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Lifetime achievement in international horticulture


October 8, 2019
By Illinois ACES
John Bowman working with Nepali women’s cooperatives to reduce pesticide use in their vegetable plots Pokhara, Nepal

John Bowman (Ph.D. Plant Pathology ’84) recently received the “Outstanding International Horticulturalist” award from the American Society of Horticultural Science. This award recognized Bowman’s lifetime of achievement in international horticulture. He currently serves as a program area leader in the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Agricultural Research and Policy.

Bowman has worked all over the world on the potato crop, linking small farmer production to utilization by large, multinational companies. He has also worked extensively on bean production in Costa Rica, fruit and vegetable production in the Brazilian Amazon, tomato production in the Philippines, palmito and citrus production in Bolivia, high-value export fruit production in Vietnam, and indigenous vegetable production in Tanzania and Kenya.

He has lived for extended periods of time in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, Turkey, Philippines, and China and has flown over 5 million miles for agricultural assignments in over 40 countries.

Bowman recollects, “I chose Illinois for the strength of its international agricultural programming in general, and in particular for the strength of its role in the USAID-supported International Soybean Program (INTSOY), which was helping small soy farmers in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

“I am so indebted to former ACES professors Jim Sinclair, Harold Kauffman, and Richard Ford for helping me launch my pursuit of an international career in agriculture. Dr. Sinclair’s role as my major professor was critical – he secured an INTSOY-funded travel grant for me to conduct a year of my doctoral research in Brazil, and this was the seminal experience of my academic career, which convinced me I wanted to work internationally for the rest of my life. Being part of his research team in the Department of Plant Pathology was a humbling experience, which set me up for many successes that were to come in my international career,” he noted.

Bowman is also a champion of horticulture and youth engagement in USAID programming and is dedicated to the pursuit of linking young scientists from U.S. universities to career opportunities in developing countries. In 2018, Dr. Bowman also received the “International Service Award” from the American Phytopathological Society.