Professor Catangui's dismissal may have an interesting states-rights twist. Catangui has done research on aphids and soybeans and finds that the regional recommendations made for spraying soybeans with insecticides to get rid of aphids don't work in South Dakota's climate. Dr. Benjamin Kantack, SDSU professor emeritus of plant and bug science, apparently agrees. Kantack is telling the press that Catangui's firing is a result of his resistance to those regional recommendations.
"He was told he would accept the recommendations from these other states, which do not fit South Dakota weather conditions or growing conditions and so forth, which his own research showed do not fit," said Kantack, a professor emeritus and retired Extension entomologist at SDSU. "He was told if he didn't accept them he would not keep his job.
"He has defended the ag interests of South Dakota and saved them a lot of money over the years. He's being discharged, in my opinion, unjustly" [Wayne Ortman, "SDSU Dismissal of Longtime Extension Insect Specialist under Fire," AP via Rapid City Journal, 2010.07.27].
I'm not up on my aphid science, and I'll appreciate any enlightenment my farm neighbors can offer. But I am curious as to whether there is some Monsanto angle to this story, since SDSU is run by a highly paid member of Monsanto's executive board. Monsanto does cite in its aphid-management literature the 250 aphid-soybean threshold that Catangui and Kantack appear to challenge, but Monsanto take its info cue from extension services in neighboring states. If anything, Catangui's science seems to recommend more aggressive use of pesticides against South Dakota aphids, something Monsanto shouldn't mind. If Kantack is correct, Catangui's dismissal appears to be politics within the Extension Service trumping science that makes sense for South Dakota's unique growing conditions.
Everyone else from Catangui to the SDSU president is keeping mum, since this is a personnel matter and legal wheels are a-turning. As a teacher who's been there, I do appreciate Professor Kantack's willingness to speak out on behalf of a colleague he feels is being mistreated. I hope Catangui can come out with a fair resolution of the situation and continue his research on behalf of South Dakota's farmers.