Spudman 7: Charlie Rush
Charlie Rush has been a plant pathologist since graduating from Texas A&M University in the early 80s. In 1986, he initiated the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathology program in Amarillo/Bushland to research economically damaging crop diseases in the Texas Panhandle. The lab has achieved international recognition for its research on diseases caused by plant pathogens with arthropod vectors such as its investigation of the epidemiology of zebra chip in potato.
Rush has held many leadership positions and honors over the years including serving as the director of the Zebra Chip Specialty Crops Research Initiative and the statewide coordinator of the Texas Precision Agriculture program. He’s also received the Dow AgroSciences Integrated Pest Management Team Award from the Entomological Society of America, the Zebra Chip Leadership Team Award as part of the Texas A&M University System Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence and is a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society.
1 What are the best words of advice you’ve received?
My dad was a quiet man of few words but right before I got married he told me, “Always make sure she’s comfortable.” At the time, it didn’t make much sense to me but now after being married 41 years, it clearly has been the best advice I ever got, on so many levels.
2 What are your goals for the next 12 months?
- Secure enough funding to keep my program going another year.
- Continue to provide useful data and information to farmers to help them deal with production problems.
- Continue to mentor students and post docs in my program.
- Be the best first-time grandpa ever.
- Spend a little more time in the mountains.
- Perfect my hot sauce recipe.
3 What do you do to relax?
I cook, garden, go to the mountains and go on daily walks. Sitting on the back porch in the summertime with a cold beer watching the sun go down also is a pretty good way to relax.
4 What would you like to be your lasting legacy?
Work: When a new disease problem appeared, I have always tried to help by conducting focused research on disease management and bringing together teams of scientists to work on different aspects of the problem. I take a lot of pride in the students and post-docs that have gone through my program. Personal: Being a good husband and dad; someone who loved to plant – seeds, ideas, dreams and watch the resulting growth.
5 What are top things on your life list/must-do list?
I’d really like to spend a month in New England during the fall when the leaves change colors and a couple of months living on the coast in the Pacific Northwest, northwestern Washington or the Oregon coast. Maybe the same thing in some foreign countries, living in a place for a few months, just long enough to get to know an area and culture.
6 What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the potato industry?
I am a plant pathologist and over the years, I’ve worked on a number of new and emerging diseases in a number of crops, including wheat, sugar beet, cotton and sorghum. I’ve only been involved with the potato industry for about 12 years, so I’m kind of a newbie with this commodity. When I was young, I worked my way through college with jobs in the oilfield in West Texas and for a while there I even had my own roofing company. I made good money doing those jobs, but biology and science won out in the end.
7 What is the one truth you have learned about the potato industry?
Every potato farmer I’ve ever met has been a good steward of the land and environment.