The APS Foundation is pleased to announce a new graduate student travel fund established by the generous gift from Past President J. Artie Browning and his wife, Arra. The J. Artie and Arra Browning Plant Medicine and Health Travel Fund is established specifically to assist graduate students majoring in the Doctor of Plant Medicine, Doctor of Plant Health, and similar programs to attend and participate in a professional meeting or conference appropriate to their interests. This new travel fund will allow students to participate in other professional society meetings, in addition to APS.
Arra Browning (1924–2016) was born in Belton, TX, and graduated from Mary Hardin-Baylor College in 1945. She taught high school chemistry at Buckner Home in Dallas, TX, before marriage; home economics at Crawford, TX, after marriage; and biology in Bogotá, Colombia (1963–1964), when Artie was there for 18 months on special assignment with the Rockefeller Foundation.
Artie was a pre-med major at TAMC, but at Baylor, Arra urged him to take a course in botany. He did, loved it, and has never gotten away from plants since. After earning his B.S. degree in biology from Baylor in 1947, he took additional courses in preparation for graduate work in botany, which was to be at Cornell. He entered Cornell in 1948 to major in taxonomy, but, at the urging of W. C. Paddock, he switched to plant pathology, majoring under G. C. Kent. His Ph.D. thesis was titled “Studies in the Physiology of Obligate Parasitism in the Cereal Rusts.” Upon graduating in 1953, Artie began 28 happy years on the faculty of Iowa State University and as a co-leader (with K. J. Frey) of the Iowa Ag Experiment Station (IAES) oat improvement team. M. Simons was the USDA member. Iowa grew nearly 6 million acres of oats then (scab precluded growing barley or wheat in rotation with corn). Because of genetic uniformity in Iowa and the Puccinia Path of Central USA, oats were decimated recurringly by crown and/or stem rust. Cooperation with I. Wahl’s group in Israel, where oats were indigenous and still abound with their coevolved pathogens, gave them both new resistance germ plasm and examples from the Israeli ecosystem of how to deploy it. The IAES released 13 multiline cultivars in two maturity classes, which controlled crown rust as in the Israeli ecosystem they emulated. For the first time, Iowa farmers could be assured that these cultivars would protect them from crown rust. The multilines performed the same in the short disease season of Iowa, the long disease season of South Texas, and Israel, source of the resistance genes. Artie and Arra spent approximately two years in Israel, including one sabbatical in Israel and Cambridge, UK, in 1978 and one year on a Fulbright Fellowship (1990–1991).
Proof of the effectiveness and biological naturalness of this strategy of managing highly epidemic airborne pathogens with diversity is coffee rust, which is classic for its epidemic potential. Cenicafe (the research arm of the Colombian Coffee Federation) knew of Iowa’s experience with crown rust, so when coffee rust was introduced to Brazil from Africa in 1970, they began breeding to deploy diverse populations for their 20-year crop with a 12-month disease season, where the Andean environment is never limiting. Cultivar ‘Colombia’ was released over 20 years ago. It is still protecting Colombia’s valuable coffee crop, and no super race has evolved. Artie reviewed their program several times.
In 1981 Artie was invited back to TAMU for the challenge of reorganizing their multi-disciplinary Plant Science Department into TAMU’s first Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Completed in 1985, it is still going strong today. Artie retired from TAMU September 1, 1990, won a Fulbright Fellowship in Israel (1990–1991), and then relocated to Olympia, WA, to be nearer children and grandchildren.
Because Artie’s research featured maximizing natural disease-limiting processes and Iowa grew no IPM-impacted crop, he was judged philosophically qualified to participate in many IPM and crop loss panels. These included NATO study groups; the US/USSR IPM Program, which included a month studying Plant Protection institutes in the USSR and two joint seminars in the United States; the UN-FAO Panel of Experts on IPM; being an invited speaker at 20 overseas institutions; testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture; reviewing the nationwide Huffaker IPM Project and its successor, the Adkisson Project; and the USDA National Crop Loss Design Committee. It was during interminable hours on these panels that his discipline-integrating concept of plant health was born as a potential unifying focus for competing plant health-related disciplines.
Artie had been a member of APS since 1950. He was made a Fellow of AAAS in 1976 and APS in 1980. He served on more than 15 APS committees and chaired several. He was a member of the APS Council for 10 years, as councilor from the North Central Division (1972–1975), councilor-at-large (1976-1979), and presidential track (1978–1983). In his presidential address in 1982, he justified and recommended that an APS study committee report to council about fostering Doctor of Plant Health degree programs. This was done. The history of the Plant Doctor programs, from Whetzel’s 1911 proposal to 1998 is in Browning’s 1998 Annual Review of Phytopathology (ARP) Prefatory Chapter. Independent of that, G. Agrios, then head of Plant Pathology at the University of Florida, also saw the need, sold the idea, and established what is still the nation’s only Doctor of Plant Medicine program. After the publication of the 1998 chapter, Browning was asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Environmental Agricultural Education (FEAE), the educational arm of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. The main goal of the FEAE is to foster at least one DPM program per cropping district, modeled after the DVMs.