Dr. Ash Sial joined the UGA department of entomology in 2013 to help improve integrated pest management practices being used by Georgia’s blueberry farmers. Integrated pest management involves modified growing practices and targeted use of pesticides to control crop pests when necessary.
Before coming to Georgia, Sial had extensive training in agricultural entomology from various institutions. Sial earned his Ph.D. in Entomology from Washington State University where he worked with apple growers to develop sustainable IPM programs for major pests of tree fruits. After graduation, he accepted a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist position at University of California, Berkeley and worked with winegrape growers to develop sustainable IPM programs aimed at managing exotic and emerging arthropod pests such as vine mealybug, and the diseases transmitted by mealybugs such as grapevine leafroll disease. He then joined Cornell University to investigate various aspects of biology and ecology of an invasive insect pest – spotted wing drosophila (SWD), which has recently emerged as a devastating insect pest of small- and stone-fruits in the United States.
Currently, he serves as the blueberry entomologist and IPM Coordinator for Georgia, and primarily focuses on developing sustainable management strategies for SWD and other pests of blueberries in oder to better support all stakeholders, including Extension agents and commercial blueberry producers. His research program has successfully secured over $7.0 million in competitive grants through federal and state agencies as well as private industry. More specifically, he led a multistate consortium of researchers from 10 major land-grant Universities and won $2.0 milion from USDA NIFA through the Oroganic Research and Eduction Initiative to develop sustainable organic strategies to control SWD. This successful collaboration resulted in a second $2.0 million award from OREI to continue to develop more long-term strategies to control this devastating invasive pest in organic systems. “I am glad to have the opportunity to lead this collaborative effort to help organic farmers develop effective management strategies to control this devastating pest in a more sustainable manner.” He is also part of two other multi-regional groups funded by the USDA NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative to develop sustainable strategies to control SWD and another invasive pest – the brown marmorated stink bug.
He has published numerous peer-reviewed papers, delivered research and Extension presentations including invited guest lectures and keynote addresses. He has also served in professional societies, including Entomological Society of America (ESA), in a leadership role at the regional and national levels. He has been recognized for excellence in research productivity and professional leadership at the regional and national level with several prestigious awards including the John Henry Comstock Award, the Excellence in Early Career Award and the Future Leader in IPM award.