Ontario potato specialist honoured for 25 years of service
Niagara Falls, ON -- Eugenia Banks is happiest in the field with potato growers. But she made a big exception to attend the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association annual general meeting on January 12. That’s where she was honoured for her 25 years of provincial government service to the potato industry. True to form, she flew out the next day, not wanting to miss Potato Expo 2016 in Las Vegas.
Banks came to Canada from Chile in the 1970s to pursue advanced education in plant pathology. She studied under the late Lloyd Edgington at the University of Guelph and was awarded her PhD in Plant Pathology. Fortunately, she stayed and Ontario potato growers were the beneficiaries of her talent. She was hired by the Ontario ministry of agriculture as an IPM specialist for potatoes in the ‘80s and then she accepted the combined position as overall potato production and IPM specialist when Sam Squire retired in 1995.
She has been a tireless advocate for the potato industry, working in the trenches – literally – to combat Colorado potato beetle. As Craig Hunter, OFVGA research, explained in his award address, “She worked with industry representatives to secure the registration of Admire insecticide when we were down to flamethrowers and plastic-lined ditches as all the pest control products of the day had failed.”
“Where would growers have been without that tool -- one still widely and effectively in use today?” Hunter asked rhetorically.
Her annual field trials helped growers to see new varieties that were correctly identified as having resistance, not tolerance to common scab, and new equipment that has allowed growers to achieve better yields and higher quality.
In 2008, the U.N.-declared International Year of the Potato, Eugenia Banks was the ideal spokesperson. The Toronto Star’s food editor pursued her to a storage shed near Alliston Ontario to see her array of test varieties. This treasure trove of potatoes were so new that they had numbers, not names.
Her new potato varieties have been showcased to growers at an annual August field day.
She also coordinates the annual Ontario Potato Conference, packed with nine presentations from North American experts. Her ability to convene international experts speaks to her reputation well beyond provincial borders. In 2013, HZPC, one of the largest seed and potato breeding companies in Europe, awarded Potato Woman of the Year to her at a Netherlands event. She was cited for her Potato Field Guide and technology transfer through variety trials.
It’s important to note that Eugenia Banks is not in retirement. In fact, the Ontario Potato Board has hired her to organize the 2016 Ontario Potato Conference for March 1 in Guelph.
Since 1947, the OFVGA has annually recognized industry leaders and those who have made significant contributions to the industry. Congratulations to Dr. Eugenia Banks, 2016 Award of Merit winner.
Photo 1: Eugenia Banks is pictured at a spray clinic near Alliston, ON.
KEYWORDS: OFVGA Award of Merit, Dr. Eugenia Banks