This award recognizes an APS member for excellence in extension plant pathology 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.
NC State University
Barbara Shew was born in Denver, Colorado. She earned a BS degree from Colorado State University in 1976 and MS and PhD degrees in plant pathology from NC State University in 1980 and 1983. She is research assistant professor and extension specialist at NC State University and she served as director of the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic from 2009 to 2019.
Shew's research and education programs aim to increase efficacy and reduce the costs and environmental impacts of disease control on peanut and other crops. She emphasizes integrated disease management programs based on rotation, cultivar resistance, and the wise use of fungicides, while stressing the importance of management programs that mitigate the risk of fungicide resistance. She developed the knowledge base that allows peanut growers to reduce fungicide applications with weather-based advisories specifically adapted to North Carolina's growing conditions. In collaboration with the State Climate Office, Shew emails daily leaf spot and Sclerotinia blight advisories for multiple locations across the production region to county agents; crop consultants; growers; and local industry, making more than 12,000 contacts a season.
In addition to spray advisories, Shew's applied research and extension program on peanut has demonstrated that planting partially resistant cultivars can eliminate the need for soil fumigation in most situations and can reduce the number of foliar fungicide sprays needed for disease control. According to surveys, peanut growers in North Carolina now make one or two fewer fungicide sprays per season compared with traditional practices, for a savings of 15 to 33% in fungicide costs. With peanut harvested on at least 100,000 acres annually, each saved application represents a statewide savings to growers of $1.7 million each year. Reducing the number of fungicide applications made on peanut also reduces the risk of selection for fungicide resistance, soil compaction, plant damage, environmental contamination, and non-target effects.
In long-time collaboration with NC State's peanut breeders, Shew's program developed assessment techniques used to identify disease resistant germplasm and evaluates performance of advanced breeding lines or new cultivar releases under typical management practices. As part of these collaborations, Shew is a co-inventor of seven peanut cultivars. These cultivars have partial resistance to major diseases including early leaf spot, tomato spotted wilt, Cylindrocladium black rot, southern stem rot and Sclerotinia blight. Since 2013, four of these cultivars have represented more than 80% of certified seed produced in North Carolina and dominate production of Virginia-type peanut in the Virginia-Carolinas region.
Shew is part of an interdisciplinary team at NC State that developed an online decision aid for peanut risk management. The decision aid allows growers to weigh the impacts of management decisions on disease, insect, and nematode problems. The user can dynamically change outcomes based on cultivar, field history, and management practices, and account for the cost of pest management decisions. Inputs for the decision aid are developed from field testing, investigator experience, and feedback from county agents. The decision aid is updated as new cultivars and management practices are tested in ongoing field research. The decision aid is just one deliverable from the highly productive peanut team, which has published dozens of refereed articles that address the practical impacts of interactions among cultural practices, field history, pesticide applications, and cultivar choice on pest management outcomes and yield. This information is widely disseminated through county meetings, field days, agent training, emails, popular articles, the NCSU Peanut Portal, and in the annual peanut production manual, Peanut Information.
In her ten years as director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic, Shew managed a staff of one part-time and three full-time diagnosticians. The clinic serves a highly diverse commercial horticultural and agricultural crop industry, turfgrass managers and landscapers, homeowners, and the pest control industry. The clinic staff diagnoses more than 2,600 samples annually and works with extension specialists to provide meaningful management recommendations. Shew oversaw a major redesign of the clinic website, worked with campus IT to improve database functionality, and initiated outreach through social media. She was a collaborator in the development of an online strawberry diagnostic key and expanded a successful program of small grants to offset diagnostic fees for commodity samples. Funding secured from the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network and USDA-APHIS supported clinic microscope purchases, molecular diagnostic equipment, diagnostic training, and an ongoing graduate assistantship. In addition to gaining diagnostic experience, graduate students in this program have conducted fundamental and applied research on Pythium diseases of ornamentals and field crops. Their work has been instrumental in assisting researchers and extension programs working with these crops.
County agents consistently rate diagnostic training and workshops provided by the clinic as among the most valuable training they receive. Shew recently obtained three years of internal funding to support an annual week-long intensive training in diagnosis for county agents across NC. The funding also provided for the purchase of dissecting microscopes with cameras for selected agents.
The clinic collaborates with horticultural science to train master gardeners through Plants Pests and Pathogens webinars. This popular program was expanded in 2019, with webinars now presented monthly from February to October. Each webinar includes training on current disease and arthropod issues. Clinic staff are sought-after speakers for extension events, training programs, and classes throughout the state. They conduct outreach in many venues, including field days, demonstrations and displays, K-12 classes, and museum events. These outreach events attract more than 40,000 people a year.
Shew is an active member of APS and served as an associate and senior editor of Plant Disease. She is recognized as an expert on Sclerotinia blight of peanut and organized the 14th International Sclerotinia workshop in 2009. Shew served as president of the American Peanut Research and Education Society and was named a Fellow of APRES in 2013. Shew was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2019 for her many valuable contributions to the people and state of North Carolina.
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