Extension Welcomes New Cotton and Peanut Agronomist


Zachary Treadway joined the Cooperative Extension Service as the new cotton and peanut agronomist in May. Image courtesy Zachary Treadway.

From the time he was a child on his parents’ cattle ranch, Zachary Treadway knew he wanted a life in agriculture. As the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s newest agronomist, he’ll have the opportunity to further pursue that dream, working with producers throughout the Arkansas Delta and beyond.

“My family’s beef cattle operation started in the 1950s,” Treadway said. “It sits on I-55 in North Mississippi. Our farm was there before the interstate. It came through and cut our farm in half.

“Growing up on a farm fired my love for agriculture and the outdoors with the land, the crops and the animals,” he said. “At a young age, I knew I was going to work in agriculture. I’ve been in love with land and creation since the beginning.”

Treadway, who completed his Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University earlier this year, took on the role of Extension cotton and peanut agronomist for the Division of Agriculture in May. He will be filling the shoes of both Bill Robertson, the long-time Extension cotton agronomist who retired in January 2023, and Travis Faske, Extension plant pathologist, who has served as the Division’s de facto peanut agronomist for more than a decade.

Treadway was originally recruited to apply for the position after meeting Tom Barber, Extension weed scientist for the Division of Agriculture, at a meeting of the Southern Weed Science Society in Baton Rouge.

“Several of us knew Dr. Treadway through collaborations with his major professor, Todd Baughman, at Oklahoma State University,” Barber said. “We also had several opportunities to observe his presentation skills at numerous Beltwide Cotton Conferences and Southern Weed Science Society yearly meetings.”

Barber said Treadway came highly recommended by professors at both Oklahoma State University and Mississippi State University, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“The competition with industry to hire new Ph.D. candidates is fierce, especially with students who have a strong background in the applied sciences,” Barber said.

He said that while it is uncommon to hire someone immediately after completion of his or her doctorate work, it isn’t unheard of. And because educational institutions such as the Cooperative Extension Service are competing with the private sector for candidates, “You have to be a little more aggressive” to get the best candidates, Barber said.

Treadway said he was enthused at the prospect of not only working in agriculture, but also working directly with growers to put scientific findings to use.

“Right off the top, one of my key beliefs about Extension is that I work for the producer,” Treadway said. “That’s my role: Answering producers’ questions to solve producers’ problems, or doing research relevant to problems Arkansas producers are seeing.

“I want to tailor a research program that provides relevant, pertinent information to our Arkansas peanut and cotton producers,” he said. “If I’m not helping the producers, what am I doing?”

Treadway said he plans to spend the initial phase of his time with Extension getting to know producers and other researchers throughout Arkansas.

“I plan to spend a lot of this first year just getting to know people,” he said. “Riding around, talking to people, looking at things and familiarizing myself with the land and our producers here in Arkansas, along with their problems. So when I begin to tailor a research program for next season, I want to make sure that the results are meaningful to the producers.”

Treadway said he plans to continue to focus Extension’s cotton agronomy program on state- and region-specific challenges as they’re identified, while bolstering the service’s peanut agronomy program, expanding its base of state-specific agronomic knowledge.

“On the cotton side of things, I want to make sure we’re attacking pertinent issues, and we’re doing research that has meaning behind it,” he said.

“Within the next several years, we’re going to do injury trials, insecticide trials, variety trials and more,” Treadway said, regarding peanuts. “I want to do trials that yield results so that when a producer calls me, I can give them information and advice that I’m comfortable will work in Arkansas. Because what works in those other states is not always going to work in Arkansas.

“I’m excited to be working in a state with such a rich agricultural history,” Treadway said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Ryan McGeeney is a communications specialist at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and may be reached at rmcgeeney@uada.edu.

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