The World Food Prize Foundation

1997: Smith and Adkisson

Dr. Perry L. Adkisson
Dr. Ray F. Smith

UNITED STATES

DR. RAY F. SMITH AND DR. PERRY L. ADKISSON, co-recipients of the 1997 World Food Prize, were among the first to note the harmful environmental and economic effects of indiscriminate synthetic chemical pesticide use. Dedicated to finding practical alternative approaches to pest control, they worked both independently and in tandem to demonstrate and popularize Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs. These programs, by effectively using biological controls, cultural and crop management techniques, and organic compounds, protect crops with much lower levels of chemicals required.

Overview

Background of Dr. Smith and Dr. Adkisson Combined Work
Dr. Adkission Biography
Dr. Smith Biography

 

Full Biography

Background of Dr. Smith and Dr. Adkisson Combined Work

During the 1950s and 1960s, vast amounts of chemicals were being spread over the world’s farmland with long-term consequences impossible to calculate. Populations of almost every species imaginable, from insects to humans, were affected, and the use of pesticides to preserve crops and livestock threatened to contaminate those same food resources. As pathogens and pests developed resistance to chemical controls, the only option for the future seemed to be stronger chemicals applied more often – more expensive for producers, especially poorer farmers, and more dangerous for the environment.

Drs. Adkisson and Smith met in the 1960s, when they were professors of entomology at Texas A&M University and the University of California at Berkeley, respectively. Prior to this, Dr. Smith’s research with controlling pests in California’s alfalfa fields had led him to theorize that by reducing their reliance on chemical pesticides, farmers could just as effectively preserve their crops as well as the environment, and perhaps increase production levels. Dr. Adkisson’s research, focused on cotton insect pests that were developing resistance to chemical controls, showed the same results and drove him to outline and explore IPM methods for other crops.

Joining their interests, talents, and efforts, the two professors and several of their colleagues nationwide committed substantial resources to systematizing and promoting the new IPM programs. A major breakthrough came with their organization and leadership of the Huffaker Project in 1972. Through this project, the first of its kind, more than 200 scientists from 18 land-grant universities across America tested and improved IPM systems for six major crops. Dr. Adkisson led an expanded version of this project from 1978 to 1985, which involved over 300 scientists, economists, and engineers and developed IPM systems to control insects, mites, pathogens, nematodes, and weeds in alfalfa, apple, cotton, and soybean production.

U.S. government statistics estimate that American farmers’ reliance on insecticides dropped by 50 percent as a direct result of the research and training that emerged from these two projects. The projects also exposed several hundred graduate students and researchers to the theory and practice of IPM systems, sparked the establishment of IPM networks through university extension programs, and widened the application of IPM systems to crops including deciduous fruit, citrus, many vegetables, alfalfa, soybeans, cotton, grain sorghum, peanuts, and rice. It is estimated that U.S. cotton growers alone now save $1 billion annually in reduced pesticide costs.

Drs. Adkisson and Smith worked just as diligently to develop IPM programs for use overseas, especially in developing countries, where the introduction of higher-yielding food crop varieties were creating unfamiliar pathogen and pest situations for farmers who often lacked the training or means to effectively or safely protect their harvests. In 1967, Dr. Smith served as the founding chairman of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Panel of Experts on Integrated Pest Control, a position he held until 1982. During this time, Dr. Adkisson was a member of the panel, and he later chaired the group from 1992 to 1996.

Under both men’s tenures, a key priority for the panel was developing IPM programs for rice, maize, sorghum, peanuts, cassava, and major fruits and vegetables grown in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. To this end, they worked to train scientists, technicians, and farmers from the developing world and to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of IPM methods by incorporating research from the fields of plant pathology, weed sciences, and mycology. Most recently, under Dr. Adkisson's leadership, a permanent IPM facility has been established in Rome to identify, develop, and promote pest control programs for major food crops throughout the world.

The vision of both men in outlining alternatives to widespread chemical application and in propounding effective, safe, and sustainable programs for controlling pests has been an undeniable success. Over 75 percent of U.S. farmers use IPM systems in producing food and fiber crops, and the United Nations estimates that over 1 million farmers in more than 60,000 villages in every region of the world have applied IPM methods and saved billions of dollars in chemicals while seeing increased production in some cases. The achievement of Dr. Ray F. Smith and Dr. Perry Adkisson in developing and popularizing IPM systems has given the world’s food producers a technology that will continue to sustain the growth of the global food supply for generations to come.

Dr. Perry Adkisson

Dr. Perry Adkisson received the 1997 World Food Prize with Dr. Ray F. Smith for their shared achievement in developing and propounding the practice of Integrated Pest Management programs by farmers around the world. Since their inception over thirty years ago, IPM programs have saved farmers millions of dollars by reducing reliance on chemicals to fight insects, fungi, weeds, and other pests. More, they have improved production rates and the ecological impact of agriculture – making the world’s food supply at once larger, safer, and more stable.

Dr. Adkisson was born in Arkansas on March 11, 1929, on a small cotton and soybean farm. Enrolling in graduate study after serving in the Korean War, he received an M.S. in agronomy from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in entomology from Kansas State University. He did research for the University of Missouri until joining the faculty of Texas A&M University’s entomology department in 1958.

From his initial research on controlling the pink bollworm, his interest grew in studying methods to control other cotton pests that had developed resistance to chemical pesticides. He began to see the expense of continuously developing stronger synthetic insecticides and led research into the insects’ natural enemies and other varieties of cotton. While he was testing this new holistic system of pest control, a tobacco budworm epidemic attacked the cotton crops of South Texas and Mexico. His new integrated system proved highly effective where chemicals were failing, and as department chair from 1967 to 1978, Dr. Adkisson devoted further Texas A&M resources to exploring IPM programs for sorghum, peanuts, corn, wheat, rice, pecans, and citrus fruit.

The development of IPM strategies was further boosted when Dr. Adkisson began collaborating with Dr. Smith on national and international research and promotion projects in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a founding member of the FAO Panel of Experts on Integrated Pest Control, later following Dr. Smith’s footsteps by chairing that group from 1992 to 1996 and organizing funding for projects to expand IPM application in developing nations. His considerable administrative abilities also promoted him to a series of high-ranking positions at Texas A&M beginning in 1978, culminating in his being named Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System from 1986 until 1990.  He retired from his professorship in 1994.

His list of accolades is impressive, including his 1979 election to the National Academy of Sciences, honorary degrees from the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M, membership in the International Congress of Entomology since 1992, and induction into the Heritage Hall of Honor in 1998, honoring those who have significantly contributed to the agricultural heritage of Texas. He has also received the 1980 Alexander von Humboldt Award for outstanding contribution to agriculture and the 1994 Wolf Prize in Agriculture – which, with his receipt of the World Food Prize, makes him the first person to be honored with all three of the world’s major prizes in agriculture. 

Dr. Ray F. Smith

Dr. Ray F. Smith received the 1997 World Food Prize with Dr. Perry Adkisson for their shared achievement in developing and propounding the practice of Integrated Pest Management programs by farmers around the world. Since their inception over thirty years ago, IPM programs have saved farmers millions of dollars by reducing reliance on chemicals to fight insects, fungi, weeds, and other pests. More, they have improved production rates and the ecological impact of agriculture – making the world’s food supply at once larger, safer, and more stable.

Dr. Smith was born in California in 1919 and received degrees in entomology from the University of California at Berkeley. From 1946 until his retirement in 1982, he was a professor of entomology at his alma mater, serving as department chair from 1959 to 1973. Under his leadership, the department expanded its faculty and diversified its programs and was soon recognized as the research and education leader in its field.

Dr. Smith was involved in organizing Pest Control Associations among California’s alfalfa producers in the 1940s, through which farmers, technicians, and researchers collaborated in analyzing and managing the effects and costs of arthropod pests. He led a ten-year project that tested his concept of “supervised control” of key alfalfa pests; the success of this approach and the enormous biological, ecological, and economic data he gathered would later evolve into the wider model of IPM through his work with Dr. Adkisson and other colleagues.

As IPM became more common among farmers of various crops in America, Dr. Smith continued to push for the exploration of all the scientific, technical, and educational issues involved in IPM strategies – and not only in the context of U.S. agriculture. He took the lead in forming the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Panel of Experts on Integrated Pest Control in 1967 and headed this group from its inception until 1982. He also directed the Consortium for International Crop Protection from 1979 to 1982, which grew out of a U.S. Agency for International Development collaboration with the University of California’s efforts to investigate the potential of and promote IPM. A key priority was expanding IPM’s philosophy and practice in developing areas and working directly with farmers, experts, and policymakers in Latin America, Asia, and Africa to specially assess the pest-control needs of those regions. He organized the FAO’s 1974 Global Project for Integrated Pest Management of Major Crops, lectured and published prolifically overseas, and consulted to USAID and the FAO on food production and pest control issues.

His groundbreaking work and continuous dedication to better and more sustainable protections of the world’s crops against the devastation of pests led to his 1981 induction into the National Academy of Science and his receipt of the Founders Memorial and C.W. Woolworth awards from the Entomological Society of America. Dr. Smith passed away on August 23, 1999, at age 80. 

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