PPM Who's Who

The Master of Plant Pathology - Professor Hong-Ji Su

Professor Hong-Ji Su was born on March 31, 1930, in Pingtung Taiwan, and he was admitted to the Department of Plant Pathology and Entomology at National Taiwan University (NTU) in 1950. Prof. Su was supervised by Prof. Takashi Matsumoto to begin his lifelong devotion to the field of plant pathology and agriculture. After receiving bachelor's degree in 1954 and Master's degree in 1958 with outstanding performance, Prof. Su was appointed as an assistant professor at NTU. In 1960, he was promoted to associate professor and awarded a scholarship to study in the United States. Within two years, Prof. Su completed his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology at Michigan State University and returned to Taiwan as an associate professor to continue his teaching career in the Department of Plant Pathology (previously known as the Department of Plant Pathology and Entomology) at NTU. Prof. Su and Prof. Matsumoto together conducted advanced research on the diagnosis and control of important crop diseases in Taiwan, including sugarcane downy mildew, rice yellowing grain, banana crown rot, and citrus greening disease (Huanglongbing), which are the major problems affecting the income of farmers and the nation.

Since 1964, Prof. Su has served as a principal plant pathologist and national consultant for the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) on topics of plant diseases and pest management for seven years. Learning from the success of Japan, Prof. Su promoted the establishment of a "plant disease and pest control institute". Meanwhile, he established the novel methods of "disease and pest prediction" and "pesticide aerial spraying". With these tremendous contributions, Prof. Su was promoted to a full professor in 1970. Prof. Su was also affiliated as an adjunct technical director for the JCRR, while he continued to dedicate in the education of students at NTU. In order to establish a strong backup for teaching and research, he raised funds to build a specialized plant virus laboratory and greenhouse with the most advanced instruments such as ultra-speed centrifuges and electronic microscopes. Throughout his career, Prof. Su has supervised 16 Ph.D. students and 48 Master's students.

Prof. Su has devoted more than 62 years at NTU, and his research achievements have a great reputation worldwide. He has made significant and world-leading contributions including the pathogen-identification and rapid molecular detection of citrus Huanglongbing, the monoclonal antibody detections of banana and citrus viruses, the shoot-tip grafting technique for pathogen elimination, and the identification of the Panama disease race 4 of banana. Many of his molecular diagnostic kits have been used for disease prevention and quarantine both domestically and internationally, particularly for the establishment of pathogen-free nursery system for citrus and banana in Taiwan. His scholastic and applied research performance with broad impact has directly benefited the farmers and agricultural industry. Prof. Su has received numerous honors throughout his career, including the Outstanding Research Award of National Science Council for four times starting in 1986, the Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in 1988, the Research Award of the Taiwan Phytopathological Society in 1994, and the 19th Top Ten Taiwan Outstanding Agricultural Experts Award in 1995. In 2006, he received the Presidential Agriculture Prize to recognize and thank him for his great contributions.

Prof. Su has dedicated his life to strengthening the agricultural development and international visibility of Taiwan. His outstanding achievements stepwise became the soft power of Taiwan in agricultural technology. Since 1991, he started to support academic diplomacy by providing technology via institutions such as the Committee of International Technical Cooperation (CITC), the Food and Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC), and the Rural Development Foundation (RDF). Prof. Su has assisted many countries in establishing a robust system for preventing major crop diseases, and he has generously and selflessly traveled to various countries to provide rapid and accurate disease diagnostic methods as well as pathogen-free breeding techniques. Meanwhile, he also provided educational opportunities in Taiwan to people from various countries including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan (Okinawa), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. His outreach and services have established a substantive international friendship with Taiwan. In 1999, he was awarded the "Pisang Raja Award" by the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP), and in 2000, he was awarded the Medal of Contribution by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam.

Throughout his life, Prof. Su took "love and devotion" as his motto, and "altruism" as his center of thought. He was optimistic and open-minded in life. He became sick due to overwork in his later years and unfortunately suffered from lung adenocarcinoma. However, he bravely faced it, received medication, and maintained his vitality as if he was free from disease. He continued to go to the laboratory to do research and direct graduate students for more than 7 years. On September 5, 2020, Prof. Su passed away due to illness. To commemorate Prof. Su's great achievements and demeanor in research and education, the department established the "Professor Hong-Ji Su Memorial Scholarship" to encourage the latecomers to follow the footsteps of Prof. Su, and apply the research results with academic depth to benefit farmers and agriculture.