Thursday, May 30, 2024

New Cotton Faces In The Southern Plains

By Shelley Heinrich
Slaton, Texas

University Extension personnel and researchers are critical partners to The Cotton Research and Promotion Program (the Program). Cotton Incorporated supports regional Extension cotton specialists and agronomists through state support and core funding dollars. In the Southern Plains region of the Cotton Belt, there have been some recent hires to fill three valuable industry positions in the cotton Extension/research space. I spent time chatting with each of them about their new positions.


Dr. Ken Legé is the new Extension cotton specialist at Lubbock’s Texas A&M AgriLife Extension & Research Center. He brings experience, energy and leadership to the position. Legé earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Sam Houston State University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. His professional career began as the Extension cotton specialist for Clemson University, and he continued by serving in various technical, research and development and commercial roles for various cottonseed companies over the span of three decades.

Dr. Ken Legé, Jenny Dudak and Logan Simon

When I asked Legé about his new role, he emphasized the importance of partnering with the Program and the Texas State Support Program to secure critical funding for many of his research projects. Some key priorities Legé plans to focus on include irrigation and water research, cottonseed quality and variety selection.

“Since water availability is key to growing cotton in West Texas, and since nearly every input interacts with water, my long-term goals are all related to researching and developing Extension programs focused on water,” he said. “Our Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluations (RACE trials) compare commercial varieties in on-farm, large-plot trials that span the West Texas region and represent as many growing environments and scenarios as possible. We will record weather data onsite to develop a robust dataset to correlate yield, fiber quality, growth and development with temperature, moisture, solar radiation and evapotranspiration.”


Jenny Dudak officially joined the Cotton Extension Program at Oklahoma State University in May 2024. She earned her Bachelor of Science and M.S. degrees from Texas A&M University and will complete her Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University this month. Her M.S. research project evaluated new reniform nematode-resistant varieties for yield and nematode population suppression. Her current research project evaluates weed control using isoxaflutole tankmix partners in the new Axant Flex cotton varieties.

Dudak grew up in a small town in northeastern Iowa and spent much of her time on her grandparent’s farm in Northwest Illinois. She proudly says, “Although I did not grow up on a cotton farm, I got there as quickly as possible.”

Her long-term goal for the Cotton Extension Program at OSU, with funding from the Program and the Oklahoma State Support Program, will be integrating economics into recommendations, where feasible, to most effectively cater to various production practices within each cotton production region.

“I care about our cotton producers making a profit and understand production practices are not one size fits all,” Dudak said. “For example, a cotton producer with access to ample irrigation may have the flexibility to increase in-season input costs to maximize profits more than a dry land producer relying solely on Mother Nature for moisture. In the case of these two scenarios where yearly budgets may differ, we can give more specific input recommendations to ensure each producer reaches maximum profit.”


This April, Logan Simon joined the Kansas State University Western Kansas Research-Extension Center and Department of Agronomy as an assistant professor and the Southwest area agronomist. He works from the Southwest Research-Extension Center in Garden City, Kansas. Simon earned a Bachelor of Science in plant sciences from the University of Missouri and his M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy from Kansas State University.

With funding from the Program and the Kansas State Support Program, Simon hopes to reestablish the Kansas State Cotton Variety Testing Program. “This program will bring unbiased performance comparisons to our cotton growers in Kansas,” he said. Simon also understands the great need for recommendations for soil fertility management, planting practices, irrigation scheduling and pest management that match Kansas’ unique growing conditions, which differ significantly from the rest of the U.S. Cotton Belt.

These cotton specialists and agronomists are looking forward to the 2024 production season. Speaking with each of them, I felt their excitement and enthusiasm for their new positions. I look forward to spending more time with each of them and hope we can visit you in your cotton field soon!

Shelley Heinrich is The Cotton Board Southern Plains regional communications manager. Email her at

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