A renowned researcher on plant growth regulators who developed numerous tools and resources for the industry is the 2016 recipient of the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Alex Laurie Award. The honor was presented to Brian E. Whipker, Ph.D., on Sept. 24 during SAF Maui 2016, the association’s 132nd Annual Convention in Maui, Hawaii.
Established in 1948, SAF’s Alex Laurie Award is named for the eminent professor at The Ohio State University. Over the course of his 60-year career, Laurie laid the groundwork for research that revolutionized the floriculture industry and left a lineage of students, teachers and researchers continuing to provide the information necessary to ensure the industry’s future.
About Brian E. Whipker, Ph.D.
Known as both an exceptional researcher and a powerful educator with a strong passion for service, Dr. Brian Whipker is an internationally acclaimed expert in the fields of plant growth regulators and plant nutrition.
Dr. Whipker, a professor of floriculture at North Carolina State University, has a long history of researching and understanding plant responses to the environment including diagnosing and solving plant disorders. He has worked on specific disorders; such as distorted plug growth of pansies, gerberas and petunias, and in doing so has become the preeminent academic resource on the use of plant growth regulators. He has also developed nutritional diagnostic tools across species, and applied his research to create grower guides that help identify many different deficiency symptoms. These guides are designed for ease of use by greenhouse personnel and staff to allow for more rapid identification of plant problems.
From the late 90’s through today, Dr. Whipker’s research on plant growth regulators has helped the average greenhouse grower make better educated production decisions. Most research prior to his came from cooler climates and had little relevancy in 100-plus degree greenhouse temperatures in mid-May. Today, any grower especially in the southern half of the U.S. is likely using Dr. Whipker’s research on growth regulators.
One of his signature achievements was to apply the PourThru method to floriculture crops. He developed simple, repeatable protocols and hands-on training to assist growers and other educators identify and address nutrition and pH problems that previously required burdensome and expensive lab testing. The method is now the most popular one growers use.
But helping growers with production and nutrition problems is just half the battle, growers also need to be successful in sales and profits. Dr. Whipker has always emphasized economics and profits in his research, teaching and extension work. This has set him apart from many other extension educators. He is recognized by his peers, students and growers alike for delivering what is most important, practical and relevant information for commercial growers.
This focus on the grower comes from his roots as a farmer in southern Indiana where he both learned and honed his lessons in discipline, study, analysis and communication. Those lessons manifest themselves in his tireless work as a teacher and mentor of floriculture students and faculty. He invests considerable amounts of time helping the next generation of growers, extension agents, faculty members and students, providing meaningful guidance and advice and enhancing their personal and professional skills.
Dr. Whipker, who earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree from Purdue University, should also be recognized for his enthusiastic embrace of technology designed to share information. He has developed software to help growers diagnose nutritional deficiencies and calculate fertilizers, alkalinity and concentrations of plant growth regulators. He is the co-founder of e-Gro electronic grower resources, a collaborative effort of several floral academics to share information with growers through weekly alerts, webinars and research reports. He published several i-Books with valuable diagnostic advice and has produced many podcasts and videos online as well.
While conducting research, teaching and doing extension work, Dr. Whipker has authored 93 academic papers and written 22 books. In addition, he and his students have written 84 abstracts, 41 bulletins, 35 manuals, 34 book chapters and most impressively 324 trade or popular press articles. He has averaged 27 publications of various types per year during his career, an exceptional number that far outpaces the output of his peers.