Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Team, Charles Allen Win Superior Service Awards

The Crapemyrtle Bark Scale Team. Photo by Beth Luedeker

The Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Team. Back row (left to right): Dr. Mike Merchant, Laura Miller, and Erfan Vafaie. Front row (left to right): Dr. Bob Whitson, Interim Associate Director – State Operations – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Janet Laminack, Dr. Mengmeng Gu, Dr. Yu Zhang, and Dr. Parr Rosson, Interim Director – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Photo by Beth Ann Luedeker.

Members of the Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Team and Dr. Charles Allen started the New Year off on a good note as they both received Superior Service Awards from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service during the AgriLife Conference on January 8.

The Crape Myrtle Bark Scale Team consists of Dr. Mengmeng Gu (Horticulture Sciences), Dr. Mike Merchant (Entomology), Erfan Vafaie (Entomology), Laura Miller (County Extension Agent- Commercial Horticulture), Janet Laminack (County Extension Agent-Horticulture), and Dr. Yu Zhang (Ag Economics).

The team was established in 2013 to help educate the public about controlling crapemyrtle bark scale, an invasive insect species from Asia that secretes a sugary solution, known as honeydew, that subsequently results in black mold along the branches, which can cause severe damage to crape myrtles.

Members of the team have been instrumental in helping taxonomists from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Research Service, as well as the University of Arkansas to verify the identity of the scale as an exotic pest and to recognize the scale as a new domestic pest in 2014.

The team also published the first refereed and extension manuscripts on the insect pests in the United States and utilized the existing crape myrtle collections in Texas and set monitoring stations to help with formulating and timing control strategies. In 2015, the team collaborated with the Center for Invasive Species, Ecosystem Healthy, and the Southern IPM Center in Georgia to create a map of all reported scale sightings.

Dr. Charles Allen, center with his award. Standing next to Allen is Dr. Bob Whitson, interim associate director for state operations (left) and Dr. Parr Rosson, Interim Director - Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Dr. Charles Allen, center, with his award. Standing next to Allen is Dr. Bob Whitson, Interim Associate Director – State Operations – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (left) and Dr. Parr Rosson, Interim Director – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (right). Photo by Erfan Vafaie.

Professor and Extension Entomologist and Associate Department Head for Extension Programs Dr. Charles Allen was recognized with the Superior Service Award in the Distinguished Career category for his more than 30 years with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and with the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program.

During Allen’s career, he has authored or co-authored 19 refereed publications, 4 book chapters, 43 extension publications, 117 proceedings articles and 3 white papers. Allen also has given 140 invited and 99 submitted professional presentations and hundreds of presentations supporting county programs. He has served on and led regional and national committees associated with professional societies, commodity-associated groups, IPM-related groups and federal agencies, most recently, US EPA.

In his managerial roles, Allen led boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs in Texas and Eastern New Mexico and supervised 1,500-2,500 employees in programs funded by state & federal appropriations, and local assessments totaling over $803 million. In his Extension career, Allen secured and managed grants totaling $3.1 million and managed units in Extension Entomology with cumulative operating budgets of $16.5 million from 2009-2018.

The cumulative net economic impact of the cooperative boll weevil eradication program in Texas since 1996 was $3.3 billion by 2016 and pink bollworm was declared eradicated from U.S. cotton in 2018. However, no crop damage or control costs have been incurred by cotton producers in over 13 years. Over $400 million in net benefits have been realized by cotton growers in the southwestern United States from pink bollworm eradication.

“One of Charles’ greatest attributes is [his] ability to communicate and cooperate with both farmers and peer professionals,” said David Oefinger, executive director of the Texas Pest Management Association. “His innate understanding of human nature has helped him to identify with the concerns of farmers. This has allowed him to develop meaningful relationships that contributed to the success of the statewide boll weevil eradication effort.”

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