Robert E. Davis
Andrew N. Sharpley
Two Scientists Inducted into ARS Hall of
Fame By Jan
Suszkiw September 10, 2008
WASHINGTON, September 10, 2008--Two Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists have earned a place in the agency's
Science Hall of Fame for
research accomplishments that include devising farm practices that protect
water quality and discovering new types of plant disease organisms. ARS is a
scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of
Soil scientist Andrew L. Sharpley and plant pathologist
E. Davis will be honored in a ceremony tonight at the
National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
"These two researchers exemplify the spirit of scientific excellence
and creativity with which ARS has served the nation and the agricultural
community since the agency's inception 55 years ago," said ARS Administrator
ARS began its Hall of Fame program in 1986 to recognize agency
researchers for their outstanding achievements in agricultural science and
technology. Inductees are nominated by their peers and must be retired, or
eligible to retire, to receive the honor.
Sharpley's 28-year career with ARS began at the National Agricultural
Water Quality Laboratory in Durant, Okla., where he worked from 1978 until
1995, when he transferred to the agency's
Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in University Park, Pa.
Sharpley retired from ARS in 2006.
Sharpley pioneered research characterizing how the management of
farmland affects the loss of phosphorus and nitrogen in runoff and by a process
called leaching. He also devised soil- and water-conservation strategies that
were both innovative and cost-effective for farmers to use in safeguarding
water quality, while maintaining a productive agriculture.
Sharpley is widely credited with spearheading the development,
supporting science and refinement of the "Phosphorus Index," a tool to identify
the risk of phosphorus loss from agricultural fields. The index is used
throughout the United States as well as in other countries to guide
farm-nutrient management planning. His research recommendations and
technological innovations have been widely adopted by regulatory and resource
conservation agencies worldwide. Sharpley has authored or co-authored more than
500 scientific publications and is a fellow of the
American Society of Agronomy and
Soil Science Society of America.
Davis, a National
Academy of Sciences member and research leader of the ARS
Plant Pathology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., has been with the agency for
40 years. At the start of his career, he created a paradigm shift in the field
of plant pathology with his publication of a paper reporting the discovery of
an entirely new type of microorganism, which he named "spiroplasmas" for their
spiral or coiled appearance.
Davis overcame initial scientific skepticism with a mounting tide of
evidence in support of his discovery. Now, spiroplasmas are known to cause
diseases of not only crops, but also of harmful and beneficial insects and
species of crab and shrimp.
He showed that some spiroplasmas could survive outside the cells of
host plants on their flower petals. He has also found them causing diseases in
honey bees and other insect pollinators. Davis' research and discoveries
necessitated a revision of plant pathology textbooks and graduate-level courses
for aspiring scientists. Continued investigations by Davis' group into mystery
pathogens--including so-called "phytoplasmas"--led to innovative new methods of
detecting, classifying and describing these unusual bacteria.