Tony Bellotti: 1937 – 2013

5 March, 2013 by (comments)

It’s an amazing privilege to have a private audience with a world authority on a particular subject – no matter how niche. And when it came to cassava entomology, Tony Bellotti was definitely the man.


With over forty years of research under his belt and more than 300 scientific papers, there are few others who know as much about the subject as Tony did, and even fewer who can talk about bugs with as much lucidity and charm as he could.

Each time I arrived at his office to discuss the latest outbreak or study, I’d receive the equivalent of my own personal – and often extended – TED Talk. To Tony it didn’t matter that I was a cassava novice – he enjoyed answering my questions, shepherding me through the issues, and – perhaps unsurprising given his lifelong passion for baseball – being thrown the occasional curveball.

Tony’s single greatest scientific achievement involved his role in the introduction of the parasitic wasp Anagyrus lopezi from Paraguay to sub-Saharan Africa for biological control of the devastating cassava mealybug. The documented economic benefits of this work are valued in the billions of dollars, and the research is helping cassava producers in Southeast Asia tackle the same problem today.

It was around September last year that I saw Tony at the CIAT coffee shop, catching up with colleagues, and making a passing, light-hearted quip about a having a cold that he just couldn’t seem to shift. I don’t think any of us suspected that it was an early symptom of the cancer he succumbed to today.

While the world has undoubtedly lost a leading entomologist, CIAT a distinguished scientist, and his many acquaintances a laid-back, affable friend, Tony’s four decades of research will inevitably survive him – helping the current generation of cassava scientists and future ones – continue to tackle some of the greatest threats to one of the most important crops in the world.

You can share your experiences and memories of Tony as a scientist, mentor and friend, by leaving your comments here or at the In Memoriam online forum.

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Filed Under: Cassava @en, Crops @en