October 25, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

Don Hershman, a plant pathologist with University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, was among a national team of scientists honored on Oct. 20 by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their work on Asian soybean rust.

Hershman and his fellow scientists were selected for the award in the category of “Enhancing Protection and Safety of the Nation’s Agriculture and Food Supply.” The award was presented by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Johanns at ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

The Asian soybean rust team, a cooperative partnership between several U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies and universities, was recognized for planning, rapid response and recovery of a potential disaster that was averted by using science-based and technological strategies or addressing and mitigating risks for a potentially devastating plant disease. 

The Honor Awards are the most prestigious awards presented by the USDA. This year there were 34 individual and group awards for outstanding service in many fields including stewardship of natural resources, scientific research, animal and plant disease control, environmental innovations, education outreach, emergency response to disasters, food safety, farm and food program delivery, trade and export development, and rural economic development. USDA also honored employees who performed individual acts of heroism and courage. 
“I am very humbled to be part of the team to receive the secretary of agriculture’s Honor Award,” Hershman said. “However, I hasten to add that there is a very large number of individuals, both inside and outside of Kentucky, who did not receive recognition, yet are also part of the soybean rust team. I honor their tremendous effort and dedication. I know the rest of those who were recognized by the Secretary of Agriculture, feel the same way I do. I especially want to thank the 40 or so individuals in Kentucky who have worked tirelessly over the past two years to monitor the state for soybean rust. There are too many names to mention, but I want to recognize that you are all co-recipients of the Honor Award.”

Since Asian soybean rust was first discovered in the United States in November 2004, Hershman and his fellow scientists have worked to understand the disease and its potential impact on the nation’s soybean producing regions. The disease has been found in many southern states including Kentucky.

Hershman, whose office is located at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton, is responsible for statewide educational and applied research programs in soybean disease management. Participation in international, national, regional and state level projects and programs is part of this effort. 

He keeps Kentucky’s farmers abreast of the disease through a national rust Web site, a toll-free hotline and producer meetings. Among his responsibilities is the state’s soybean sentinel plot network, a series of plots checked throughout the year for signs of the disease, and overseeing laboratory work for any samples sent to UK. He is also coordinator of the Southern Sentinel Network.

Soybean rust was found on kudzu in Kentucky in 2005 and on soybeans in 16 counties this year. The disease arrived late enough to have no impact on the crop but the discoveries will provide valuable information to scientists who are working on predictive models for this disease.


Don Hershman, 270-365-7541, ext. 215