Dr. Richard Martin – 2017 Honorary Life Award Recipient

Richard Martin was born in Winnipeg but grew up in Ottawa, where he received a science degree from Carleton University in 1973. He then attended the University of Guelph, receiving a BSc in agriculture and an MSc and Ph.D. in plant pathology, researching the bioactivity and systemic translocation of a new fungicide.

Immediately following graduation, he started work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the Charlottetown Research Centre in P.E.I. as a research scientist on cereal diseases, with emphasis on barley pathogens. He continued to work at the centre for 35 years before retiring in 2015, working part-time for a further year to keep his programs running while replacements were being hired.

While initial studies were on barley, during his career Richard added pathology programs in wheat, oats, soybeans and other field crops. He has collaborated closely with AAFC cereal breeders on development and release of many new cultivars for Eastern Canada, with improved production, quality and disease resistance.

On the passing of an important wheat breeder in Charlottetown, he took over the program and has released a number of milling quality wheat varieties with increased resistance to fusarium head blight (FHB). FHB has been the key pathogen of interest to Richard, and he’s addressed various aspects of the disease including the impact of management on the disease, potential fungicidal control strategies, and resistance.

Greatest emphasis was placed on FHB resistance, and in addition to breeding resistant cultivars, he ran one of several disease nurseries in Canada where germplasm was assessed for FHB resistance. Early generation through to advanced lines from eastern and western breeding programs was screened in P.E.I. for both visual symptoms and mycotoxin (DON) resistance.

While most of his efforts have been directed towards cereal crops, he has also studied other field crops such as canola and corn and was co-proponent on a new red clover variety selected for improved root rot resistance.

Research with direct benefits to agriculture was his primary objective, but he also took an active role in management, which included serving as program leader for the feed crops program at the centre, budget and personnel management, input on program direction at local, regional and national levels, and mentorship of new scientists.

He was active on many regional and national committees, including the Atlantic Cereal Registration Committee and the Prairie Grain Development Committee. He served as president (2003-2004) of the Canadian Phytopathological Society.

On a more personal level, Richard has been active in the Rotary Club of Charlottetown (president in 2000), is an elder in his church, enjoys carpentry and is a very avid sailor. He credits his success to his wife Joy, for her long and ongoing support and encouragement. While now retired from AAFC, Richard continues to provide support to agriculture in other ways, including as science adviser to the Atlantic Grains Council, a producer-driven organization.