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J. Artie and Arra Browning Student Travel Grant

The J. Artie and Arra Browning Student Travel Fund was established to grant candidates for the general practitioner degree Doctor of Plant Medicine to aid them in attending the APS Annual Meeting. The initial grants were given at the 2005 APS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX.​

J. Artie and Arra

J. Artie Browning (1923 - 2013) was born in Kosse, TX, in 1923. Artie grew up near Gladewater in the East Texas oilfields and entered Texas A&M College (TAMC) in September 1941. After two years of ROTC, he entered the U.S. Navy V-12 Program and was commissioned ensign in 1944 at the Navy Midshipman School, Cornell University. After finishing Navy Communications School at Harvard, he was among the last officers assigned to the U.S.S. Saratoga in wartime; the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan while he was enroute to the Saratoga, which was training air groups near Pearl Harbor for the invasion of Japan. The Saratoga quickly became the first ship of the Magic Carpet Fleet to rush the victorious troops home. He married Arra White, to whom he had been engaged since January 1945, on March 2, 1946 . Arra Browning (1924–2016) was born in Belton, TX, and graduated from Mary Hardin-Baylor College in 1945. She taught high school chemistry at Buckner Home in Dallas, TX, before marriage; home economics at Crawford, TX, after marriage; and biology in Bogotá, Colombia (1963–1964), when Artie was there for 18 months on special assignment with the Rockefeller Foundation. She became a contributing influence in his life and career from that moment. At the time of Artie's death on November 3, 2013, they were married for 67 years and had three children and three grandchildren. Arra has hosted countless graduate student families, phytopathologists, and plant breeders at her table on four continents.

Artie was a premed major at TAMC, but at Baylor, Arra urged him to take a course in botany. He did, loved it, and has never gotten away from plants since. After earning his B.S. degree in biology from Baylor in 1947, he took additional courses in preparation for graduate work in botany, which was to be at Cornell. He entered Cornell in 1948 to major in taxonomy, but, at the urging of W. C. Paddock, he switched to plant pathology, majoring under G. C. Kent. His Ph.D. thesis was entitled “Studies in the physiology of obligate parasitism in the cereal rusts.” Upon graduating in 1953, Artie began 28 happy years on the faculty of Iowa State University and as a coleader (with K. J. Frey) of the Iowa Ag Experiment Station (IAES) oat improvement team. M. Simons was the USDA member. Iowa grew nearly 6 million acres of oats then (scab precluded growing barley or wheat in rotation with corn). Because of genetic uniformity in Iowa and the Puccinia path of the Central United States, oats were decimated recurringly by crown and/or stem rust. Cooperation with I. Wahl’s group in Israel, where oats were indigenous and still abound with their coevolved pathogens, gave them both new resistance germplasm and examples from the Israeli ecosystem of how to deploy it. The IAES released 13 multiline cultivars in two maturity classes, which controlled crown rust as in the Israeli ecosystem they emulated. For the first time, Iowa farmers could be assured that these cultivars would protect them from crown rust. The multilines performed the same in the short disease season of Iowa, the long disease season of South Texas, and Israel, source of the resistance genes. Artie and Arra spent approximately two years in Israel, including one sabbatical in Israel and Cambridge, United Kingdom in 1978 and one year on a Fulbright Fellowship (1990–1991).

Proof of the effectiveness and biological naturalness of this strategy of managing highly epidemic airborne pathogens with diversity is coffee rust, which is classic for its epidemic potential. Cenicafe (the research arm of the Colombian Coffee Federation) knew of Iowa’s experience with crown rust, so when coffee rust was introduced to Brazil from Africa in 1970, they began breeding to deploy diverse populations for their 20-year crop with a 12-month disease season, where the Andean environment is never limiting. Cultivar Colombia was released over 20 years ago. It is still protecting Colombia’s valuable coffee crop, and no super race has evolved. Artie reviewed their program several times.

In 1981, Artie was invited back to TAMU for the challenge of reorganizing their multidisciplinary Plant Science Department into TAMU’s first Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Completed in 1985, it is still going strong today. Artie retired from TAMU on September 1, 1990; won a Fulbright Fellowship in Israel (1990–1991); and then relocated to Olympia, WA, to be nearer children and grandchildren.

Because Artie’s research featured maximizing natural disease-limiting processes and Iowa grew no IPM-impacted crop, he was judged philosophically qualified to participate in many IPM and crop loss panels. These included NATO study groups; the US/USSR IPM Program, which included a month studying Plant Protection Institutes in the USSR and two joint seminars in the United States; the UN-FAO Panel of Experts on IPM; being an invited speaker at 20 overseas institutions; testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture; reviewing the nationwide Huffaker IPM Project and its successor, the Adkisson Project; and the USDA National Crop Loss Design Committee. It was during interminable hours on these panels that his discipline-integrating concept of plant health was born as a potential unifying focus for competing plant health-related disciplines.

Artie joined APS in 1950. He was made a Fellow of AAAS in 1976 and APS in 1980. He served on more than 15 APS committees and chaired several. He was a member of APS Council for 10 years, councilor of the North Central Division (1972–1975), councilor-at-large (1976–1979), and presidential track (1978–1983). In his presidential address in 1982, he justified and recommended that an APS study committee report to council about fostering Doctor of Plant Health degree programs. This was done. The history of the Plant Doctor programs, from Whetzel’s 1911 proposal to 1998 is in Browning’s 1998 Annual Review of Phytopathology Prefatory Chapter. Independent of that, G. Agrios, then head of the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Florida, also saw the need, sold the idea, and established what is still the nation’s only Doctor of Plant Medicine program. After the publication of the 1998 chapter, Browning was asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Environmental Agricultural Education (FEAE), the educational arm of the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants. The main goal of the FEAE is to foster at least one DPM program per cropping district, modeled after the DVMs.

This travel fund, which favors candidates for the general practitioner degree Doctor of Plant Medicine, was established because educating and training such healthcare professionals are keys to overcoming sources of stress that limit harvestable yield to only approximately 15% (tropics) to 20% (temperate zones) of crop genetic potential, on average. Molecular biology has caused more graduate students to specialize more and restrict their preparation to the laboratory. Hence, very few scientists are being prepared to diagnose in the field among the 37 broad sources of plant stress and interactions between and among them and to prescribe remediation to the grower. This caused the multidisciplinary DPM program to be established at the University of Florida. It should be emulated at other universities. This grant fund was established to facilitate student travel to the APS Annual Meeting so they can experience the thrill of learning the latest findings in the science of plant pathology (and, hopefully with other grants from other plant health-related disciplines), present a paper or poster on their own work, interact with plant pathologists from around the world, and return home to share their new knowledge and experiences. Multidisciplinary general practitioner DPMs give hope of approaching attainable crop yields and helping feed a hungry world. Such plant doctors have the potential to effect the greatest change in world agriculture since the Green Revolution and the DPM to become plant agriculture’s most important single-degree proram. This travel grant is to help the DPM movement reach that potential.