Pest Management Specialist Charles Summers to receive Woodworth Award

University of California entomologist Charles Summers whose career spans 39 years in field and vegetable crops pest management is the winner of the prestigious Charles W. Woodworth Award from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.

Summers, stationed at the UC Kearney Agricultural Center (KAC), Parlier, Calif., will receive the award at the branch’s 93rd annual meeting March 29-April 1 in San Diego.

“This is the major award of the Pacific Branch to professionals and is very prestigious,” said Pacific Branch President Walt Bentley, a KAC integrated pest management specialist. “The award recognizes his contributions to entomology over the last 10 years, but in reality it is for a career of meaningful work.”

Summers has worked to solve pest problems impacting California agriculture. He has conducted field studies in the Central Valley from Chico to Bakersfield, working with 15 different field and vegetable crops, more than 20 different insect pests and their natural enemies, and at least 10 insect-vectored diseases.

Summers developed economic thresholds, determining at what point the cost of pest damage exceeds the cost of pest control. He pioneered economic thresholds for seven pests in four crops, and developed management strategies for a combination of 28 crops, insect and disease pests. His credits include publications in more than 200 journals and more than 800 presentations.

Summers is known for his research on the interactions among insects, diseases, and weeds on alfalfa hay and how they individually and as a whole, influence yield and quality. His work led to improved best management decisions and decreased pesticide use.

He is also known for his research on reflective mulches used to delay and reduce aphid and whitefly infestations on squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, tomatoes and other crops. He teams with plant pathologist Jim Stapleton and vegetable crop specialist Jeff Mitchell, both based at Kearney.

Another highlight of Summers’ career is work on the biology of the corn leafhopper and corn stunt spiroplasma. He proved that the corn leafhopper can overwinter in the San Joaquin Valley and that the pathogen, Spiroplasma kunkelii overwinters in it.

“Before this research, it was assumed that tropical insects such as corn leafhopper could not overwinter in our temperate climate, but were reintroduced each year from Mexico,” Summers said. The findings led to better strategies for managing the pest and the pathogen.

The award memorializes noted American entomologist Charles W. Woodworth who is credited with founding the UC Berkeley Department of Entomology and helping to develop the Agricultural Experiment Station, which later became the UC Davis Department of Entomology.

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