Thank You, Dr. Brandenburg

Your contributions to the industry and especially the peanut growers of North Carolina are sincerely appreciated.

⋅ BY DAVID JORDAN ⋅
North Carolina State University Extension Agronomist

Editor’s Note: North Carolina State University Extension entomologist Rick Brandenburg is retiring in 2024 after many years of dedicated service to producers. The following is a tribute to his work and friendship over the years.

Dr. Rick Brandenburg, Extension Specialist (Peanuts & Turf) & Department Extension Leader Entomology & Plant Pathology, examines and walks through rows of peanuts at the Upper Coastal Plain research station outside of Rocky Mount. Photo by Marc Hall

I’ve known and worked with Rick Brandenburg since 1996 when I first joined the faculty at North Carolina State University. Our history goes back even further. During the drought of 1980, in northeastern North Carolina, while I was trying my best to block curve balls on a hard and dry infield during American Legion baseball games in Edenton, Rick was about 10 miles north in the Rocky Hock area leaning over in peanut fields studying the two-spotted spider mite as a doctoral student. I think one day, the center of origin of this pest, known as “them red spiders” by the locals, will be traced to a sand hill in that area.

Years later, Rick and I would begin a long journey together addressing pest management issues in peanuts. Rick has made many contributions to the peanut industry. His focus has been spider mites, thrips, southern corn rootworm, caterpillars and worms later in the season. Along with the now-retired Virginia Tech entomologist Ames Herbert, Rick developed the southern corn rootworm index and was the driving force behind the tomato spotted wilt index we use today. Rick has worked hard to help Cooperative Extension continue its original mission through changing times with a focus on the end user – the peanut grower.

Rick Brandenburg is who I would call an investor, and his investments go deep. They touch many, and they transverse time and geography. He knows that the future rests on how one generation invests in the next one.

Rick and I spent a lot of time in peanut fields and at training programs in North Carolina. But as time went by and the green industry in North Carolina grew, it seemed as though our conversations were mostly on dusty roads in West Africa on the way to and from peanut fields. Rick understood that you can help the people in North Carolina and in other parts of the world, too. It’s not an either-or proposition. Here are quotes from five people, among the many, who Rick has touched with his time, wisdom and generosity demonstrating this fact.

 

Mark Abney

University of Georgia Extension Entomologist

I have nothing but positive things to say about Rick Brandenburg. I always found him to be a voice of reason and practicality in the entomology department at NCSU. He never spoke just to hear himself talk or to show how smart he is. When Rick said something, it mattered, and he wasn’t scared.

I am not sure when I learned that Rick had been George Kennedy’s student, but I remember when I was a post doc with George, also a distinguished former NCSU entomologist, he told me that Rick was one of the most capable students he had ever had. This is high praise coming from George Kennedy.

As a new peanut entomologist, I called on Rick several times for advice, and he was always willing to share his experiences. Rick is an excellent entomologist and a great man.

Brian Royals

North Carolina State University Technician

It has always been an adventure to work with Rick. There was never a dull moment on our road trips to our peanut fields. Early in our drive, Rick would undoubtedly inquire, “Are we there yet?” And “Just up the hill and around the corner” would be my standard response. I could buy myself at least an hour with this response.

He frequently had other questions on our research excursions besides that one. “Can we stop at the next convenience store so I can get a Diet Coke and peanut M&Ms?” would soon be asked as well. When I see these two snacks, I can’t help thinking of him and how much fun we have had together.

These are only a couple of the thousands of memories I have of my road trip adventures with Rick.

Barbara Shew

North Carolina State University Plant Pathologist (retired)

I’ve always been impressed (and a bit envious) of Rick’s ability to communicate with all kinds of people. He has a knack for making the listener feel as if they were engaged in a conversation rather than being talked at.

During Rick’s time as Extension leader in our department, he likewise got his points across while also being a good listener. Rick was patient and tactful during heated discussions and was able to steer them in a positive direction.

Finally, Rick’s sincere dedication to international work is evident. Rick has made a real difference in the world, and his efforts will be missed.

Wezi Mhango

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Bunda College, Lilongwe, Malawi, Associate Professor of Agronomy

I have worked with Dr. Rick Brandenburg on the Peanut Innovation Lab project in Malawi since 2015. Dr. Brandenburg is such a great person to work with, a good mentor and an enabler. Over the years, I have learned so many things from his vast knowledge and experience in peanut research. Through interactions with Dr. Brandenburg, I have also learned skills on how to build partnerships with other institutions.

Lastly, through his support for graduate student training and mentorship, Dr. Brandenburg has contributed capacity building of scientists in the agricultural sector. Dr. Brandenburg’s commitment to research, enabling others and mentorship will always be remembered.

Mike Owusu-Akyaw

Council for Science and Industrial Research, Crops Research Institute, Kumasi, Ghana, Entomologist (retired)

The initial budget from the Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program, or Peanut CRSP, Project more than 20 years ago was $5,000 for two research institutes. While Rick cautioned me to stay focused with the limited funds, over time the project grew and covered all of the essential disciplines associated with peanut. Persistence in building and maintaining relationships overcame funding limitations and strengthened our capacity to address the needs of the peanut growers throughout Ghana.

Rick was central to the life of the project. Our work together covered trips to peanut fields, vehicle repairs in rural villages late at night and a featured spot on a Ghana Broadcasting Corp. TV show that included much-needed makeup. Anytime we experienced tense situations in the field, Rick would seize the moment with a well-timed joke to calm us down. He was a great motivator for all of us on the team. My performance as Crops Research Institute coordinator and success professionally was influenced in major, positive ways by Rick. I congratulate Rick for being able to retire peacefully and wish him very well now and forever. PG

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