By RUTH BORGER
LAKE ALFRED, Fla. — Researcher. Scholar. Change agent. Nian Wang, a professor at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has been recognized for all of these roles by the American Phytopathological Society (APS) at its 2020 annual meeting.
Wang received the Ruth Allen award, which honors people who have made an outstanding, innovative research contribution that has changed, or has the potential to change, the direction of research in any field of plant pathology. Wang joined the other 2020 awardees at a virtual celebration in early August.
“Recognition from one’s peers is a great career accomplishment,” said Michael Rogers, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center director. “Dr. Wang’s groundbreaking work in gene editing, leading to breeding disease-resistant citrus plants, is critical to the future of the global citrus industry.”
Wang has made impressive strides in the understanding of the biology of the causal agent for citrus canker disease, and Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas) responsible for Huanglongbing disease (HLB) of citrus.
More importantly, Wang has been a leader in adapting the CRISPR/cas9 technology for site-specific gene editing in plants for disease control. His targeted gene editing of citrus species not only has yielded plants that are highly resistant to citrus canker, it also represents a first and highly important demonstration of the power of this technology in plant disease control.
Wang has published widely on practical methods of control of HLB, such as application of plant defense activators and antibiotics. His findings of highly sensitive and selective detection of the bacterium that causes HLB has led to key understandings of how the pathogen affects the plant.
Wang also has revealed much about the citrus microbiome, and its linkage to the health and susceptibility of citrus to HLB. His work is also showing how the other microbiological components of citrus such as citrus rhizosphere bacteria can induce systemic resistance against citrus canker disease.
Wang has received considerable recognition of his research, having accepted more than 34 invited speaker opportunities at national and international meetings. He has published 91 peer-reviewed publications, many in very high visibility journals such as PNAS as well as 9 reviews, books, and book chapters.
He also has substantial service to APS, currently serving as a senior editor for Phytopathology, has previously served as senior editor for Plant Disease, and the chief editor for the volume Virulence Mechanisms of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria, published by APS PRESS. He also has chaired sessions during APS annual meetings and served as the chair in the Bacteriology Committee.
More information about the award may be found at the APS website.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.