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SDSU field crops pathologist receives Early Career Award

South Dakota State University Field Crops Pathologist Febina Mathew received the Early Career Award at the American Phytopathological Society North Central Division meeting June 12-14 in Fargo, North Dakota. The award recognizes early-career scientists who have contributed to discovery, learning and engagement in plant pathology in the North Central Division.

Mathew is the first SDSU researcher to receive this award. The North Central Division includes South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and bordering provinces in Canada.

Febina Mathew holding sunflower stem
Field Crops Pathologist Febina Mathew explains how Phomopsis stem canker affects sunflowers.

“I did not know until it was announced at the meeting—I am really honored to receive this award,” said Mathew, who became an assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science in 2014.   “I share this honor with my team at SDSU and numerous collaborators at and outside of the university who have helped me get this far.”

During the last four years, three postdoctoral researchers, three doctoral students, three master’s students and 12 undergraduate students have worked with Mathew. Two research technicians also oversee the day-to-day aspects of her research programs. She has also hosted two visiting scientists.

Professor David Wright, head of the Department of Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science, said, “Febina’s research on Phomopsis stem canker in sunflowers and soybeans made her an ideal fit for this department. She understands the needs of the producers and works to help them mitigate disease impact.”

Mathew began working on Phomopsis stem canker in sunflowers as a doctoral student at North Dakota State University. Her dissertation adviser, associate professor Samuel Markell, received the APS-NC Early Career award in 2014.

“I work on several field crops including soybean, sunflower, corn, field pea, lentil, and Brassicas” Mathew said. She does research on stem canker in soybeans and sunflowers, soybean cyst nematode and root rot of soybeans, nematodes and root rot of corn, bacterial diseases of peas and lentils and emerging diseases on canola and carinata.

Mathew’s research has been supported by multiple grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, North Central Soybean Research Program, United Soybean Board, National Sunflower Association, South Dakota Oilseeds Council, South Dakota Pulse Council and South Dakota Oilseed Initiative.

Interim Director of the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Bill Gibbons said, “Febina has accomplished a great deal the last four years and will continue to help farmers deal with emerging diseases through her research."