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Scientists Honored for Bringing Technology Out of the Lab and Into the Marketplace

By Richard J. Brenner, (301) 504-6905
February 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13—Spreading the word about ways to combat noxious weeds and developing more durable bermudagrass for athletic fields and golf courses have garnered high honors for scientists with the Agricultural Research Service, the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The winners of ARS’ Technology Transfer Awards for Outstanding Effort include plant geneticist Wayne Hanna of the ARS Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit at Tifton, Ga., and the Sidney, Mont.-based, TEAM Leafy Spurge, which includes ecologist Gerald Anderson, ecologist Chad Prosser, technical information specialist Bethany Redlin, information aide Jill Miller and entomologist Robert Richard.

The scientists were recognized during the annual recognition program ceremony Wednesday at ARS’ Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md., for their success in moving research from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Leafy spurge is an exotic invasive species that infests at least 5 million acres in the United States and Canada and costs about $144 million annually in production losses and control expenses. The Ecological Areawide Management (TEAM) of Leafy Spurge program was formed in 1997 to develop integrated pest management strategies to combat this prolific weed and disseminate information about those strategies. Based at the ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, Mont., TEAM Leafy Spurge has developed effective and affordable management strategies to control the species during the past six years.

“The program has been extraordinarily successful in accomplishing its mission,” said Edward B. Knipling, acting ARS Administrator. Team members have distributed more than 48 million flea beetles for biological control of the weed and have produced more than 20 informational products, including brochures, CD-ROMs and a documentary. These products have reached a huge audience and educated ranchers and land managers throughout North America about how to deal with spurge infestations. Researchers believe that if the integrated management plans are carried out over larger areas, leafy spurge could be reduced to an incidental weed.

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While leafy spurge is an unwanted weed, another type of groundcover–grass–is increasingly sought after for lawns, athletic fields, parks and golf courses. Plant geneticist Wayne Hanna, who retired in December 2002, spent many years working to meet this growing need. Two of the bermudagrasses he developed, TifSport and TifEagle, are so popular that demand for them currently exceeds availability.

“Dr. Hanna developed these varieties after years of experiments and crosses,” said Knipling. “His work resulted in turf cultivars that are more pest resistant, cold resistant, tolerant of high traffic, tolerant of close mowing on golf greens and uniformly attractive to the user than the grasses available previously.”

Hanna has worked closely with the University of Georgia to market the grasses, and they are now being grown on golf courses throughout the southern United States, as well as in football stadiums for the Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins, among others.

Thomas Beckman
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Three other researchers and two other research teams were honored for their technology transfer accomplishments at yesterday’s ceremony. They are:

Ivory Crisp (foreground) and Alturas potatoes
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