Frank J. Louws
was introduced to plant pathology through an undergraduate scholarship working on red stele of strawberry at the University of Guelph. He stayed in Guelph to complete an MS (1987), studying Fusarium
sp. and asparagus. After working as an area-wide horticulture extension agent just east of Toronto, he completed his PhD at Michigan State University (MSU, 1994), conducting research on integrated systems to manage tomato foliar pathogens. He stayed at MSU as a post-doctoral fellow at the NSF Center for Microbial Ecology/MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory. In 1996, he began a faculty position with the Department of Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University, where he achieved rank of professor. He is currently head of the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU.
Early in his career, Louws published a series of papers on the diversity, population structure, dynamics, diagnosis, detection and management of bacterial pathogens, particularly Xanthomonas, Pseudomonas and Clavibacter pathogens. These publications provided a taxonomic framework to discern pathogenic variants within the Xanthomonas and Pseudomonas syringae species complexes. He collaborated with a team of pathologists from Florida to Ontario, among the first to systematically explore the utility of plant defense activators as an important IPM tool to manage bacterial spot and speck of tomato. Louws' career is well recognized for leading multiple inter-disciplinary teams, students, and post-docs in managing soilborne pathogens and weeds in strawberry and vegetable systems in southeastern USA, initiated during the phase out of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant. The work includes exploration of short-term solutions using alternative fumigant products, medium term solutions to explore innovative IPM strategies to mitigate soilborne pathogens, and a longer-term vision to explore alternative farming systems to suppress pathogens, improve soil quality, reduce environmental impacts, and enable profitable returns for growers. The work explores a deeper understanding of the biology and ecology of soilborne pathogens, ecology of the microbiome, use of cover crops and reduced tillage, anaerobic soil disinfestation strategies, collaborations with plant breeders to develop host resistance, and socio-economic partnerships to develop economic decision tools and assess project impacts. His leadership in enhancing alternative management and production options for growers enabled him to spearhead two large USDA-Specialty Crops Research Initiative projects. The current project includes a team of more than 40 faculty/extension specialists across 10 universities, in partnership with more than 70 local-to-international private companies and farms. These research, extension and business partnerships are generating broader implementation of vegetable grafting as an important component in solving problems associated with soil-based production systems across the USA where solanaceous and cucurbit crops are grown.
Louws is known for his research and extension program to develop effective integrated management strategies of foliar and fruit-rot pathogens of strawberry. Highlights include research on the etiology, biology, ecology, diversity, detection, and pathogenicity of Colletotrichum species.
His integrated research and extension program has generated 86 peer reviewed journal publications to date, and more than 130 other research publications/proceedings. Research outcomes have translated into extension bulletins, newsletter, and web-based articles resulting in more than 340 extension publications emphasizing IPM and crop production recommendations widely adopted by growers. Program outcomes produced knowledge-sharing opportunities with diverse audiences, resulting in more than 100 national and international invited research talks and an additional 400 or more in-state and out-of-state research-based or extension talks, on disease management in strawberry, tomato and other vegetable organic, and conventional production systems. Program activities are supported through commodity grants, industry support, cooperative agreements and competitive grants summing over $35M since 1996, to advance the science and practice of plant disease, pest management and horticulture crop production. Louws received the APS Excellence in Extension Award in 2017 in addition to local team and individual awards in extension and research.
Louws enjoys mentoring others with a vision to help each person succeed according to their talents, passions, and career goals. He is committed to training graduate students, postdocs, and senior scientists. He regularly employs undergraduate students, and frequently trains graduate students and postdocs to hire and mentor these young students. Graduate students and senior mentees secure excellent jobs in academia, private industry, and government agencies. Louws frequently organizes train-the-trainer workshops with an emphasis on training cooperative extension agents with plant pathology and farming-systems knowledge. He provided co-leadership for a core plant pathology graduate course entitled Plant Disease: Methods and Diagnosis for nine years.
Louws functioned as director of the Center for Integrated Pest Management (CIPM) for 7 years. Under his leadership, CIPM grew from 37 to 64 personnel with a shared vision to advance innovative IPM strategies data analytics, and training programs to solve 21st century invasive species and pest management challenges with local to global partners. External support was secured through cooperative agreements with APHIS-PPQ, management of the USDA Southern IPM center by CIPM leaders, integration of the NC extension IPM program, and multiple trans-disciplinary grants related to area-wide and national IPM projects. The CIPM received the APS Excellence in Regulatory Affairs and Crop Security Award in 2016. In August of 2018, Louws' broad expertise in specialty crops led to his appointment as department head of Horticultural Science at NC State University.
Louws has maintained active involvement in APS by serving as chair of the Bacteriology Committee (2000-2003), co-chair and chair of the widely prevalent bacteria subcommittee (2005-2019), participation in the APS vision forum (2010-2012), senior editor of Phytopathology (2006-2009), and ad-hoc reviewer for multiple APS journals. He has provided national leadership as a founding executive member of the APLU-National IPM Coordinating Committee and functioned as panel manager or panel member on various regional and national grant panels.
For leading a vibrant solution driven research and extension plant pathology program, commitment to teaching and mentoring of students and professionals, displaying local to international leadership in plant pathology, and maintaining an active commitment to APS, Frank Louws is worthy to receive the honor of APS fellow.