David Boethel leaves a legacy

Linda Benedict  |  2/24/2011 11:16:06 PM

His colleagues surprised him at his retirement party on Dec. 3, 2010,with an enlarged check for the amount they had raised to establish the David Boethel Student Scholarship fund. The check says $36,675,but by the time of the party, the group had received more than $40,000 from donors. Left to right, Kenneth Koonce, dean of the LSU College of Agriculture; Boethel; B. Rogers Leonard, entomology professor; Tim Schowalter, head of the Department of Entomology;and Mike Salassi, agricultural economist. (Photo by Linda Foster Benedict)

David Boethel’s last day of work at the LSU AgCenter was Jan. 7, 2011. He retired as the Vice Chancellor for Research and Director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, a post he held for the last six years of his 36-year career with the AgCenter.
Boethel came to Louisiana right after earning his Ph.D. in entomology from Oklahoma State University in 1974. He took on the responsibilities of the pecan insect integrated pest management research at the Pecan Research and Extension Station in Shreveport.

“He was an outstanding scientist – and he still is. His first love is research. His research contributed to saving thousands of dollars for pecan growers in Louisiana and across the South,” said Jere McBride, who was director of the Pecan Station at the time and felt lucky to land this talented new Ph.D.

In 1980, Dr. Boethel transferred to the Department of Entomology at LSU in Baton Rouge, where for 17 years he conducted research on soybean integrated pest management and taught biological control of insect pests. In 1997, he was promoted to assistant director in the experiment station and then associate vice chancellor and associate director in 2001. He was selected vice chancellor and director in 2004.

In 2009, a 10-university group that collaborated on integrated pest management (IPM) in soybeans, led by Boethel, was awarded the National Excellence in Multistate Research Award from the Association of Public and Land- Grant Universities. The IPM movement seeks to reduce the use of pesticides in crop production.

“This group of scientists, working under the direction of Dr. Boethel, potentially restored the profitability of soybean production in the United States, saving producers an estimated $1.3 billion,” said David Wright, director of research for the North Central Soybean Research Program, based in Ankeny, Iowa.

As an experiment station administrator, Boethel promoted projects in management and control of mosquitoes, fire ants and termites. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the Louisiana Biofuels and Bioprocessing Institute at the LSU AgCenter.

Boethel has been the wind beneath the wings of the LSU AgCenter’s intellectual property office. The AgCenter is the most successful of all the LSU System entities at producing patents, licensing agreements and start-up companies. A consultant called the AgCenter the “crown jewel” of the LSU System intellectual property effort. The return of royalty income based on direct research expenditure, nearly 5 percent, is among the highest in the country.
Boethel was the perfect leader of the AgCenter’s research effort in these past few years. He put into place policies and procedures that propel scientific discovery well into the next few decades – despite the budget cuts to higher education that a handful of Louisiana’s short-sighted politicians appear prepared to do. We wish him the best in his retirement.

(This articles was published in the winter  2011 of the Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.) 

Linda Foster Benedict

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