The society grants this honor to a current APS member in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to The American Phytopathological Society. Fellow recognition is based on significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and/or extension and outreach.
Serge Savary was born in Ethiopia and was raised mainly in France, where he studied agronomy and plant pathology. His first posting was with the French Institute for Tropical Research (ORSTOM) in Côte d'Ivoire in 1980, where he stayed until 1989, working on plant disease epidemics in small-scale vegetable farms and in cassava and annual legume fields. His research on the epidemiology of groundnut rust, caused by Puccinia arachidis, with data collection across the region (Sénégal, Niger, Burkina-Faso), led to a Ph.D. degree from Wageningen University, with Jan Zadoks as supervisor. The published epidemiological model for groundnut rust was the first of its kind developed and field-tested in Sub-Saharan Africa. This period coincided with the emergence of research themes that would be the basis for his original contributions over the next 30 plus years: characterization of spatio-temporal dynamics of epidemics, often involving multiple diseases simultaneously; quantification of crop losses; development of mechanistic simulation models to study epidemics and losses; surveys and experimentation in farm fields; and the utilization of multivariate statistical methods for properly analyzing survey data.
Savary worked with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from 1991 to 2011, including 10 years in Asia. A key aspect of this time was his training of over 300 IRRI staff from many countries, and staff from many of IRRI's national partner institutes, on crop loss assessment and conducting surveys of rice diseases and pests. This was crucial at the time because IRRI was convincing national plant protection programs to adopt IPM principles and address plant health through means other than pesticides. This outstanding work in international capacity-building is not necessarily visible in publication records.
During his time at IRRI, Savary made major contributions on the epidemiology of sheath blight of rice (caused by Rhizoctonia solani, AGI-1a), changing perceptions of the pathogen's role in crop lodging in intensive rice production systems across Asia. The major importance of the disease was demonstrated through a combination of farmers' field surveys, experimentation, and simulation modeling. Research demonstrated that integrating crop establishment methods, water management, and fertilization were very effective management methods.
One outstanding achievement of Savary at IRRI was his elucidation of factors that led to high or low levels of injuries from a portfolio of diseases and pests on rice throughout Asia. By 2010, over 2,000 farmers' fields—from India to the Philippines and from China to Indonesia—had been surveyed using a standardized procedure. With 60 variables per field, this database constitutes the largest and most detailed source of information in the world on rice crop management, multiple diseases, pests, weeds, and actual yields (and losses). Systems analysis involving these data, combined with other experimental data, simulation modeling, and correspondence analysis were the bases for many publications. No single factor led to high or low levels of all diseases; in fact, a key outcome of the research was that different profiles of levels of diseases (or pests) were associated with different combinations of factors. This work was groundbreaking in several ways—one of which was that Serge developed methods for including human behavior in the analysis of the relationship between crop protection problems and crop yields. This work was the foundation for many other researchers to work on this integrative research area.
Savary has worked for INRAE in different phases (2002–2008, 2011–today), with research on an expanding number of pathosystems. Through current and past research, he has become a leading authority on mechanistic simulation modeling in plant pathology, making original contributions (e.g., EPIWHEAT simulator for studying factors, including climate change, affecting crop loss and disease control), as well as teaching simulation-modeling workshops in numerous countries (e.g., India, Brazil, Norway, Costa Rica, South Africa, United States).
Savary has been a prolific contributor to the science of crop loss assessment, becoming arguably the leading international authority in this area. He has extended our knowledge of the complex relationship between crop yield and the injury profiles from multiple diseases of rice, peanuts, and other crops. Work has shown, for instance, the strong link between agricultural intensification in developing countries and burden from multiple diseases, indicating the need to change management strategies based on epidemic risk and the production system.
Savary has been an active member of APS, organizing Special Sessions at APS Annual Meetings, serving as a senior editor for Phytopathology and Plant Disease and participating in the Epidemiology and Crop Loss and Risk Assessment Committees. Moreover, he organized the 9th International Epidemiology Workshop. These workshops are the major gathering points for the world's botanical epidemiologists. One workshop outcome was a special issue of the European Journal of Plant Pathology, which he edited.
In 2012, he was elected vice president of the International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP). In this role, he oversaw the 15 diverse ISPP Subject Matter Committees in organizing their activities and reports. He also founded the ISPP committee for Crop Losses, which he still chairs. This committee decided in 2013 to conduct a global survey of crop losses through expert assessment. With the participation of five colleagues from this committee and the support of ISPP, the survey was completed, and an article was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution in 2019 that has already been cited over 250 times. This contribution provides the first published yield–loss estimates on five major food crops, on a pathogen and pest basis, globally and for major world ecoregions. With continuing support from ISPP, as part of the International Year of Plant Health, this work has been extended to cover a wide range of crops and natural vegetation types, in a study involving dozens of plant-health experts.
In 2019, Savary became editor-in-chief of Food Security, the flagship journal published by ISPP. This multidisciplinary journal covers the fields of nutrition/medicine, sociology, economics, and food production, as well as plant health. Food Security is contributing to the International Year of Plant Health with publication of a series of feature articles collectively-titled “Plant Pathogens Which Threaten Food Security" and is also publishing articles on linking human health (e.g., COVID-19) and food security.