In the September 2010 issue of Cotton Farming magazine, Roger Haldenby of Plains Cotton Growers, Inc., discussed the subject of change in the My Turn column. Sometimes I feel as though I could be the poster child for change. During the past two years a lot of change has occurred in my life. In fact, until recently about the only thing remaining to change for me was my career.
For the first 15 years of my career, I worked in academia, the past four of which were with Texas Tech University and Texas AgriLife Research. In June 2010, I began a new career with Bayer Crop-Science. I now work as a cotton breeder for the FiberMax/Stoneville breeding station near Idalou, Texas. I was asked to write this column to highlight some of the differences I have found between working for the public versus private sectors.
I suppose the most obvious change is the fact that I no longer teach. During the past four years I taught several graduate and undergraduate courses at Texas Tech University. Admittedly, I do miss the students. Many days I felt as if I were learning more from them than they were from me.
Another change involves the research program that I manage. My training, as well as past research program, was in the area of crop physiology. My new research program is focused on variety development and trait introgression. While I was not trained as a cotton breeder, I feel confident I can be successful at it.
In a cotton nursery, new genetic diversity is created through cross pollination. The objective is to evaluate effectively and efficiently all of this diversity and advance only the most genetically superior. While you don’t want to continue to spend time and money advancing genetically inferior lines, you also don’t want to discard anything that has the potential to be the next big cotton cultivar.
My responsibilities as the new breeder for the Idalou station obviously include development of high-yielding cultivars with superior fiber quality. Another of my responsibilities includes the development of drought-tolerant cotton cultivars. Not all producers have the water or other resources for yearly four-bale cotton. Thus, one of our goals is to improve yields with limited water. We are actually in the process of installing new irrigation infrastructure to help us with this mission. While you may hear a lot of talk in the cotton industry regarding the development of drought-tolerant cottons, if you visit the Idalou breeding station next summer, I will actually be able to show you what we are doing in this area.
I suppose it is human nature for us to offer advice to those embarking on a new challenge. I have received a lot of cotton breeding advice this summer from many different sources. Someone told me “breeding cotton is kinda like fishing.” I hope this individual was not referring to my kind of fishing! When I take the time to wet a hook, anything I catch is entirely attributable to dumb luck. My dad, on the other hand, is a skilled fisherman.
My dad really enjoys fishing. You might even say he loves fishing. His passion for fishing is what motivates him to learn about it. He reads about the fish. He reads about the lakes. He has all of the right fishing gear. My mom would actually argue he has more than enough fishing gear!
Weather permitting, my dad will stay on the lake all day long, and he is blessed with an abundance of patience and optimism. His examples have taught me how to become a good fisherman, and I suppose these same principles could help me become the cotton breeder I want to be. Maybe some things don’t change.
At any rate, we are about three miles east of Idalou, Texas, on Highway 82. Come see us!
– Craig Bednarz, Idalou, Texas
Cotton Breeding Station
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