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​​​2022 Excellence in Extension Award​

This award recognizes an APS member for excellence in extension plant pathology. Nominees will be individuals who have made outstanding contributions by creating, developing, or implementing extension-related programs or materials or who have provided significant leadership in an area of extension plant pathology.

Daren Mueller has been a faculty member in the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology since 2012, with responsibilities in Extension and research. Mueller was promoted to associate professor in 2017 and full professor in 2022. Prior to this, Mueller was a member of the professional and scientific staff at ISU beginning in 2004. He graduated with a B.S. degree in animal science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. Mueller then obtained M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Illinois in 1999 and 2001, respectively. Thereafter, he was a postdoc at the University of Georgia before joining ISU. Mueller was born in Urbana, IL. When Mueller started at ISU, he oversaw specialty crop research. In 2006, he became an extension specialist and coordinated Iowa Soybean Rust Extension, developing resources and educating farmers about a new and potentially damaging pathogen threatening soybean production. He simultaneously worked for the Corn and Soybean Initiative (CSI), a group that partnered with Iowa agribusiness to deliver relevant Extension information to crop production and protection decision makers. Since 2008, Mueller has coordinated the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program at ISU, securing $6.4 million in Extension and outreach funding and overseeing IPM projects. The IPM Program provides robust programming on pest management, including workshops, field days, demonstration plots, videos, social media outreach, field guides, web books, diagnostics, podcasts, and many other functions. Mueller’s passion for educating is illustrated by his diverse accomplishments in Extension:

  • Through a unique partnership with the ISU College of Design, he worked to create a studio-based, college design course to develop communication solutions for pest management.
  • The I See Dead Plants podcast was initiated by Mueller to share the stories of plant pests and pathogens. The goal is to make science accessible.
  • Mueller analyzed social media as a way to monitor crop diseases using a network of farmers, educators, and industry.
  • He develops online tools such as a program that trains crop scouts and researchers to more accurately assess disease severity.
  • Mueller coordinates data collection and publication of corn disease losses throughout the United States to inform researchers and funding agencies.
  • He created an annual crop-scouting competition for youth that has spread to multiple states and includes a regional event.
  • Through ISU Extension and Outreach activities and industry events, Mueller regularly speaks with farmers and agribusiness employees to solve disease issues and is ready to share information when called on by media. He has reached well over 10,000 stakeholders through presentations, field days, lectures, and webinars.
  • Through his field crop fungicide and disease management research activities, Mueller produces valuable information and develops publications to ensure information is available for the people most likely to benefit.
  • Mueller is an author on nearly 100 extension publications that have been distributed throughout Iowa, the United States, and internationally. Nearly 1.2 million copies of these publications have been printed. Publications are designed to make subject matter accessible to nonscientists and aid in profitable and effective farming practices.

Mueller plays an active role in programming with national and international impacts. A primary example of this is the Crop Protection Network (CPN)​, a group of crop protection scientists who collaborate on educational material that can be used by farmers and agribusinesses across the nation. Mueller is a founding member and current codirector of the CPN. In 2021, CPN resources passed the 1-million downloaded mark. CPN resources continue to be made available and are increasingly used. Furthermore, CPN publications have allowed 195 scientists and Extension specialists from more than 30 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada, to collaborate on outputs with wide-ranging impacts. For example, CPN publishes annually updated fungicide efficacy tables that are designed to enable farmers to make effective management decisions. The CPN infrastructure refines and promotes collaboration and reduces duplicative efforts among state Extension programs. Mueller is extremely involved in leadership at ISU, professional societies, and regional and national groups. He has played an important role in multiple searches for quality candidates for key Extension positions at ISU, such as cropping systems Extension faculty and weeds Extension faculty. He has served as an associate editor for Plant Disease and was vice chair and chair of the Extension Committee for APS. He currently serves as codirector of the North Central IPM Center, was president of the organizing committee for the 2021 APS North Central Division Meeting, and is currently the chair for the National IPM Coordinating Committee. Mueller’s diverse Extension activities are augmented and informed by his applied soybean disease research program. Since 2004, his research work has resulted in over 100 refereed publications, with more than 350 presentations to farmers, agricultural industry, and others. In addition to his Extension funding, Mueller has raised more than $6 million in grants and contracts for research and has been part of extramural fund raising and contracts totaling more than $47 million since 2012. Mueller mentors the next generation of plant pathologists and IPM specialists. He mentors Ph.D. candidates and M.S. students and gives them the opportunity to participate in Extension activities. He has been instrumental in building community with his students and employees. He constantly includes these people in his life outside of academia, inviting them over to his home for holidays, routinely participating in recreational events, and is often sought for personal advice. Daren Mueller’s exemplary field crop disease outreach efforts, state and national leadership, mentoring of students, and research have positioned him as an excellent candidate for the APS Excellence in Extension Award.