Brent Rowell returned to the Department of Horticulture at the University of Kentucky in January 2013 to strengthen the global dimension of teaching, research, and extension within the Department and the College of Agriculture. He provides leadership and coordination of international activities and programs involving faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students in the Department and the College’s Sustainable Agriculture program.
After 12 years as state Extension specialist for commercial vegetable crops at the University of Kentucky, Rowell began work in Myanmar (Burma) in 2006 where he trained local counterparts and 120 field staff of the non-profit Proximity Designs (www.proximitydesigns.org). Rowell and his team designed, tested, and established the first locally-manufactured ultra-low pressure drip irrigation systems for high value crops in Myanmar, a project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and International Development Enterprises (www.ideorg.org). He also co-directed a large pest management and sustainable crop production program as Agriculture Program Director for Proximity from 2006 to 2012.
Rowell completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Vegetable Crops at Cornell University (1984) with minors in Plant Pathology and Plant Breeding. After working for three years as a vegetable specialist in Bangladesh, he lived for seven more years in Southeast Asia, working for an agricultural university on pest management and biological control in vegetable crops (northern Thailand, 1988-90) and for the Ministry of Agriculture in Cambodia to establish the first Cambodian national research and seed multiplication station for vegetable crops (1984-87).
After coming to the University of Kentucky in 1994, Brent worked closely with the Department of Agricultural Economics, the Commodity Growers Cooperative (subsidiary of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative), the Kentucky Horticulture Council, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to address vegetable marketing and production infrastructure needs in the state. He emphasized opportunities in commercial vegetable production for tobacco growers and supervised a statewide vegetable crops demonstration program designed for tobacco growers seeking to diversify. He has special interests in adapting new and existing technology to the resources and special constraints facing small farmers. Research included collaborative projects with the Departments of Plant Pathology and Entomology on disease resistance and biological pest control in vegetable crops.
Prior to joining Proximity Designs (formerly IDE Myanmar) in 2006, he was a Fulbright scholar with the National Biological Control Research Center in Thailand in 2003-04. Rowell continues to promote collaborations with Myanmar and its agricultural university, Yezin Agricultural University.