Bhabesh Dutta, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension vegetable plant pathologist, has been named to the first class of Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Award winners.Great American Media Services, publishers of Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News, give the awards to outstanding young professionals in the nation’s fruit and vegetable industry who demonstrate excellent commitments to making their marks through innovation and leadership. Dutta will be honored at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO on Dec. 4 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.“This recognition means a lot to me, moreso to my vegetable Extension and research program. I consider this achievement a collective effort of my team of field and lab personnel, county Extension agents, industry cooperators, and my collaborators from UGA and other institutions,” said Dutta, who also serves as an assistant professor of plant pathology in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.In just a short time working on the UGA Tifton campus, Dutta has been part of several research projects that have impacted Georgia vegetable producers. By demonstrating that growth-stage-based, targeted, protective copper applications can reduce the number of sprays in a season, Dutta and county Extension agents who focus on the onion industry helped Georgia onion farmers improve their management of center rot in onions. They recommended management practices with the potential to save growers $350 per acre.Dutta has also been instrumental in providing watermelon growers with management options for Fusarium wilt disease. The collaborative team of county Extension agents and UGA scientists, including Dutta, investigated strategies that involved methyl bromide alternatives and fungicides. They found that preplant applications of chloropicrin and three bimonthly applications of prothioconazole could significantly reduce cases of Fusarium wilt.“Through the new strategy developed in this project, sustainable watermelon production will be established, which our growers will readily accept,” Dutta said.Dutta, along with Cliff Riner, UGA Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center coordinator, led a research project to improve management of botrytis leaf blight in onions through early- and late-season fungicide spraying. In a multiyear study, the team demonstrated that early-season Fontelis applications improve the effectiveness of late-season fungicide treatments. This current recommendation has the potential to increase growers’ profits by as much as $1,000 per acre.“Based on a recent survey with the county agents, the adoption rate of this recommendation in 2018 is 40 percent. In upcoming years, it is expected to be widely adopted by our onion growers,” Dutta said.A native of Kolkata, India, Dutta earned his bachelor’s degree from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. He earned his doctoral degree in 2011 from UGA, where he studied under UGA plant pathologist Ron Walcott. Dutta joined UGA researchers Ron Gitaitis and David Langston’s vegetable pathology program in 2012, where he researched bacterial diseases of vegetable crops.