Recognizing Leadership in a Critical Time

By Peter Chaires

It is hard to believe that it has been eight years since Brian Scully returned to Florida as lab director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida. Scully was certainly no stranger to Florida or its citrus industry at the time of his return. However, he accepted the USDA position at a critical time in the fight against HLB. It was to become the preeminent challenge of his storied career.

Brian Scully
Brian Scully (left) leads a grove tour at the Whitmore Foundation Farm near Groveland.

HIGHLY ACCOMPLISHED CAREER

On June 3, Scully retired and concluded more than 50 years of service to Florida and American agriculture. We are deeply indebted to him for his unwavering commitment to the fight against HLB and the focus and determination that he injected into every committee, organization and individual he had the opportunity to engage. He had a way of lighting a fire under us all and holding people accountable for results in the context of their responsibilities — himself included.

Here are some highlights of his career:

  • He received a bachelor’s degree in soil science from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, a master’s degree in botany and plant sciences from University of California, Riverside and a Ph.D. in plant breeding and biometry from Cornell University. 
  • He joined the faculty of Texas A&M University in 1989 as an assistant professor of horticulture.
  • In 1991, he joined the Department of Horticultural Sciences at University of Florida and was posted at the Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, Florida. 
  • He served as a crop breeder assigned to celery, corn and turf until 2003 when he was reassigned to the center director position at the University of Florida Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. 
  • In 2007, he accepted a position with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service as the research leader for the Crop Protection and Management Research Unit in Tifton, Georgia, where he served as a corn breeder and cropping systems agronomist.
  • In 2014, he returned to Fort Pierce as the laboratory director for the USDA’s Horticultural Research Laboratory. 
  • Throughout his career, he has produced over 200 publications including book chapters, refereed papers, technical and Extension documents, along with four plant patents and one plant
    variety protection.
  • As a plant breeder, he has developed and released more than 40 breeding lines, inbreds, hybrids, genetic stocks or cultivars of celery, common bean, corn, lettuce, tomato and turf. 
  • Across his various research, teaching, Extension and administrative appointments, he has been awarded over $5 million dollars in extramural funding.

STRONG CITRUS SUPPORTER  

Scully understands the value of the Whitmore Foundation Farm. He has been active in farm management and has worked closely with the Florida Citrus Research Foundation to enhance the viability of the farm, and its contributions to the Florida citrus industry.

The farm has maintained valuable historic material but has greatly expanded new plantings and research directed toward the fight against HLB. Through Scully’s leadership, more farm renovations and project additions are in the works. He has fought to ensure that the farm has the materials, personnel and equipment needed to maximize its contributions to industry.

There are certainly rules and limitations that determine the manner in which retired USDA scientists can remain engaged with industry. But Scully has made it clear that he would like to remain in the fight in whatever manner is desirable and appropriate.

Thank you, Dr. Scully, for wholly immersing and investing yourself in the future of Florida citrus. You took on the challenges of the industry in a professional and personal way. You cracked the whip, but deeply cared about your staff and the families and businesses affected by the HLB crisis. This is a powerful combination that will leave a positive lasting impression on this industry. Enjoy your retirement back home on Amelia Island.