By: Kay Ledbetter

Muthu Bagavathiannan
Muthu Bagavathiannan, Ph.D. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Texas A&M AgriLife researcher Muthukumar Bagavathiannan, Ph.D., was honored with the Early Career Outstanding Scientist Award by the Weed Science Society of America, WSSA, recently at the society’s annual meeting in Maui, Hawaii. WSSA is the premier weed science society in the U.S. and this is the highest recognition for an early career scientist by the society.

The early career award is presented to scientists within the first 10 years of their career past their doctorate who have demonstrated originality and creativity and who have made a notable contribution to weed science with potential for continued excellence.

Bagavathiannan makes a difference at Texas A&M

“Dr. Bagavathiannan has been leading the way not only here at Texas A&M, but throughout the U.S. and worldwide to address the collective issue of weed management across agricultural and natural landscapes,” said Patrick Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “He is definitely an asset on our faculty and will help our agencies tackle future weed management issues. This is a well-deserved recognition.”

Bagavathiannan joined the Texas A&M University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences as a tenure-track weed science faculty member in 2014 with an AgriLife Research appointment. He has since established a rigorous research group that is gaining national and international recognition in weed science research.

“Dr. Bagavathiannan has served as a spark for our weed science program at Texas A&M,” said David Baltensperger, Ph.D., soil and crop sciences department head. “The timeliness of the expertise he brings has been exceptional as he was an author or co-author on more than 15 presentations and posters and his students were recognized for first and second outstanding poster at the recent WSSA meeting.

“Dr. Bagavathiannan has had a huge impact on our department, through training the next generation of scientists in emerging weed science issues while focusing on solutions for Texas producers.”

Bagavathiannan earned an agriculture and agronomy bachelor’s and master’s degree from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, India, as well as a master’s in plant genetic manipulation from the University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, England and his doctorate in weed ecology from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.

With research interests in the broader area of weed science and agronomy, his particular emphasis is on weed ecology and management. With the threat of herbicide-resistant weeds, the goal of his research program is to understand the evolutionary biology and dynamics of herbicide resistance in weed communities and develop integrated weed management solutions for effectively targeting weed seedbanks. Notably, his program utilizes digital technologies in precision weed detection, management and ecology.

Bagavathiannan has published over 65 peer-reviewed journal articles, 10 book chapters and several outreach bulletins. He has already mentored three doctorate students, three master’s students, four postdoctoral researchers, two research assistants, five visiting scholars, 12 student interns and eight undergraduate researchers. He is currently mentoring seven doctorate students, two master’s students, a visiting scholar, a student intern and two undergraduate researchers.

Career contributions, accomplishments

Bagavathiannan currently leads a multi-state National Institute of Food and Agriculture, NIFA, Specialty Crop Research Initiative-funded research project on annual bluegrass management, a Beltwide Palmer amaranth seedbank management project funded by Cotton Incorporated, a project investigating gene flow between sorghum and johnsongrass funded by NIFA-Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program and USDA-ARS, a harvest weed seed control project as well as a weed resistance management decision-support tool development funded by the NIFA-AFRI Foundational program, a weed-resistance management decision-support tool development funded by the Crop Protection and Pest Management program, and an organic cotton project funded by the NIFA-ORG program.

He is also a co-investigator in a number of projects that are currently ongoing or recently completed at the state and national levels.

He collaborates broadly at local, regional, national and international levels on a number of research projects focusing on integrated weed management. He is an active member of the Getting Rid of Weeds, GROW, and Precision Sustainable Agriculture teams led by Steve Mirsky, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, USDA-ARS.

Examples of his leadership and professional services noted include the chair of the WSSA herbicide-resistant plants committee, an associate editor for the Weed Science and Crop Science journals and a panel member/reviewer for a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture grants. He co-chaired the Weed Biology and Ecology section of the 2016 WSSA annual meeting in Puerto Rico and chaired the 2017 meeting in Tucson, Arizona. He also chaired the Weed Science and Growth Regulation session of the 2016 Rice Technical Working Group meeting in Galveston.

He chaired the Weed-Crop Interactions and Allelopathy sessions at the 2016 International Weed Science Congress held at Prague, Czech Republic, and co-organized a Workshop on Weeds and Invasive Species held at Alberta, Canada in June 2016. He will cahir the New Technology session at the 2020 International Weed Science Congress to be held in Bangkok, Thailand. And, he was an invited speaker at the 2018 Brazilian National Weed Science Congress at Rio De Janeiro; the 2018 Indian Society of Weed Science Congress at Jabalpur, India; the 2020 machine learning workshop for weed detection at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia; and the 2020 AAAS symposium on herbicide-resistant weeds at Seattle.

Bagavathiannan is also a recipient of the Dean’s Outstanding Early Career Research Award and the Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Early Career Research Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University.