In Knoxville, Meet Dennis Deyton, Department of Plant Sciences



What do you do as professor?

My appointment in the Plant Sciences Department is 20 percent teaching and 80 percent research. I have previously taught undergraduate- and graduate-level crop physiology courses, and an undergraduate fruit crop production course at UT. I now teach a senior-level Fruit and Vegetable Crop Production course each fall semester and coteach a general education course titled World Food and Fiber Crop each spring semester.

My educational background is in horticulture with an emphasis on fruit and vegetable crops. I grew up on a farm in the Appalachian Mountains located between Asheville and Boone, North Carolina. My father assigned me the responsibility of growing a tomato crop when I was a freshman in high school. The efforts continued through my junior year of college and paid the major portion of my college expenses. It also led to receiving a horticultural scholarship offer and my choosing horticulture as my college major.

My research has centered on cultural practices that I hoped would benefit producers directly. The research projects have mostly been on fruit crops, though some have branched out to include tomatoes and nursery crops. My longest-occurring and largest project that I was a coleader (along with Dr. Carl Sams) on was a multistate project that led to the development and adoption of emulsified soybean oil for bloom delay of fruit crops and as insecticide sprays. My current research emphasis is developing a system of growing strawberries in protected culture with the use of biocontrols.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have been on the faculty in UTIA for thirty-six years. I had previously worked for three years as a horticultural extension agent in Durham County, North Carolina, before returning to NCSU for my PhD studies.

What is the best part of your job?

The opportunities it has provided. My job allows me to be associated with people at UT who I enjoy and respect. It allows me to interact with growers, a group that I greatly respect and have secretly wished to return to as a member. It provides the opportunity to continue learning (something a farm boy from the mountains still enjoys doing). Certainly, one of the most rewarding aspects is interacting with students.

Other thoughts?

The loss of a number of trained personnel in fruit and vegetable crops in the U.S. is troubling. Numerous faculty were hired at many universities to work on fruit and vegetable production during the era I was hired. Many have recently retired or will do so in the near future. Many were trained in crop physiology to enable them to improve or solve crop production problems. Very few graduate students have been trained in applied and/or physiology-based research of fruits and vegetables during the last one to two decades. There is a shortage of trained students to hire into those vacating positions and now a shortage of experienced faculty to train them.