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2021 Excellence in Extension Award​

This award recognizes an APS member for excellence in extension plant pathology. Nominees will be individuals 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.

Alfredo D. Martinez-Espinoza grew up in a small town in northern Mexico. He received his B.S. degree in agronomy from the Universidad Antonio Narro (UAAAN) in 1985 and subsequently worked in the wheat pathology program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) before obtaining his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Montana State University in 1993. Following postdoctoral work, he was appointed as an assistant professor and is currently a full professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia (UGA).

Martinez-Espinoza's primary responsibility is the development and transfer of information for disease management in turfgrasses (sod production, golf courses, sports fields, professional landscapes, and lawn care), as well as small grains, and nonlegume forages. He is stationed at the UGA Griffin Campus. His instructional responsibilities include coteaching an undergraduate course on turfgrass pest management and a graduate laboratory on Diagnosis and Management of Plant Disease.

Martinez-Espinoza has developed a dynamic, nationally and internationally recognized extension program. One unique aspect of his program is his tireless outreach to underserved and hard-to-reach stakeholders. He has effectively leveraged his bilingual and bicultural abilities to deliver information to the Hispanic community in the state of Georgia and internationally. While doing so, he has utilized and developed highly effective technologies to deliver science-based information without faltering on the proven face-to-face contact through the extension system.

Martinez-Espinoza has been instrumental in developing efficacious disease control strategies for Rhizoctonia solani on cool- and warm-season grasses, as well as take-all root rot, spring dead spot, gray leaf spot, and Biolaris leaf spot in warm-season grasses. He has documented DMI and benzimidazole resistance in Clarireedia jacksonii, as well as strobilurin resistance in Colletotrichum cereale on turfgrasses in Georgia and has implemented management strategies for these resistant populations. He developed new recommendations for seashore paspalum management and identified several previously unreported turf diseases and nematodes in the state: tar spot in seashore paspalum, Acidovorax avenae subsp. avenae in bentgrass, Meloidogyne marylandii in bermudagrass, and Helicotylenchus microbolus and Nanidorus minor in paspalum. Martinez-Espinoza was a key collaborator in developing novel methods of delivering pest management information, including Turfgrass Management-Subscription and Turfgrass Management-Lite apps for smartphones. These apps, the first of their kind, contain a full suite on disease etiology, symptomatology, and epidemiology and image galleries, as well as cultural and chemical management options for 43 diseases. Turfgrass Management Lite gained worldwide attention with over 20,000 downloads from 40 countries. These successes motivated development of three sequel apps: Turfgrass Management Calculator, Turfgrass Management–Spanish and Turfgrass Quiz.

Aware that management of foliar diseases (rusts, powdery mildew, tan spot, Stagonospora leaf and glume blotch, and Barley yellow dwarf virus) is a key component of high-yielding wheat production in the southeast, Martinez-Espinoza has developed new and efficacious tools to prevent yield losses and maintain high grain quality. He actively participates in developing Fusarium head blight disease management strategies by evaluating new fungicides, as well as elite wheat germplasm from UGA and regional nurseries for resistance to Fusarium head blight. He participated in the identification of Fusarium poae as part of the Fusarium head blight complex in Georgia. As part of his extension responsibilities, he has made over 13,000 diagnoses and recommendations for disease and nematode management for turfgrasses, small grains, and nonlegume forages. Furthermore, he has performed countless site visits as requested by county agents and stakeholders. These are time-consuming, but critical, problem-solving activities that result in direct economic benefit to clients. He has served as a liaison and advisor to the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association, Georgia Seed Development Commission, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

A prolific communicator, Martinez-Espinoza has authored 4 books; 20 chapters; 53 journal articles; 71 technical reports; 45 extension bulletins and circulars; 191 sections in extension bulletins; over 250 articles in industry journals, newspapers, and e-learning modules; and 104 abstracts and proceedings. He has organized, conducted, and/or attended 212 national and international professional and educational meetings. He participated in over 255 statewide and county extension programs, receiving the Georgia Association of County Agricultural Agents Young Professional Award for his unwavering support to extension agents and stakeholders in the state. Martinez-Espinoza was honored with UGA's coveted Walter Barnard Hill Award for distinguished achievement in public service and outreach in 2015 and the D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Extension from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) in 2019.

Martinez-Espinoza has been a leader in delivering science-based information to Spanish-speaking clientele, which includes the formation of Georgia's Hispanic Specialists Group. This group has developed and implemented a series of statewide training programs and materials in Spanish on important topics such as integrated pest management and safety in the workplace. He and his collaborators have been awarded six grants from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), with which over 2,000 Hispanic landscape and tree workers have been trained. For his educational activities, as well as diversity integration efforts, Martinez-Espinoza received the D.W. Brooks Diversity Award from the CAES in 2009. His impact reaches beyond the United States, and he has active collaborations in Mexico, Spain, Chile, and Honduras. He has been named a Lifetime Honorary Member by the National Mexican Association of Golf Course Superintendents and was the recipient of the 2010 Greenkeeper Honorific Award from the Spanish National Association of Greenkeepers.

Martinez-Espinoza has been active in The American Phytopathological Society since 1990 and is a member of 16 other scientific and professional societies. As secretary of the Mexican Phytopathological Society (1996–1998), he cultivated relationships with APS by inviting and supporting APS members and students to their annual meetings. He is particularly proud of his volunteerism at the Pan-American Plant Disease Conference in South Padre Island, TX (2003), which included the participation of two APS regional divisions and two Latin American phytopathological societies. Martinez-Espinoza has been involved in APS outreach by participating as a judge for APS-sponsored awards at the International Science Fair in Atlanta.