Richard A. Sikora is professor and head of Soil Ecosystem Phytopathology & Nematology, Institut für Pflanzenkrankheiten, Bonn, Germany. Sikora was born December 30, 1943, in Norfolk, VA. He graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1966 with a B.S. degree and also received an M.S. degree from this same institution in 1967. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1970 from the University of Illinois. In 1971, he began his international experience as a USAID-supported visiting assistant professor at G.B. Pant Agricultural University in India. From 1971 through 1974, he was post-doctoral fellow at the University of Bonn, supported by the German Science Foundation. Since that time, he has been a faculty member at the Institut für Pflanzenkrankheiten, University of Bonn, where he has maintained an active research and teaching program in nematology, soil microbiology, and biological control. He has also maintained an active international program in these areas throughout his career through student research and consultation in the tropics and subtropics. Nineteen of 57 master’s theses and 36 of 72 Ph.D. theses completed under his direction were done by international students from 23 different countries. The majority of the research was done in these students’ home countries, where many have become national leaders. In addition, he has had 21 post-doctoral research fellows in his lab, many of which have cooperated in his research projects with 19 countries and CGIAR centers, including IITA, ICIPE, ICARDA, CIMMYT, AVRDC, ICRISAT, CATI, and INIBAP. He and his students have conducted research in Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia, India, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, United States, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Tonga, Guatemala, and Brazil. These students and post-docs have coauthored 118 refereed journal articles and 111 technical publications. In addition, he has authored or coauthored nine books or proceedings, 28 book chapters, and two handbooks for plant pathology practical courses, and he has presented 28 invited papers at international meetings. Much of this work has been funded by grants from the German Ministry for Science and Technical Cooperation, the German Foreign Ministry, the German Development Foundation, FAO, USAID, and the World Bank.
Since 1971, he has had both short- and long-term overseas research consultancies to study the distribution, importance, and control of plant-parasitic nematodes, soil insects, and soilborne diseases and to recommend quarantine and IPM programs for countries, including India, Tunisia, the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Egypt, Samoa, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Cyprus, Niger, Thailand, Tonga, Yugoslavia, Guadeloupe, Benin, Malawi, Madagascar, Brazil, Morocco, Myanmar, Costa Rica, and Taiwan.
Sikora has provided valuable leadership in international agriculture, including chair of the CGIAR System-wide IPM Initiative, vice chair of the ATSAF Council for Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research, coordinator of the Federal Council for Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research (ATSAF) Scientific Commission for innovative approaches to pest and disease management, liaison scientist of the German Ministry of Technical Cooperation to ICARDA and the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology, director of the board of the University of Bonn Master Degree Program-Agricultural Science and Resource Management in the Tropics and Subtropics, and founder and course director of the Inter-University Consortium for Rotational Advanced Studies Program for Graduate Students in International Phytopathology and Plant Protection, as well as convener for International Organization for Biological Control Working Groups on soil pests and multitrophic interactions and integrated control in the soil. His current international research projects are focused on reduction of pesticides for control of banana and plantain pests and diseases in Africa and Central America, use of atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus strains on maize to reduce aflatoxicosis in Nigeria and Benin, use of biological control of soilborne pathogens and root knot nematodes in vegetable seedlings using fungal and bacterial antagonists, and use of fungal and bacterial endophytes for control of lesion nematodes in both oxic and anoxic rice production. The aflatoxin project is being done with Peter Cotty, USDA-ARS. The banana research has focused on use of tissue culture plantlets where nonpathogenic endophytic Fusarium oxysporum are introduced and used to induce systemic resistance and on microbially enhanced biodegradation of nonfumigant nematicides.
Sikora is actively involved in teaching at the University of Bonn and currently teaches graduate courses in Biological System Management, Methods and Experimental Techniques—Soil Ecosystem Phytopathology, Biodiversity: Conservation and Utilization, Advanced Phytonematology, Plant Protection and the Environment, and Integrated Management of Pests and Diseases. He teaches undergraduate courses in Introductory Plant Pathology and Field Diagnosis and at International Agricultural Research Centres.
Sikora has received numerous awards, including being selected as fellow for the Society of Nematologists, the European Society of Nematologists, and the Indian Academy of Sciences. Other awards include the German Industrial Award in 1992, the University of Ghent Van den Brande Award for Science in 2002, and the University of Illinois Alumni Association Award of Merit in 2004.
He is an active member of The American Society of Phytopathology, American Society of Nematologists, German Phytopathological Society, European Society of Nematologists, Society of Tropical American Nematologists, Canadian Society of Mycology, International Society of Biological Control, and Association for International Agriculture. He has provided leadership on many committees and boards for these societies.