Damon Smith, an associate professor and field crop pathology extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology, has been named the faculty director of the Nutrient and Pest Management Program at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.
The Extension-funded Nutrient and Pest Management Program (NPM) was established in 1989 with a mission to promote agricultural practices for protecting water quality while maintaining or improving farm profitability in collaboration with a wide range of partners. Focused on profitability, practicality and environmental sustainability of crop production practices and cropping systems, the program links Wisconsin farmers, the agricultural professionals who assist them and UW researchers, allowing for a robust exchange of knowledge.
Smith was drawn to the role as an opportunity to deploy research to a wider audience. “I am very interested in extending valuable research-based tools to the general public where they can be used for the greater good,” he says.
Through his Extension role at UW, Smith has collaborated closely with the NPM program over the years to develop three smartphone applications to assist farmers in forecasting plant disease occurrence based on GPS-referenced weather data. These tools leverage cloud-based weather data for specific sites along with proven statistical models to predict plant disease. His Sporecaster app, which models white mold on soybean, has been downloaded more than 6,000 times and was recognized for excellence in community education materials by the Agronomy Society of America.
Smith has been a member of the faculty in the plant pathology department for eight years. Prior to coming to UW, he was as assistant professor and extension specialist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Oklahoma State University for five years. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in plant pathology at North Carolina State University and a B.S. in biology at SUNY Geneseo.
In the role of director, Smith will lead a team of nine staff, including a program manager, five regional specialists, one researcher and two support staff. He will also work with the advisory body called the Integrated Crop and Pest Management Technical Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from state and federal agencies, along with private farmers.
“We had a deep pool of well-qualified candidates for the position, making the choice of the director a difficult one,” says Doug Reinemann, the associate dean for extension and outreach in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “The NPM program has a long history of excellence in developing and delivering extension programs. Damon articulated a vision and plan to continue this tradition and expand and adapt nutrient and pest management programs to meet research and extension needs in this increasingly important area.”