Kelly was born in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and raised mainly in Saskatoon, but spent most of his summers on his father’s small grain farm near St. Brieux, Sask. Currently, he is a plant pathologist with the Lacombe Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), in Lacombe, Alberta, and is part of the joint Alberta/Canada Barley Development Group. He received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in Agricultural Biology in 1985, and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant Pathology from the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan. Kelly’s graduate work focused on the epidemiology of sclerotinia stem rot of canola and the potential of using petal testing as an indicator of disease risk and fungicide need.
Kelly’s main focus is on cereal diseases, especially those of barley and wheat, but also works on canola, as part of collaborative studies with colleagues across Canada. Through his father Tom, his graduate student supervisor Robin Morrall, and his interactions with farmers, industry staff, and research colleagues, Kelly has developed a passion for field-based plant pathology research and the development of practical solutions for effective plant disease management.
His first experience with fusarium head blight was in the early 1990’s as a post-doctoral fellow at the Eastern Cereals and Oilseeds Research Centre, AAFC, as part of a project investigating the impact of tillage and crop rotation on fusarium head blight of wheat and ear rot of corn. At Lacombe Kelly continued his work on fusarium head blight with projects related to monitoring for Fusarium graminearum in cereals, grasses and corn, as well as investigating shifts in the pathogen in the 2000’s. In addition, his research has looked at the development of risk management strategies for fusarium head blight in relation to infested seed and feed as well as forecasting the potential distribution and severity of F. graminearum over the prairie region under dryland and irrigated production scenarios.
Currently, Kelly is leading two Wheat and one Barley Cluster projects across Canada that are focused on improving in-field management of fusarium head blight.