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July 2019 | APS Council Meets in Birmingham, Alabama​

The landscape of APS President Kira Bowen’s home turf in Alabama is lush. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I glanced out my hotel window early on the morning of April 30 to see APS Divisional Councilor Jay Pscheidt on his hands and knees closely inspecting the trunk of a leafless tree. Leave it to a plant pathologist to find the one dead tree on the property! Jay, along with the entire APS Council and several APS staff members, met in retreat in Birmingham from April 29 to May 1. It was an intense and well-organized meeting, and as always, I came away with a deep appreciation for how impactful APS is and how critical the roles of our many volunteers are. Here are a few highlights: 

  • Public Policy Board (PPB) goes to Washington, DC. Kira Bowen, along with Gwyn Beattie (PPB chair) and Kellye Eversole (who joined remotely), updated council on PPB activities. The PPB’s visit to Washington, DC, this March was a success! Messaging to government officials and funding agencies focused on the importance of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) and responses to re-emerging plant diseases. In all, PPB members visited more than 20 agencies and offices, including USDA–ARS, USDA–NIFA, USDA–APHIS, USDA–Forest Service, and USDA–National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as well as the Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). For next year’s visit, PPB will focus on a streamlined message and broader involvement from APS membership, leveraging our diverse geographic distribution to connect with lawmakers from our own home districts. 
  • United Nations designates 2020 the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The International Plant Protection Commission (IPPC) is the coordinating entity for global IYPH activities, and in the United States, the USDA–APHIS is the primary contact. IYPH presents exciting opportunities to promote plant pathology and APS! Council established an IYPH Task Force to help coordinate, manage, and track APS efforts and align activities for maximum visibility and impact. Mary Palm was appointed chair. Council discussed several potential activities with plans to engage with the PPB, Office of International Programs (OIP), and Office of Public Relations and Outreach (OPRO). APS messaging may include efforts to improve federal funding for plant health priorities; to partner with allied societies in the United States, Canada, and Mexico to raise the visibility of plant health; and to promote awareness of career opportunities in the plant sciences and plant pathology among K–12 and undergraduate students. Council discussed strategies for leveraging public interest in food and environmental health as the basis for social media campaigns that emphasize the value of plant pathology research and extension. APS will develop a special webpage for IYPH activities.
  • OPRO plans Pitch120 communications training at Plant Health 2019. Learn how to succinctly and clearly communicate your science and the value of plant pathology in 2 minutes or less. Pitch120 was first introduced at the 2016 APS Annual Meeting in Tampa, Florida, and OPRO will orchestrate training and a friendly competition at Plant Health 2019. OPRO Director Nicole Donofrio also provided an overview of other OPRO activities, including surveying students to understand outreach needs and opportunities and continued development of content for Plant Science (
  • APS Foundation is set to grow! Under the leadership of David Gadoury, APS Foundation is pursuing innovative new ways to grow philanthropic support for APS. Some ideas are small and some ideas are big, but all are designed to have impact. Expect new opportunities to learn about APS Foundation, the value of giving to our society, and ways to integrate philanthropy painlessly into activities you already pursue. Did you know you can support APS Foundation just by making a purchase through Amazon Smile? That’s right, whether it’s tube socks, dish detergent, or kitty litter, if you designate APS as the recipient and shop Amazon Smile, Amazon will donate a portion of every purchase you make to support our society. Coming soon are new opportunities to learn how to designate APS Foundation as a recipient in estate planning. Heading to Cleveland for Plant Health 2019? Look for the Mobile Foundation booth, with helpful “rovers” ready and willing to accept your donations on behalf of APS Foundation.
  • APS journals are going strong! Publications Board Chair Nik Grunwald and Publications Director Greg Grahek provided an overview of APS journals and trends and plans impacting their future. A recent APS journal reader survey reported high satisfaction levels with our journals, and respondents were divided on the value of allowing readers to comment on published manuscripts. In general, submission of manuscripts to APS journals is strong. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions continues to grow in terms of submissions and author satisfaction. Phytobiomes, our newest journal, continues to grow, and increasing manuscript submissions is a priority. Council discussed publishing trends and plans that might impact the future of APS journals, including open access and the Plan S Initiative, possible new journals, and a new publishing fee structure.
  • Just the numbers. APS Treasurer Lawrence Datnoff and Vice President of Finance Kim Davis provided council with an overview of APS finances. Good news: APS budgets are in great shape! APS is showing a year-to-date net profit of $927,022, buoyed in part by the success of last summer’s ICPP meeting, cost savings from staff innovations, and stronger​-than-expected performance of APS journals overall. But APS PRESS performance has been somewhat weaker than expected, and APS membership has declined, with member dues missing projections by $21,000.
  • Undergraduate Task Force plans a positive Plant Health 2019 experience for undergraduate attendees. Undergraduate students attending Plant Health 2019 in Cleveland will have the option of pairing with graduate student mentors for the meeting through the Germinating Spores program. The task force is also coordinating a scavenger hunt and a lunch with faculty and industry professionals. Councilor-at-Large Peter Ojiambo reported that last year’s Councilors’ Challenge was a success! Undergraduate participants developed and submitted short videos highlighting their passion for plant pathology. Four winning videos were selected; each videographer will receive complementary registration for Plant Health 2019.
  • And a few other things. Divisional Councilor Jay Pscheidt provided an update on divisional activities, and at the suggestion of OIP, Councilor-at-Large Katy Stevenson presented and APS Council approved updated language for APS goals, making them more inclusive of our global plant health partner societies. Council heard from Larry Madden and Gary Bergstrom on the 2019 elections of officers; made plans for filling pending leadership appointments; heard an update from Tim Murray on plans and strategies to reposition PMN; and heard highlights from Brett Tyler about the Plant Science Research Network Plant Summit.
  • And we had a little fun! Following the meeting, APS Council members were treated to a guided tour of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Tour highlights included an impressive Japanese garden, a rose garden, a pottage garden, and natural areas. Extension Specialist Jim Jacobi also provided an impromptu tour of the Alabama A&M/Auburn University Extension Plant Diagnostic Lab on site. Not everyone could attend this tour, but all who did had a great time.

THANKS to all the volunteers, committee leaders, council members, and staff who make APS work. We are an impactful and inclusive society, and I am honored to be a member!

​APS Council met in Birmingham, Alabama, April 29–May 1, 2019. Pictured left to right, front row: Peter Ojiambo (Councilor-at-Large), Katy Stevenson (Councilor-at-Large), Mary Palm (Immediate Past President), Kira Bowen (President). Pictured left to right, back row: Jim Bradeen (Internal Communications Officer), Gary Munkvold (Senior Councilor-at-Large), Mark Gleason (Vice President), Nik Grunwald (Publications Councilor), Jay Pscheidt (Divisional Councilor), Lawrence Datnoff (Treasurer). Not pictured: Lindsey du Toit (President-Elect).