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Steve L. Brown

Steve Brown
Date Honored: 10/02/2000

2000 D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Extension

Department: Entomology

Dr. Steve L. Brown of the Department of Entomology is the recipient of the 2000 D.W. Brooks Excellence in Extension Award. A widely recognized expert in the integrated management of pests of peanuts and stored products, Dr. Brown exemplifies the commitment to quality and professionalism that embodies the intent of this prestigious award.

Dr. Brown's responsibilities include two distinctly different program areas with approximately 75% of his time devoted to insect and integrated pest management programs for Georgia's peanut producers. Currently, the most serious problem in peanut production is an insect-vectored viral disease, referred to as tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). By 1995 the virus had become the greatest yield-limiting factor for the billion dollar Georgia peanut industry and has continued to severely impact other crops including tobacco, tomato and pepper.

Dr. Brown played a key role on an interdisciplinary team of scientists that recognized and developed practical programs and solutions to the spotted wilt problem. Soon after attending an international conference on thrips and tospoviruses in Taiwan, Dr. Brown proposed a unique educational initiative that promotes multiple suppression tactics for the virus. The fruit of this effort became known as "The University of Georgia Spotted Wilt Risk Index." The Spotted Wilt Risk Index is a planning tool that can be used to assess the risk associated with a specific set of production practices. Data from an ongoing validation program that utilizes small-plot studies as well as hundreds of on-farm observations have been used to refine the index each year. While spotted wilt continues to be a threat to the Georgia peanut industry, the risk index has proven to be an accurate predictor of spotted wilt incidence and has allowed growers to avoid the devastating losses experienced in previous years. The impact of the Spotted Wilt Risk Index has been enormous, as detailed below:

  • Peanut growers' use of the insecticide phorate (the lowest risk pesticide in the index) has increased from less than 10% to over 40%.
  • The popularity of minimum tillage systems and twin row patterns has increased dramatically over the last two years.
  • Most importantly, the risk index has resulted in greater net returns for Georgia peanut producers. Economic analysis of the risk index indicates that for each percent decrease in risk index value, the net return per acre increased by $6.65, $14.04 and $11.07 in 1996, 1997 and 1998 respectively. Therefore, a grower reducing his risk index value by 20 points would realize a $133 to $280 increase in net return per acre during those years.
  • A recent survey of county agents in peanut producing counties reveals that 100% of them feel that the risk index has been helpful to the peanut growers in their county resulting in an annual statewide economic impact of 27.4 million dollars.
  • The Spotted Wilt Risk Index has been widely featured in popular press articles and was the subject of symposia at the 1997 American Peanut Research and Education Society and at the 1999 Georgia Entomological Society.
  • Using The University of Georgia's Spotted Wilt Risk Index as a guide, Virginia Tech University and North Carolina State University are developing a similar approach to control southern corn rootworm, another pest of peanut.

The remaining 25% of Dr. Brown's responsibilities include the development of insect control programs for various agricultural commodities held in storage, stored grains (corn, wheat, oats, rye etc.,), peanuts, and cottonseed. Dr. Brown quickly became recognized as the leading expert in the Southeast in stored products and post-harvest entomology. Chief among his accomplishments was acquiring the funding and overseeing the development of the South's only demonstration grain treatment and storage facility. This facility has been used for hands-on training of county Extension agents and growers. Additionally, Dr. Brown produced and narrated a video tape entitled "Managing Stored Grains in the Southeast" which demonstrates state-of-the-art IPM practices in a storage facility from harvest until sale.

In summary, Dr. Steve Brown has demonstrated a quick intuition for identifying the IPM issues critical to his clientele groups and for designing and implementing applied research and education programs to develop solutions for producers. He is effective in delivering research findings to his clientele, and the economic impact of his work is well-documented. Dean Gale Buchanan effectively summarized the impacts of Dr. Brown's work at a recent meeting of the Peanut Research and Education Society by stating "the annual economic impact of the TSWV Index program would pay the salary of the entire University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service." Dr. Brown is indeed a credit to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and to the standards and principles of the D.W. Brooks Award for Excellence in Extension.