Dr. Seth Byrd — a self-proclaimed East Coast guy — is originally from North Carolina but has lived all over the country. He says he was drawn to Oklahoma, in part, because of the emergence of cotton as a popular option for a rapidly growing number of producers across the state.
An agronomist with Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, Byrd was recognized as the 2021 Cotton Specialist of the Year during a virtual award presentation as part of the 2021 virtual Beltwide Cotton Conferences.
He became the 32nd cotton specialist to receive the honor, which is presented annually by the Extension Cotton Specialists Working Group. For the past 15 years, the award has been sponsored by FiberMax and Stoneville.
Voted on by cotton specialists in the 17 states where cotton is grown, this prestigious professional award is based on several considerations, including exceptional leadership and outstanding industry service.
A People Person
Though Byrd has experience in growing everything from corn and soybeans to wheat, alfalfa and potatoes, cotton has been his most recent focus.
He arrived at Oklahoma State University in 2018 and maintains active Extension and research programs in southwest Oklahoma as well as the Oklahoma Panhandle. Byrd works with clientele that have varying degrees of experience from multi-generation cotton farmers to first-time producers.
“If a producer or anyone wants to know more about cotton, I’m always open to talk,” Byrd says. “I want to both answer questions and learn a lot, too. I don’t try to tell anybody how to farm. Cotton growers are incredibly smart people. We just try to help them out on ‘what ifs’ and navigate some of the new options they have in cotton production now.
“To me, cotton is just a fun crop. It’s a tropical tree. It thinks it’s going to survive and be here next year and the year after that.
I don’t think it takes more management. It just takes a different kind of management to sort of reign it in and get it to do what we want it to do. Luckily, we have great university and industry breeders who have helped make that easier and more profitable.”
Dr. Jeff Edwards, department head and professor, Plant and Soil Sciences, Oklahoma State University, says, “Dr. Byrd has been instrumental in fostering a team-based approach to our cotton Extension and research program, and providing leadership to that team.
“As a result, we have a greater number of faculty and students actively involved in cotton Extension and research, which brings new ideas and helps supply the industry with experienced graduates.”
Dr. Steve Nichols, BASF agronomic services – cotton, says BASF is honored to spotlight the tremendous efforts of individuals such as Byrd.
“Our commitment to cotton goes beyond our portfolio,” he says.
Leilana McKindra, OSU, contributed to this article.