Dr. Brenneman is a professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia (UGA) Tifton Campus. He has an international reputation for his translational research in the areas of ecology, epidemiology and integrated management of diseases of peanut and pecan. A major emphasis of his program consists of cooperation with peanut breeders to develop cultivars with resistance to important soil-borne pathogens including Sclerotium rolfsii (white mold), Rhizoctonia solani (limb rot) and Cylindrocladium parasiticum (Cylindrocladium black rot, CBR). He has utilized the resistance to S. rolfsii in cultivars such as Georgia-12Y to minimize losses and control costs, and is co- developer of Georgia-07W, Georgia-14N, Tifrunner, TifNV-HiOL, and most recently Georgia-17SP. His discovery of pecan truffles (Tuber lyonii) in Georgia led to development of truffles as a new agricultural product, and increased our knowledge of truffle taxonomy and basic biology.
Much of Dr. Brenneman’s effort is toward better understanding the effects of cultural practices on disease development and how best to utilize disease-suppressive practices. Early in his career he initiated long-term studies documenting the benefit of rotating peanuts with a grass crop to reduce foliar and soil-borne diseases. This was foundational to further studies in Florida developing an integrated cropping system around bahia grass to improve soil health and farm profitability. When Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) threatened to end peanut production in Georgia, he was involved in efforts leading to wholesale changes in production practices, including adoption of twin- row planting. However, his main emphasis has always been on soil-borne diseases, and he and his students showed that peanuts planted in twin-rows have lower risk of white mold damage than single rows with the same plant population, documenting another benefit to this cultural practice. Conversely, they also found that increasing plant populations to manage TSWV puts the crop at risk for stem rot damage. This increased the importance of host resistance and effective fungicides for stem rot management.
Both peanuts and pecans require full-season fungicide programs, and Dr. Brenneman has worked extensively to develop more effective fungicides and more efficient use patterns. His work has been instrumental in positioning new products from initial screening to most effective use on both crops. He led the documentation of in-furrow and early-season banded applications of fungicides replacing fumigant applications for management of CBR. He showed that banded early-season applications of prothioconazole provided improved white mold control although the applications were outside the traditional timing window. Based on observations of peanut growers in Nicaragua, he introduced night spraying of fungicides in the southeastern U.S. This practice takes advantage of leaf folding at night to improve canopy fungicide penetration, significantly improving disease control and yield. These studies are the basis for current extension recommendations, and have contributed to the record high yields produced by Georgia peanut farmers in recent years.
Dr. Brenneman played a major part in development, refinement and evaluation of Peanut-Rx, a tool that aids growers in optimizing fungicide inputs based on risk to multiple diseases. He continues studies annually to determine how new cultivars and fungicides can fit into integrated disease management regimes at various risk levels. The use of the index with new cultivars and appropriate cultural practices reduces fungicide applications by 30% and more in some fields. Similarly, he co-developed the AU-Pecan fungicide spray advisory for management of pecan scab.
Dr. Brenneman has been prolific in publication of high-quality research, authoring over 140 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and over 270 abstracts or proceedings. He has also had a major impact on graduate student training, mentoring 18 students and postdocs. His students have been recognized for excellence, winning numerous prestigious awards including the George Washington Carver Award of the National Peanut Board. His past students continue to impact our discipline, holding important positions as research scientists and administrators in academia and industry. Dr. Brenneman’s mentorship guided them to become well-rounded, broadly trained plant pathologists, making them highly desirable employees in industry and academia alike.
The high regard for Dr. Brenneman’s research is evidenced by numerous awards and recognitions. He is a Fellow of the American Peanut Research and Education Society (APRES) and won the Dow AgroSciences Award for Excellence in Research. In 2016 he received the prestigious UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Research, and in 2017 the American Peanut Council, representing the entire U.S. peanut industry, presented him their Outstanding Research Award. Regionally he received the Southeastern Pecan Growers Excellence in Research Award (twice), the Georgia Peanut Commission Excellence in Research Award, and the Outstanding Plant Pathologist Award from APS Southern Division.
Dr. Brenneman is well known nationally and internationally. He gave invited plenary session addresses at the national APRES meeting in 2014 and 2016, and was the keynote speaker at the Bio Y2K Congress in South Africa. Twice he has been the invited featured speaker at the Expo mani international peanut conference in Argentina, and last year was invited to address the peanut industry in Australia. He gives annual presentations to the national peanut growers association in Nicaragua where he collaborates on research projects, and he has also served as an invited advisor or speaker in Poland, Germany, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. He is very active in Haiti where he is co-PI of the Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab, a USAID-funded program to improve peanut yields and quality among subsistence peanut farmers.
Dr. Brenneman has dedicated great effort for the benefit of APS. He is a Past President of APS Southern Division and served as Southern Division Forum Representative. He is also heavily involved with APRES where he served as President and Associate Editor of Peanut Science, APRES’ flagship journal.