discovered and describednew pathogens (Araujia mosaic virus, a member of the genus Potyvirus, and Phomopsis amaranthicola) and contributed significant new information on previously unknown or poorly characterized pathogens (Alternaria eichhorniae, Cercospora spp. on waterhyacinth, Dactylaria higginsii, Fusarium spp. on hydrilla, Mycoleptodiscus terrestris, Plectosporium tabacinum, Puccinia evadens, Uredo eichhorniae, Uromyces pontederiae, and others). He and his associates have shown that Tobacco mild green mosaic virus (TMGMV), a member of the genus Tobamovirus, kills tropical soda apple, a highly invasive noxious weed, by eliciting a host-specific and lethal hypersensitive host response and that this virus could be further developed and registered as the world’s first virus-based bioherbicide.
Dr. Charudattan has authored 4 books, a workshop manual, 103 refereed journal articles, 24 book chapters, and 231 nonrefereed publications. His research has also garnered 11 landmark patents in the field of bioherbicides. The most recent patent from his group, on the use of TMGMV to induce a lethal hypersensitive plant response, has helped to launch a private biopesticide company.
Dr. Charudattan directs a graduate program that is unique in being able to train students, post-doctorates, and visiting scientists in principles of plant pathology as well as weed science, microbial production technology, biological control, and integrated control. His students have gone on to successful careers at universities in the United States, Brazil, Egypt, and Malaysia, the USDA-ARS, a Swiss NGO, and private companies. He teaches a course at the graduate and undergraduate levels on microbiological control of plant pathogens and weeds and frequently guest-lectures in his and other departments. International collaboration is a strong component of his program; he has participated in cooperative research in seven countries and hosted visiting scientists to his lab from nine countries. He has chaired the International Bioherbicide Group and Multistate Research Projects on bioherbicides. He has organized and convened symposia at International Weed Science Congresses held in Brazil and South Africa and the International Plant Protection Congresses in Israel and China.
Dr. Charudattan is a recipient of the USDA Superior Service Award and a Fellow of the Weed Science Society of America. He has received a Professorial Excellence Program Award and a University of Florida Research Foundation Professorship from his university. He is an adjunct professor in the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and the School of Natural Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida. He has served on the scientific advisory board of a biotech company and has consulted for USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, USDA-CSREES, U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. National Academy of Sciences-Board on Agriculture, FAO, Mexican Water Technology Institute, Brazilian governmental agencies EMBRAPA and IBAMA, and others.
An active member of APS since 1969, Dr. Charudattan is one of two founding members of APS’ biological control committee. He has served as a member or chair of APS committees and as an associate editor for Plant Disease. He has organized and chaired paper sessions, discussions, and symposia at annual meetings and reviewed manuscripts for Plant Disease and Phytopathology.