Entomology Faculty, Staff Receive Superior Service, Vice Chancellor Awards During Conference

Texas Sugarcane Aphid Team

The Texas Sugarcane Aphid Team. From left to right: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Director Dr. Doug Steele, Mo Way, Raul Villanueva, Enrique Perez, Brad Cowan, and Stephen Biles. Photo by Rob Williams.

BRYAN – Several members of the Department of Entomology started the New Year off right after they received awards at both the Superior Service Awards dinner and Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence

The first award was a Superior Service Award in the Team category that was given to the Texas Sugarcane Aphid Team for their efforts in staving off a statewide disaster that came from sugarcane aphids, one of the worst pests to ever threaten the sorghum industry, and prevented millions of dollars in damage to crops across the state.

By the fall of 2013, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M AgriLife Research had organized an immense research and educational effort to thwart the pest.

When grain sorghum was harvested in 2014 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, it was evident the effort had paid off. Texas Grain Sorghum Producers reported that the Sugarcane Aphid Team prevented crop loss with an estimated value of $160 million.

Similar research and educational work on the Texas High Plains in 2015 is reported to have prevented an additional $100 million in grain sorghum losses. The work is expected to continue, thus providing further benefits to sorghum growers, the nomination said.

The team members included Extension Entomologists Dr. Raul Villanueva (Weslaco), Dr. Allen Knutson (Dallas), Dr. Pat Porter (Lubbock), Dr. Ed Bynum (Amarillo), Dr. Robert Bowling (Corpus Christi), postdoctoral AgriLife Extension assistants Gabriela Esparza-Diaz, and Beto Garza of Weslaco.

Extension Agents-IPM included Danielle Sekula-Ortiz (Weslaco), Stephen Biles (Port Lavaca), Blayne Reed (Plainview), Tommy Doederlein (Lamesa), and Kerry Siders (Levelland). Other recipients included Extension agents Jason Ott (Nueces County), Brad Cowan (Hidalgo County), Enrique Perez (Cameron County), and

Additional team members by entity were:

  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research: Dr. Mike Brewer, entomologist, Corpus Christi; Dr. Mo Way, entomologist, Beaumont; Dr. Gary Odvody, plant pathologist, Corpus Christi; and Dr. Gary Peterson, agronomist, Lubbock.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service: Dr. Scott Armstrong, entomologist, Stillwater, Oklahoma.
  • Cotton and Grain Producers of the Lower Rio Grande Valley: Dr. Webb Wallace, executive director, Harlingen.
  • United Sorghum Checkoff: Dr. Brent Bean, agronomist, Lubbock.
  • Cooperators: Chris Bauer, Montimer Cabrera, David and Fontis Newell, Dennis Ball, Sam Simmons, Sam Sparks, Randy Cook, Shane Blount and Ronald Groves.
  • Crop Consultants: John Norman, Weslaco; Jim Trolinger and Mike Grey, both of Harlingen.
Superior Service-Strawberry Team - 375px

The Texas Strawberry Project Team: Back row (from left to right): Robert (Skip) Richter, Laura Miller, Keith Hanson, Billy Lawton, Peter Ampim and Erfan Vafaie. Front Row: Mengmeng Gu, David Rodriguez, Monte Nesbitt, Daphne Richards, Russ Wallace, Kevin Ong, and Larry Stein. Photo by Rob Williams

The Texas Strawberry Project Team received the second Superior Service Award in the Team category. They were awarded for their work in helping to increase strawberry production in the state.

The team included Extension Program Specialist Erfan Vafaie and Extension Entomologist Dr. Pat Porter, consisted of more than 50 growers, and is a collaborative effort among AgriLife Extension, the lead agency, Prairie View A&M University and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, according to the nomination.

“The objectives were achieved through unprecedented team collaboration by engaging growers and industry stakeholders,” the nomination said.

In 2012, Dr. Russ Wallace, AgriLife Extension horticulturist at Lubbock, had preliminary data suggesting strawberries could be a profitable crop in Texas for small acreage and limited-resource growers. The nomination said that, with faculty collaborators, he has led an immense effort to offer grower training opportunities and increase strawberry production sustainability statewide.

The Walmart Foundation provides funds under the direction of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative and the University of Arkansas. As a result of the project, locally grown strawberries are increasingly in high demand in Texas, the nomination noted.


Lubbock Cropping Systems Research Team. From left to right are: Jane Dever, Terry Wheeler, Megha Parajulee, Wayne Keeling, James Bordovsky, and Jason Woodward. Photo by Rob Williams.

Members of the Lubbock Cropping Systems Research Team, which includes Professor, Faculty Fellow, and Texas A&M Regents Fellow Dr. Megha Parajulee, received a Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence in the collaboration category for their efforts in helping crop producers in improving their crops.

According to the nomination, the team was assembled to address the unique crop production challenges producers face on the Texas High Plains. Their objective has been to address important cotton production decision making issues at the farm level. The overall goal has been to assure profitability and future viability of cotton production in the Texas High Plains.

A notable achievement from the team included successfully partnering with Lamesa Cotton growers in utilizing their 160-acre farm for long-term research for over two decades. The partnership has allowed the scientists to expand their research from the small-plot level to larger scale experiments to demonstrate the outcomes to farmers. The team’s success led to the establishment of the Helms Farm in Hale County in 1999 and to the 2008 purchase of additional land and the installation of 22 acres of drip irrigation in Hale County.

“The producer-led initiatives in securing these research sites indicate producers’ enthusiasm and confidence in our scientists working as a team to provide additionally sound and economically viable production systems,” Moore wrote.

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