Wendell Hutchens, Ph.D., assistant professor in University of Arkansas’ Department of Horticulture, has been named winner of the 2023 Award of Excellence by the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation.
The award is given to outstanding Ph.D. candidates who, in the final phase of their graduate studies, demonstrated overall excellence throughout their doctoral program in turfgrass research.
“It is an unbelievable honor to receive the Musser Award of Excellence,” Hutchens said. “I could not have accomplished such a feat without my foundational Christian faith; unwavering support from my wife, Anica; my family and friends; and the exceptional leadership of my mentors.”
Hutchens is in his first year as a faculty member in U of A’s Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, where he primarily focuses on turfgrass pathology. Turfgrass diseases cause massive damage and losses to sod farms, golf courses, athletic fields, parks and home lawns, both in Arkansas and globally. His research centers around how to maintain healthy turfgrass and combat turfgrass diseases with traditional cultural and chemical practices, as well as with cutting-edge new technology such as drones and GPS-guided sprayers.
He received his B.S. degree in turfgrass science from North Carolina State University and went on to complete his M.S. in turfgrass pathology from NCSU. His research there focused on the influence of post-application irrigation and soil surfactant applications on fungicide movement and efficacy against root diseases. He earned his Ph.D. in turfgrass pathology at Virginia Tech where his dissertation focused on biology, epidemiology and management of spring dead spots of bermudagrass.
Hutchens has already published seven research papers for his M.S. and Ph.D. projects and has seven more awaiting publication on topics related to turfgrass pathology, turfgrass physiology and native grass implementation in the transition zone of the United States. He has already given more than 50 presentations on his research nationally and internationally.
“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a faculty member at the University of Arkansas, and I hope to expand the research, extension and teaching programs during my tenure,” he said. “My mentors — including Drs. David McCall, Jim Kerns, Travis Gannon, Mike Goatley, David Shew, Mizuho Nita and Mike Richardson — have been incredible to work with and learn from. Their mentorship has taught me to be a better scientist, professional and, most importantly, person.”
He hopes to focus his career on providing applied, cutting-edge research results in turfgrass pathology, precision turfgrass management and turfgrass agronomy, as well as training the next generation of turfgrass scientists.
“There are many outstanding students in the University of Arkansas turfgrass science program, and I hope to help them reach their greatest potential,” Hutchens said. “Training tomorrow’s generation to be the best they can be is my ultimate career goal.”
The criteria for selecting award recipients include graduate work, academic record, dissertation, publications, leadership and extracurricular activities. The Musser International Turfgrass Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering turfgrass as a learned profession, to enhancing the lives of people all over the world through turfgrass and to supporting education and research in turfgrass development and management.