Link to home

​2020 APS Excellence in International Service Award​

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to plant pathology by APS members for countries other than their own. Contributions may have been made through collaborative projects, sabbaticals, short- and long-term assignments with educational or governmental agencies, including, but not limited to, international centers and research institutes.

Judith K. Brown
The University of Arizona​

Judith K. Brown has dedicated her career to the study of vector-borne plant pathogens of global importance. Over the last 30 or more years, she has tackled a number of challenging viral disease problems around the globe. She has visited, lectured, and studied emerging viral diseases in more than 65 countries. Her laboratory has hosted more than 60 visiting scholars or graduate students from more than 30 countries. Brown is best known for her groundbreaking research on begomoviruses and their whitefly vectors. She has characterized a large number of begomovirus species/strains and epidemiologies, pioneered detection/identification methods, and helped establish taxonomy and nomenclature for geminivirus classification. With respect to the whitefly vector, she has conducted research to test the hypothesis that Bemisia tabaci is a cryptic species, consistent with the observed widely variable differences within and between genetic variants, i.e., host range, habitat, and begomovirus transmission. Recently, at least five cryptic species have been delineated by nuclear genome sequence analyses. Research also involves elucidating the transmission pathway and begomovirus-gut/salivary gland interactions and use of dsRNA/RNAi as a biopesticide for gene knockdown in insect vectors. Recently, she has contributed importantly to the emerging pathosystem of psyllids and Ca. Liberibacter and the reemerging Cacao swollen shoot badnavirus complex. Her passion and commitment to international plant pathology has led to applied solutions that improve global food security.

Brown is a professor at The University of Arizona, Tucson in the School of Plant Sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Entomology. She also holds an honorary appointment at Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán, Merida. Brown was born in Youngstown, Ohio and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona at an early age. She received her BS in horticulture/plant pathology minor from Texas A & M University in 1979. For her MS degree, she studied luteoviruses and aphid vector biology at Washington State University. Judy returned to Arizona and completed her PhD at the University of Arizona where she was the first to study whitefly-transmitted viruses in Arizona, that coincidently emerged as a threat to the desert southwest as she began her graduate studies and early scientific career. Tucson remained her base with appointments as a post-doc (1985-1989) and research professor (1990-1999), ultimately joining the academic ranks in plant sciences as associate professor (1999), and advanced to full professor (2004). She has been recognized for her scholarly achievements as recipient of the Wellman Award, the Caribbean Division's highest recognition for international contributions to plant pathology, as APS Fellow in 2011, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015. In 2019, she was awarded the College of Agriculture's Faculty of the Year primarily for her international research and training contributions.

Brown has been globally integrated with her begomovirus-whitefly research and has worked on this system in more than 41 countries, logging 5 million air travel miles. Recently, this research has led Brown to Pakistan where she is leading efforts to characterize cotton leaf curl begomoviruses and the whitefly vector and endosymbiont populations that drive disease spread. She coordinates efforts to identify sources of resistant germplasm and develop diagnostic tools (1994-1998; 2011-present). Successful outcomes require expertise in the complexity of the system and the associated viruses and associated betasatellites. In this area of research Brown has trained Pakistani, Indian, and Chinese scientists/young scientists.

Brown is also providing virology and disease control leadership in West Africa on the reemerging cacao swollen shoot complex (CSSD), a diverse, poorly characterized group of badnaviruses and their mealybug vectors, as the rapid tree decline outbreak affects more and more trees. In West Africa, this crop has an enormous negative impact on food security and sociopolitical stability. Brown is working with scientists in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone to identify the primary species associated with CSSD, and develop molecular diagnostic tools required to map CSSD distribution that represent the first break-through in tools to detect multiple viral species. Through these collaborative efforts, Brown is leading the way to break down barriers and share knowledge that can help save the chocolate industry.

A recent focus of Brown's USAID-sponsored international project has been the emerging disease caused by Liberibacter species and their psyllid vectors. She has never been afraid to step outside of the box to tackle new problems and share her results toward knowledge-based solutions. For example, in Honduras she investigated a virus-like disease of potato, but no virus could be identified. Local farmers were applying antibiotics to control a presumed-phytoplasma pathogen. She identified the causal agent as Liberibacter and the vector as potato psyllid. She trained scientists in Honduras to recognize disease symptoms and monitor psyllid populations to manage the disease. To do this, she travelled into remote mountainous areas with local scientists into rural potato growing areas. Her research has since shown the Liberibacter is propagative and circulative in the psyllid vector, leading to similar conclusions for Ca.L. asiaticus, the citrus greening pathogen. In outreach, she gave workshops and presentations at conferences in numerous countries to local IPM-CRISP participants and helped design experiments to validate disease management approaches to reduce pesticide use. Knowledge gained in the foray into this emerging pathosystem has been applicable to emerging diseases in the United States and beyond. ​

These accomplishments represent just a sample of Judy's impact in international plant pathology. Over the span of her career, she has always been at the forefront of molecular methodologies and application of new genomic technologies to pathogen diagnostics and surveillance, and examination of vector populations, relating research findings to global food production and security. Her publications include invited book chapters, reviews, peer reviewed papers (more than 190 papers and 61 short papers/first reports) and 13 feature articles; she also edited a major book. She has twice served APS internationally as president of the Caribbean Division, Caribbean Division councilor, and has been an Office of International Programs member for 3 terms. Brown's research and training program has had a lasting impact on the study and control of vector-borne diseases globally, which is reflected in the number and frequency of invited international speaking engagements. 

View Previous Awardees

View 2020 Awardees​