LEXINGTON, Ky., (Sept. 27, 2016) — A life spent in discovery was recognized recently when the Tobacco Science Research Conference presented University of Kentucky Professor Emeritus George Wagner with its Lifetime Achievement Award at its 70th annual conference in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
From his laboratory in the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center (KTRDC), Wagner has been a global leader in unlocking the mysteries of tobacco, making major contributions in the areas of cadmium accumulation, trichome gum studies and the discovery of anti-fungal peptides. The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment professor has focused on many research topics that have commercial potential, pushing for his discoveries to be tested in field trials, so that others could profit from his work.
Wagner spent years studying the pesticidal properties of trichomes, small outgrowths on the surface of tobacco leaves. In the process, he and then doctoral student Ryan Shepherd discovered that sGSTs, or short glandular secreting trichomes, produce a protein that appears to protect the plant against major fungal diseases, such as blue mold and a number of major diseases of turfgrasses. Believing the growing organic sector and the turfgrass industry could benefit from his tobacco research, Wagner began PhylloTech, a company based in Kentucky and Wisconsin, to develop new, natural fungicides derived from that substance.
Retirement has not slowed Wagner. He continues his research in a post-retirement capacity. He has a keen desire to keep his scientific inquiries moving forward in a way that will positively impact the tobacco industry.
“George continues to have an impact on our tobacco research community through his extensive knowledge and his willingness to provide advice and to mentor other tobacco scientists, including me and the many students, post-docs and tobacco researchers he has worked with over the years,” said Orlando Chambers, KTRDC managing director. “We are extremely fortunate to have someone as uniquely qualified and experienced as George is to help steer our tobacco research programs.”