The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan for his work to improve conditions for farmers in the developing world.
Muniappan has been involved in economic entomology, biological control, and integrated pest management research for more than four decades.
The director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, Muniappan is currently leading an initiative to halt the rapid spread of a highly destructive moth that targets tomatoes and other crops.
The insect, popularly known as the tomato leafminer, is established in Panama and Costa Rica and moving northward. It has not yet arrived in the United States and Muniappan is doing his best, including recommending quarantine measures, to thwart the advance of the pest.
The leader of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab since 2006, Muniappan oversees 11 sub-programs that partner with 16 American universities and 51 partnering organizations overseas.
He has spearheaded the development of integrated pest management “packages” — sets of techniques that can be used to protect a specific crop.
In addition, he has emphasized regionalization, creating incentives for programs to work together across national boundaries. For example, he has designed ways to promote South-South collaboration, bringing scientists from South Asia and Central America to a conference on invasive species in Senegal; and he has kept the smallholder farmer — both men and women — at the center of the integrated pest management equation.
Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, Muniappan spent 36 years in Guam, serving as entomologist, professor of entomology, and associate dean of the College of Agriculture at the University of Guam. He also was the chief of Plant Industry for the Guam Department of Agriculture.
Beyond Guam, he has served as a Fulbright Research Scholar in India, a Food and Agriculture Organization consultant in the Maldives, Palau, and Vanuatu; an Inter-American Development Bank visiting professor at the University of Guyana, and a consultant for the American Samoa Community College Land Grant Program.
Muniappan received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Madras in India, and a doctoral degree in entomology from Oklahoma State University.