Local plant pathologist honored

Published 10:56 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Virginia Tech Professor and Suffolk resident Patrick Phipps has been elected to the American Phytopathological Society College of Fellows.

“It’s probably the best honor that I have ever received, because it’s recognition by your peers, and that makes it very special,” Phipps said.

According to a Virginia Tech press release, this honor is given to those “who have made distinguished contributions to the field of plant pathology or to the American

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Phytopathological Society.”

Phipps works as a plant pathologist at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, here in Suffolk. A plant pathologist studies the causes of diseases in plants, and Phipps described his work as a way to strengthen the agricultural industry.

“Really, the challenge is to do things that make a difference to our industry of agriculture and the farmers and all segments of the industry, which include the supporting industries for agriculture,” Phipps said. “The more profitable the farmers are, the more profitable the supporting industries are.”

Phipps began working as an assistant professor for Virginia Tech in 1978, and has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed articles and reports and more than 100 Extension publications.

According to the Virginia Tech press release, Phipps’s research mainly focuses on peanut, cotton, soybean and small-grain diseases, and his work has contributed to the health and productivity of peanut crops, while reducing the use of pesticides.

Despite his large amount of written work, Phipps said the real joy of his work comes in teaching graduate students.

“I’ve had graduate students directly under my supervision, and that has been a real reward,” Phipps said. “They bring a lot of life into the program and energy, and the most gratifying part is when they go off to a job in the field continuing this work.”

Phipps was honored with his award at the American Phytopathological Society annual meeting, which was held in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 4. He learned he would be named a Fellow just two weeks in advance.

“It’s truly a tremendous honor,” Phipps said. He added that his peers at Virginia Tech have been happy and congratulatory for his award.

“(They are) very happy,” he said. “My colleagues at Virginia Tech feel like it means that they can get the same recognition, and they’re excited about that, to have someone in their group be recognized. It’s very nice.”