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​Dilantha Fernando 

Dilantha Fernando was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He received a B.Sc. (Honours) in Botany from University of Peradeniya, M.Sc. in Microbiology from University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Oregon State University in 1991 under Dr. Bob Linderman. After completing postdoctoral positions at Michigan State, University of Arizona, McGill and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, he joined the Department of Plant Science, University of Manitoba, Canada as an Assistant Professor in 1998. He was promoted to Professor in 2006. Dr. Fernando is a world-authority on blackleg of canola. By delivering sound disease management advice based on his research, he built trust in the grower community. This impact and trust, along with his success in alleviating a trade barrier to seed export to China, led to an unprecedented cooperation among farmers and seed companies to introduce rotation of R-genes to combat blackleg of canola in Canada for this $26.6 billion industry. Twenty uninterrupted years of industry funding is a testament to the importance of Fernando's program to the canola industry. He has received over $35 million in competitive research grants. Dr. Fernando was the first to report new races of the blackleg pathogen in North America, Brazil, Hungary and Iran. His work characterized the race structure of the pathogen, defined R-genes and adult plant resistance in canola varieties and documented the breakdown of R-gene mediated resistance to blackleg in canola grown in Western Canada. This research led to the development and industry-wide implementation of R-gene rotation in Canadian canola cultivation to reduce the disease occurrence and R-gene breakdown. His findings led seed companies to breed for new sources of resistance, add new R-genes to cultivars, and label cultivars for the R-gene content. Dr. Fernando's collaborative pre-breeding and breeding efforts were key to the success of the canola and HEAR industry. His research of the canola transcriptome with collaborators has led to a greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms of resistance. Fernando and his collaborators have also made a significant discovery on how the phenotypic effect of an avirulence gene's interaction with the corresponding R-gene in the host (incompatible) can be 'masked' by the presence of another avirulence gene, giving a virulence phenotype (compatible) in the field. Because of the importance of the work and to ensure continuation of the work, the pathology and breeding program was awarded CAN$3.4 million in the largest single grant awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC-CRD) for any agriculture project in its history, with 25% of the funding committed by industry. Dr. Fernando's stature in canola production and blackleg pathology is respected internationally. In 2009, the Chinese government imposed a 100% restriction on canola seed imports from Canada, a $3.0 billion annual loss to Canada's economy, as blackleg is not present in China. Fernando was selected as the lead scientist to address this crisis. His research reports and results have been instrumental in removing a large portion of the restrictions, adding billions of dollars to the Canadian economy. In addition to the impact of his work on the blackleg pathosystem, his research on Fusarium head blight has had tremendous impact. In 1993, when Fusarium head blight became an epidemic in North America, Fernando's pioneering studies with colleagues on the dynamics of ascospore release, dispersal, and ensuing infections increased the knowledge of the epidemiology of this important disease. His recent efforts to understand the population structure of F. graminearum and the spread and increase of more potent toxin-producing strains in the Prairies have led to an awareness in increased vigilance in grain inspection and safety of the food and feed industry. Equally, Fernando is a pioneer in advancing biological control in Canada. He and his collaborators developed the first successful biological control in field crops in Canada. His findings in phyllosphere biology have led to collaborative research on mechanisms of biological control and resulted in the full genome annotation of the two biocontrol agents.  Industry has joined Fernando and collaborators to commercialize this system through a NSERC-CRD grant. Growers, the seed industry and government agencies have demonstrated their confidence in his work with high levels of consistent funding. In addition to continued funding for basic research, Fernando was recognized for service to growers, regional schools, scientific societies, and international agriculture with the university's prestigious Outreach Award (2006). For his collaborative research in Australia, he received the Eminent Visiting Scientist Scheme (EViSS) Award from University of Southern Queensland (2017), and an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Fellowship (2016). He has given over 90 invited or keynote talks and coauthored 136 peer-reviewed articles, and 14 book chapters. He is an editor for numerous international journals. In addition to Fernando's significant scientific contributions, he has provided exceptional service in key leadership roles in the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and the Canadian Phytopathological Society (CPS). He is presently serving as the President of the CPS. Within CPS he has also served on the Executive Board of the CPS as Treasurer, as Vice President, President-Elect, and on the Financial Advisory Committee. Within APS, he served on the APS Scientific Program Board as Workshops Chair, as the first chair of the APS Joint Committee on Women in Plant Pathology and Cultural Diversity, and APS Phytopathology News Advisory Board. Dr. Fernando has made outstanding contributions in mentoring and training 14 Ph.D., 15 MSc, 23 postdocs, 22 visiting scientists and 68 undergraduates. His former students are working in academia, industry, and government throughout Canada and around the world. In 2006, Fernando was honored with the coveted Excellence in Graduate Training and Mentoring Award, an award given to only one academic at his university. Additionally, he received the Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring Award from the University of Manitoba (2017) and received the University of Manitoba Merit Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Service five times (2004, 2006, 2009-2011). In 2017, he was appointed as Dean of Studies at St. Paul's College, University of Manitoba, recognizing his strong commitment to student education.