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2016 ASHS Outstanding Extension Educator

Gary Knox received the 2016 Outstanding Extension Educator Award at the recent meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science, the world’s premier professional society for horticultural science. This award recognizes an educator who has made an outstanding and valuable contribution to horticultural science extension education.

Dr. Knox’s extension accomplishments include co-founder, program leader and program liaison for the extension environmental education program, “Florida Yards & Neighborhoods”, now called Florida Friendly™ Landscaping. In leading this statewide extension program, his team was among the first to use social marketing strategies to develop outreach materials, and to develop program evaluation instruments simultaneously with outreach materials. During his leadership, this hugely successful extension program received almost $3 million in grants and now markets water conservation and environmentally sound landscape practices in more than 46 Florida counties. In another example of innovative extension activities, Dr. Knox and colleagues from the University of Georgia developed the annual “Georgia-Florida Green Industry Update” for nursery and landscape audiences. This effort was one of the first multi-state collaborative extension efforts for the nursery and landscape industries nationwide.

Nationally and internationally, Dr. Knox is recognized as an authority on Lagerstroemia spp. (crapemyrtle) and especially Magnolia spp. He is president of Magnolia Society International and leads several efforts to promote conservation, nursery production and landscape use of magnolias. This expertise in plants and nursery production has led to 24 invited lectures in countries as varied as China, Cuba, Ecuador, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Knox’s current research and extension programs focus on two areas, plant evaluation and plant-pest-disease-environment interactions. Goals of his plant evaluation program are to identify, evaluate and distribute landscape plants to benefit the Green Industry, minimize impacts from pests/diseases and invasive plants, conserve native species and improve plant diversity for the Green Industry and Florida gardeners. To display and promote plants, Dr. Knox is working with the nonprofit volunteer group, Gardening Friends of the Big Bend, Inc., to develop Gardens of the Big Bend as a series of botanical and teaching gardens.     

Dr. Knox explores plant-pest-disease-environment interactions in collaboration with plant pathologists, entomologists, horticulturists and stakeholders from Florida and throughout the Southeast. Resulting research and Extension resources pertain to nursery sustainability, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and diseases/pests associated with camellia, crapemyrtle, hydrangea, magnolia and rose.