The society grants this honor to a current APS member in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to The American Phytopathological Society. Fellow recognition is based on significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and/or extension and outreach.
Lindsey du Toit was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. She earned a B.S. degree, with honors, in plant pathology from the University of Natal, South Africa, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From 1998 to 2000, she served as plant diagnostician at the Washington State University (WSU) R&E Center in Puyallup and then became assistant professor and Extension plant pathologist in the WSU Department of Plant Pathology in 2000. She was promoted to associate professor in 2006 and professor in 2013.
Located at WSU’s Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington R&E Center, du Toit developed a comprehensive pathology research and Extension program to support vegetable seed production in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), where 10-75% of the world’s seed supply of ~30 dry-seeded vegetable crops is produced. By encompassing etiology, pathogen characterization, epidemiology, disease management, and IPM strategies, her research findings have led to recommendations that are now broadly implemented across the vegetable seed industry of Washington and the PNW, as well as the United States and the world. Numerous seed growers and companies in the United States, Europe, and Africa have testified about how her efforts “saved them from certain crop disaster” or helped advance disease management strategies that assured seed contracts and export markets.
du Toit’s research has significantly advanced the production of healthy seed crops. A salient example is Fusarium wilt of spinach, the primary constraint to spinach seed production in the United States. Although western Washington and Oregon produce over half of the spinach seed for the United States and nearly 20% of the world's supply, Fusarium wilt has required rotations of >10 years to avoid severe economic losses. Identifying suitable fields to minimize risk has become exceptionally difficult given limited production areas that satisfy the crop’s unique climatic requirements. du Toit's team demonstrated that agricultural limestone applications can halve the rotation period required for successful spinach seed crops, thereby doubling the U.S. capacity for spinach seed production. Her development of an efficient soil bioassay to assess risk from Fusarium wilt has been used for 13 years by spinach seed growers, with >500 fields tested, protecting approximately $20 million of spinach seed crops annually. She also led development of a spinach seed assay for Verticillium dahliae that is certified by the International Seed Federation.
Another example of her impact involves seedborne pathogens of carrot. du Toit and collaborators improved molecular detection methods to quantify live versus dead cells of Xanthomonas campestris pv. carotae, which spurred development and application of PCR-based testing of seed. This facilitated more rapid and precise detection and subsequent decision-making regarding application of hot-water treatment of seed lots.
du Toit’s exquisite plant disease diagnostic skills have not been limited to seed crops. She has successfully diagnosed diseases of allium, carrots, celery, parsley, crucifer, quinoa, legumes, grains, and some ornamentals, including many that were previously unreported. In doing so, she has been on the frontline of emerging disease problems and earned the respect and gratitude of specialty crop growers. Her effective engagement with stakeholders led them to fund the Alfred Christianson Distinguished Professorship in Vegetable Seed Science, which she received in 2018, and the Robert MacDonald Vegetable Seed Memorial Fellowship that supports graduate students. du Toit has garnered more than $10 million in competitive funding from commodity commissions in four states, private industry, and state and federal agencies. In 2019, she received a $4 million NIFA SCRI grant to address bacterial diseases affecting onion crops.
Few plant pathologists gain universal respect and admiration among worldwide scientific and industry audiences, but du Toit is an exception. Her stellar reputation for bringing science and society together is evident in more than 185 regional, national, and international workshops, as well as field days and agricultural tours that she has either organized or to which she has contributed. She is a highly sought-after speaker, giving more than 420 invited presentations. Her publication record of 88 peer-reviewed journal articles, 190 technical articles, 10 book chapters, and 90 extension bulletins, circulars, newsletters, and articles in popular periodicals documents her exceptional energy in disseminating research-based information to the scientific community and the public. She has emerged repeatedly as a leader at state, international, and commodity-group levels. In recognition of these efforts, she received the APS Pacific Division Early Career Award in 2006, WSU Extension Award in 2009, APS Syngenta Award in 2013, and Pacific Northwest Vegetable Association Friend of the Industry Award in 2019. Her skill in assembling and coleading interdisciplinary teams, such as the Pacific Northwest Vegetable Extension Group, were recognized with the WSU Interdisciplinary Team Excellence Award in 2012.
du Toit has also been a role model and tireless advocate for students. She has chaired 7 Ph.D. and 13 M.S. student committees, served on another 8 Ph.D. and 11 M.S. committees, and mentored 6 postdoctoral research associates, 16 interns, and 4 high school students. She brings out the best in mentees and provides them with broad training in plant pathology. Her students and associates have developed into critical-thinking, effective scientists in private industry, universities, and colleges.
du Toit’s service to APS is extraordinary. Her editorial service includes two terms as a senior editor for Plant Disease (2010-2012, 2013-2015), an associate editor for Phytopathology (2009-2011), and a section editor for Plant Disease Management Reports (2006-2009) and Fungicide & Nematicide Tests (2005-2006). She has been engaged in multiple leadership roles in APS, including chairing the APS Diagnostics and Seed Pathology Committees and serving on the APS Foundation Board in 2013-2014. In 2014, she was elected APS councilor-at-large and led the 2016 APS Councilors’ Challenge that doubled the percentage of female invited speakers at the 2017 annual meeting. She served on the APS Journals Task Force from 2015 to 2017 and is the current chair of the APS Nominations Committee. As a member of the APS Presidential Team (2017-2021), she worked selflessly to preserve the long-term well-being of the society.
At mid-career, Lindsey du Toit has earned universal admiration for her outstanding contributions in research, outreach, and service to APS. She personifies the highest ideals of our profession and richly deserves recognition as an APS Fellow.