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2024 Lee M. Hutchins Award​

Juan Moral was born in Torredelcampo, Jaen Province, Spain. He obtained a Ph.D. degree in plant protection at the University of Cordoba (UCO), Spain, in 2009. From 2010 to 2015, Juan held a postdoctoral position at the Spanish Research Council and from 2016 to 2019, two consecutive Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowships at UC Davis/Kearney Center. Since 2020, he has held the position of assistant professor, overseeing crop protection of the Olive Research Group of the UCO (UCOLIVO). Dr. Moral's journey into plant pathology began with a deeply personal experience when, as an undergraduate in 2000, his family lost hundreds of olive trees due to Verticillium wilt; he and his father initiated a control strategy consisting of removing wilted trees, solarizing the soil, and replanting using a resistant cultivar (they still do 20 years later! [Garcia et al., Front. Plant Sci., Oct. 27, 2020]). Implementing his doctoral multifaceted epidemiological research on olive anthracnose, Juan demonstrated that traditional cupric treatments during fall were ineffective in many areas, reducing the spread in the environment of tons of this heavy metal, especially in Andalusia, where 4 million acres of olives are grown. 

Dr. Moral has done an outstanding job of researching the epidemiology and control of olive diseases, as well as critical diseases of other crops such as almond, pistachio, and walnut, benefiting growers worldwide. For example, he showed that anthracnose disease not only reduces yields but, very importantly, also alters the attributes of olive oil. Integrated control of olive diseases is of utmost importance, particularly currently, when production costs for growers have increased and there is an urgency for identifying the most efficient and cost-effective control strategies. His collaborative efforts transcend borders, spanning European countries, Israel, China, and the United States, underscoring his global influence in the field. 

Dr. Moral also has investigated disease resistance of olive cultivars to anthracnose, classifying over 300 cultivars into different susceptibility groups. However, his interest has gone further, and he and colleagues have demonstrated how the phenolic compound pathway determines the resistance of cultivars. In addition, he and his colleagues have elucidated the marvelous disease cycle of Escudete, in which punctures made by flies in the green olive fruits attract a female cecidomyiid insect that carries B. dothidea spores into a pocket (mycangia). This insect deposits its egg adjacent to the fly egg and inoculates the fungus in the puncture, allowing its larvae to feed on mycelium when the fly egg is absent, a need that arises due to frequent no-oviposition punctures made by the fly to avoid predation (Moral et al., 2019, Plant Dis. 103:1809-1827). 

Other highlights of research performed by Dr. Moral include the epidemiology and life cycle of Monilia disease of quince, where he found that M. linhartiana causes the primary infection in expanding leaves through ascospores from mummified fruit on the soil. Meanwhile, the affected young fruits of quince are infected by conidia produced on affected leaves via the gynoecial pathway of flowers. 

Joining the Michailides laboratory, Dr. Moral studied the biological control of aflatoxins in nut crops. He and his graduate student (Dr. Garcia-Lopez) conducted a complete study on the spread of aflatoxigenic fungi in orchards by the spread of the atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus strain AF36. Additionally, he determined male pistachio inflorescences as a substrate for the biocontrol strain. This innovative discovery challenges the expectation of a uniform distribution of sporulation sources due to the uniform distribution of male trees in orchards. In another significant study, Dr. Moral found that almond cultivars with a peach pedigree exhibit greater resistance to Aspergillus colonization and lower incidence of aflatoxin contamination. Over the years, Dr. Moral has earned recognition as an outstanding epidemiologist of fruit tree diseases and, more recently, as a pioneering researcher focused on reducing mycotoxins in European tree crops. 

Dr. Moral's collaborative training and activities transcend European countries, Israel, China, and the United States, which is an excellent attribute for an early-career scientist. He has published around 80 refereed articles and 8 book chapters. Since 2008, Dr. Moral has been a prolific contributor to the APS journals, publishing 15 refereed articles and 10 disease notes in Plant Disease, and 6 refereed articles in Phytopathology. Notably, his articles in APS journals have been recognized twice as editor's picks and featured on three occasions as cover images.​