COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Muthukumar “Muthu” Bagavathiannan, Ph.D., has earned something few weed science and agronomy researchers have before — the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers.
Bagavathiannan is the Billie Turner Professor of Production Agronomy in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and a Texas A&M AgriLife Research weed and agronomy scientist.
The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany established the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to promote international academic cooperation between scientists and scholars from Germany and abroad. Scientists are selected for their “originality and innovation potential.”
Bagavathiannan was selected to receive this fellowship based on his research on ecological and precision weed control methods.
“I am honored to be a recipient of this very prestigious fellowship, which is open to all scientific disciplines but rarely awarded to agricultural scientists, especially in weed science and systems agronomy,” Bagavathiannan said.
Humboldt Research Fellowship ‘well deserved’
With research interests in the broad area of weed science and cropping systems agronomy, Bagavathiannan’s particular emphasis is on the ecology and precision integrated management of weeds. Given the threat of herbicide-resistant weeds spreading globally, his research program aims to understand the evolutionary biology of herbicide resistance in weed communities and develop sustainable management solutions.
“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,” said David Baltensperger, Ph.D., head of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. “This is a well-deserved recognition.”
G. Cliff Lamb, Ph.D., director of AgriLife Research, agreed that Bagavathiannan’s career contributions merit the prestigious fellowship.
“It is an outstanding recognition of our world-class faculty, who continue to produce leading-edge discoveries and innovations for strong economies, thriving natural resources and healthy living,” Lamb said.
Fellowship research opportunities
The Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers enables highly qualified and accomplished scholars, who completed their doctorates less than 12 years ago, to spend extended periods of research and professional engagement in Germany and other European countries.
Bagavathiannan will participate in this fellowship with multiple short visits over three years to participate in collaborative research with a host institute directed toward economically and environmentally sustainable weed control methods.
Weeds pose a significant problem to food and fiber systems by decreasing the quality and quantity of crop yields around the world. According to the Weed Science Society of America, the potential loss in value for corn and soybean crops if not properly treated for weeds is $43 billion annually. Without weed control, estimates show that weeds could lower corn yields by 52% and soybeans by 49.5%.
“I will be hosted by Dr. Christoph von Redwitz of the Julius Kühn-Institute, the German Federal Research Center for Cultivated Plants near Braunschweig, Germany,” Bagavathiannan said. “An important goal of my research visits is to establish collaborations in the general area of weed ecological applications of computer vision and machine learning; modeling weed/crop interactions and weed population dynamics in response to precision management will be an important focus.”
Building and growing his research program
Bagavathiannan joined the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences as a tenure-track faculty member in 2014 with an AgriLife Research appointment. He has since established a rigorous research group that continues to gain national and international recognition in weed and systems agronomy research.
He dedicates his current research to developing digital technologies for accelerating weed ecology research and advancing precision-integrated management. He specializes in interdisciplinary research, collaborating broadly with biologists, engineers and social scientists at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Bagavathiannan leads or participates in several multistate research projects on ecological weed management and systems agronomy, funded through competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation.
He actively engages with crop commodity boards such as Cotton Incorporated, Texas Cotton Support Committee, United Sorghum Check-off, Texas Rice Research Foundation, Texas Corn Producers Board, and Texas Wheat Producers Association, and the agribusiness industry to secure additional research funding to advance precision and sustainable agriculture research and development.
Because of his broad expertise and recognition, Bagavathiannan is routinely invited to review grant applications for national and international funding bodies and research articles for leading international journals. He has also served as an overseas examiner for doctorate dissertations, as well as delivered keynote talks and special lectures and chaired conference sessions.
Recognitions and awards
Bagavathiannan earned agriculture and agronomy bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India. Additionally, he earned a master’s in plant genetic manipulation from the University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington, England, and a doctorate in weed ecology from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. He was a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, before joining Texas A&M.
Since coming to Texas A&M, Bagavathiannan has earned the 2018 Dean’s Outstanding Early Career Research Award, the 2019 Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Early Career Research Award, and Superior Grantsmanship Award from AgriLife Research in 2020. He was selected as the Research Scientist of the Year by AgriLife Research in 2021, and in the same year, was recognized by Texas A&M University as a Chancellor’s Enhancing Development and Generating Excellence in Scholarship, EDGES, Fellow.
He has also been recognized with the 2021 Southern Weed Science Society Outstanding Young Scientist Award and the 2020 Weed Science Society of America Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award.
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications