Lawrence E. Datnoff was born in Hickory, North Carolina. He obtained his B.S. degree from the University of Georgia (1976), M.S. degree from Virginia Tech (1981), and Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois (1985). After post-doctoral studies with USDA-ARS, Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit, Fort Detrick (1986–1988), he joined the University of Florida (UF) as assistant professor in 1988 and became professor in 1999. He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar (Spain, 1996) and a visiting professor at both Okayama University, Japan (2006), and the Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil (2008). In 2008, Datnoff accepted the position of professor and head of the Department of Plant Pathology & Crop Physiology at Louisiana State University (LSU)/LSU AgCenter.
Datnoff maintains a long and meritorious professional career through which he has continuously demonstrated a talent, passion, and dedication for international research, teaching, and service. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil (1976–1978), where he taught and conducted applied research at an agricultural secondary school, introducing new multilocular tomato cultivars with Fusarium wilt resistance, which significantly improved yield and fresh market sales profits. As a graduate student at the University of Illinois, he returned to international work, this time with a USAID project in Zambia to enhance soybean production so soybean meal could be integrated into the standard Zambian diet. He researched red leaf blotch, the major foliar disease impacting soybean production, ascertaining the life cycle of the pathogen, quantifying disease severity/yield loss relationships, and screening germplasm for resistance. While with USDA-ARS, he conducted a portion of his research at CIMMYT in Mexico and developed the first soil assay for quantifying the teliospore density of Tilletia indica, the causal agent of Karnal bunt of wheat. In collaboration with other scientist, he developed a seed assay for detecting trace amounts of teliospores.
Datnoff initiated silicon research programs in Colombia with CIAT and in Brazil with EMBRAPA and the Federal Universities of Uberlandia and Viçosa in the 1990s. This collaborative work played a vital role in delineating approaches to rice blast management in upland rice and to the understanding of blast severity by demonstrating that silicon can enhance partial resistance to diseases, such as blast and sheath blight, to the same general level as complete resistance. Datnoff and his colleagues further demonstrated that silicon could reduce the number and rate of fungicide applications and that a 1-year residual application of silicon was as effective as full rates of fungicides in controlling rice blast. This finding alone will potentially have a significant effect on the reduction of fungicide applications normally made by rice farmers to control diseases. Thus, his initial work at CIAT and later in Brazil was important in developing approaches to manage blast in the uplands and suggested reasons for the severity of blast in other rice ecosystems. Subsequently, he developed research collaborations in Canada, India, and Japan to further understand silicon’s effects in disease epidemiology, defense mechanisms, and integrated disease management. These findings have influenced governmental, academic, and private entities around the world, informing regulatory policies and guidelines and redirecting cropping practices.
Datnoff conceived and organized Silicon in Agriculture, the first world conference on the subject. Momentum generated by this summit inspired a second (Japan, 2002) and third (Brazil, 2005) world conference as well as a joint Indo-U.S. conference in Bangalore (2010), with Datnoff serving as a coorganizer. He has received more than 50 invitations from 17 different countries to present talks and educate on silicon and plant health. Notable are his presentations and keynote addresses given at the Brazilian Societies of Horticulture and Plant Pathology, American Society of Horticultural Science, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Indian Society of Soil Science, Japanese Fertilizer Technical Diffusion Section/Fertilizer and Pesticides Department; USDA National Organic Program, IX International Latin American/Caribbean Rice Conference, CIAT, IRRI, and Association of American Plant Food Control. Datnoff also developed a student training program with the University of Uberlandia, Brazil (1997–2004), focusing on using silicon for managing plant diseases as a means of training students in plant pathology and other agricultural disciplines. Over an 8-year period, numerous students spent 6 months in Florida increasing their research skills. These students completed research projects that lead to journal publications. Many students returned to pursue their graduate degrees in plant pathology.
Among Datnoff’s extensive list of publications and academic distinctions are two groundbreaking books, Silicon in Agriculture (Elsevier) and Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease (APS PRESS), each the first comprehensive treatise on the respective subject. Datnoff also has written 24 book chapters, 87 refereed journal articles, and more than 240 technical/miscellaneous publications. He has mentored more than 16 M.S., Ph.D., and D.P.M. students. He has hosted five international scholars and served as a reviewer for the Fulbright Senior Scholar Program for southern Europe.
Datnoff has received several prestigious, highly competitive awards, including a fellowship from the National Committee for International Science and Education/Research and Scientific Exchange Division of OICD/USDA Pilot Linkage Program for International Agricultural Research with CIAT; Fundacion BBV Biocontrol Chair Award, Universidad de Cordoba, Spain; UF-IFAS’s Interdisciplinary Team Research Award for the Silicon Project-Team Leader; Third Silicon in Agriculture Conference Award for contributions to silicon research, Brazil; UF Research Foundation Professorship Award, UF-IFAS International Fellow Award; and UF-IFAS International Educator of the Year Award, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Datnoff has received millions of dollars in grant support from USAID, USDA, international foundations, commodity groups, and agricultural chemical industries.
Datnoff has been an active APS member since 1979. He served as the Caribbean Division officer; member/chair/cochair of APS PRESS, APS Foundation, and the Environmental Quality and Plant Health, Mycorrhizae, Turfgrass Pathology, and Office of International Program’s Library Committees; organizer of symposia, colloquium, and poster sessions; section coeditor of Fungicide & Nematicide Tests; associate editor for Plant Disease; and reviewer for Plant Disease and Phytopathology. In his present capacity as department head, Datnoff continues his professional service, dedication to education and training, scholarly contributions, leadership roles in plant pathology and APS, and involvement with students and scientists from around the world.