University of Georgia Griffin campus plant pathologist Alfredo Martinez-Espinoza has been awarded the 2019 D.W Brooks Award for Excellence in Extension.
The award is presented by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) in recognition of his UGA Cooperative Extension and applied research program that focuses on the management of new and recurring diseases of turfgrass, small grains and nonlegume forages and his delivery of relevant information to stakeholders and fellow Extension professionals.
Martinez-Espinoza joined CAES in 1999 and has since created a strong basic and applied research program. His findings have resulted in improved disease management and production. He has helped the turfgrass industry and small grain producers through strategies for better timing of applications, alternative dosages, new formulations and optimal application methods for critically needed fungicides. His emphasis has been in plant disease prevention and implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) practices.
When a disease strikes a sod farm, professional athletic field, prestigious golf course, small lawn care company or wheat farmer, controlling the problem quickly can make a major difference in profit margins. To date, he has diagnosed and made recommendations for 12,000 samples of diseases and nematodes in turfgrass, small grains and non-legume forages. Martinez-Espinoza’s keen eye has identified three previously unreported diseases and one nematode in Georgia turfgrass.
Nematodes, tiny parasitic worms, cost the Georgia turfgrass industry an average of $44 million per year in crop loss and the cost of control. Martinez-Espinoza has developed new strategies for controlling nematodes that promote long-term control, reduce chemical applications and improve turfgrass health and quality.
He is also an essential member of the UGA turfgrass breeding program. He has helped screen thousands of breeding lines to ensure that new turfgrasses are resistant to diseases like dollar spot, a major cause of damage to Georgia turfgrasses.
Martinez-Espinoza provides crucial information to large and small clientele, from county agents to golf course superintendents, sod producers and lawn-care professionals. He uses traditional and novel delivery methods to best meet the needs of this diverse population. He has collaborated with other CAES scientists on the development of four smartphone apps but has not forgotten the effectiveness of face-to-face interaction — the hallmark of UGA Extension. He has made more than 300 site visits at the request of Extension agents and stakeholders.
In addition to his traditional Extension program, Martinez-Espinoza works with Spanish-speaking professionals to deliver this information in both English and Spanish. In 2004, he formed Georgia’s Hispanic Specialist Group to improve communication and understanding between business owners and the Spanish-speaking labor force. Martinez-Espinoza pioneered a Spanish seminar series at the yearly Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s education conference. More than 350 Spanish-speaking industry professionals from around the globe have attended since 2017.
He has written numerous books, chapters in books, handbooks and peer-reviewed and other scientific publications, which have been recognized for their impact through state and national awards. In 2017 alone, electronic versions of Martinez-Espinoza’s publications were viewed online and/or downloaded 7,894 times, an average of 21 times per day. He has organized and conducted countless educational conferences, workshops and seminars for industry professionals and scientists.
"The quality and reach of Dr. Martinez-Espinoza's Extension program, stretching from Georgia throughout North America and into Europe, is truly remarkable,” said Harald Scherm, head of the UGA Department of Plant Pathology.
Martinez-Espinoza also works to educate the industry professionals of the future by serving as main advisor to UGA graduate students, hosting and teaching international students, and mentoring high school students through the CAES Young Scholars program.
His honors also include the prestigious Walter Barnard Hill Awards for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach, which recognizes UGA Extension faculty for outstanding contributions to the improvement of the quality of life in Georgia and beyond, and the CAES Diversity Award.
His international honors include receiving the Spaniard National Association of Greenkeepers’ Honorific Award, which recognizes his support and advancement of the association, and his recognition as a Lifetime Honorary Member of the Mexican Association of Golf Course Superintendents.