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K-State Today

May 10, 2024

Valent named inaugural recipient of NCRA agInnovation Research Innovation Award of Excellence

Submitted by Mikey Hughes

Barbara Valent

Barbara Valent, university distinguished professor of plant pathology and Biosecurity Research Institute professor of crop infectious diseases, has been named the inaugural recipient of the North Central Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors agInnovation Research Innovation Award of Excellence.

The award recognizes researchers who achieve excellence throughout their careers through high impact research and scholarly productivity, as well as a demonstrated ability to lead effective collaborations and foster development of other scientists.

Valent is an internationally recognized expert in blast disease in rice and wheat. Rice blast is a highly destructive fungal disease attributed to the pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae and has been named the most potentially damaging disease affecting global production of the grain. When blast disease appeared in wheat, Valent refocused her research on understanding and controlling this emerging and serious threat to production systems in the U.S. and globally. Valent's research focuses on counteracting this fungus through effectors, the secreted proteins targeted by the pathogen that are used to infect the plant and cause disease.

"Dr. Valent has provided game changing research in our understanding of plant disease," said Jane Schuh, associate dean for research and graduate programs and director of research for K-State Research and Extension. "The global community is better able to prevent, prepare for and respond to potential blast disease outbreaks because of her pioneering work."

Her research has greatly impacted the field of plant pathology. Valent and her team were the first to clone and characterize a fungal avirulence effector gene and rice resistance gene pair and develop live cell imaging techniques to visualize fungal invasion. Valent has been accredited with changing how plant pathologists study pathogen and plant interactions and realigning previous ideas related to the development of blast pathogens.

Valent has been recognized locally and across the world as a leader in her field. She came to K-State in 2001 and was named a university distinguished professor in 2002. She has been the recipient of several research awards at K-State. In 2016, she was named as a Marty Vanier and Bob Krause Biosecurity Research Institute Research Fellow. In 2021, she received both the Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award and the Dr. Ron and Rae Iman Outstanding Faculty Award for Research. In 2022, she was selected for one of the two inaugural Biosecurity Research Institute Endowed Professorships. She was named a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. In 2020, Valent was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors in the scientific community.

The award is granted to regional competitors across five regions of the National Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, or agInnovation. Regional awardees receive a cash prize and a four-year membership to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They enter consideration for the national excellence award and will be recognized at the agInnovation annual meeting, held in the fall.

To learn more about NCRA, visit its website.

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