Tennessean Receives Southern Weed Science Society Award

Dr.Neil Rhodes, UTIA Weed Scientist. Photo: T. Salvador, University of Tennessee

The Southern Weed Science Society (SWSS) named Neil Rhodes, a professor with the University of Tennessee Department of Plant Sciences, recipient of its Fellow Award at the society’s recent annual meeting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The Fellow Award is the most prestigious SWSS honor. Recipients must have been members for more than 20 years, have made significant and regular contributions of service to SWSS, and been integral to the success of their university.

Last year, Rhodes was presented the Excellence in Regulatory Stewardship Award for tirelessly working to improve the use of herbicides in the South.

Rhodes expounds on his most recent distinction, “The society has always been my professional home. I have met countless friends there since I joined as a graduate student in 1979. I am very humbled and proud.”

Rhodes explained how SWSS fosters relationships. “The reason I am so pleased to be a member is the work being done developing graduate students. In my early days, the society served as a major source of my professional development.”

Rhodes was working on a master’s degree at UT when he first joined SWSS, and after leaving the agricultural chemical industry in 1985, served as a Department of Plant Sciences faculty member. From 2001 to 2008, Rhodes earned the title of Department Head, a position his father also held. His father’s work and family homeplace actually inspired Rhodes to become an Extension Weed Specialist.

“My father grew up on a farm in West Tennessee. I would visit each summer as a child, and from then I knew I wanted to work with plants,” Rhodes recalled.

“I knew I wanted to help farmers. There is nothing better than the instant gratification of conducting a growers’ meeting and hearing someone say they learned something they might implement. I enjoy assisting others increasing the profitability and sustainability of their operations.”

Along with being a leading expert, many find Rhodes an affable colleague. Scott Senseman, current head, UT Plant Sciences, relates, “Dr. Rhodes is very deserving of his award. I am proud to work with him and see the positive impacts he is making in the field of weed science.”

Rhodes is still serving with gusto. “I have had fun and I am still having fun. Helping people — that is the reward in extension. I am still tremendously enjoying my job.”

In his acceptance speech, Rhodes communicated his passion to those coming up in the profession. “Weed science is a very exciting career. My generation has solved many problems, but we need new talent to help us now. I told the up-and-comers to enjoy developing their resume in the field, but not to miss enjoying life along the way.”

You can more information about Rhodes’ work in Herbicide Stewardship at the UT Institute of Agriculture Herbicide Stewardship website​.

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