The work done by Cotton Incorporated’s Agricultural and Environmental Research Division (AERD) is crucial to the cotton growing community. However, beyond the work, we all know that people make the difference in every organization. The AERD staff at Cotton Incorporated is no exception. The dedicated research staff in the AERD generate ideas, solve problems, make decisions and generate learning that improves the organization. Recently, there have been some noteworthy additions and promotions within Cotton Incorporated’s AERD.
Director, Agricultural Research
This past October, Dr. Susan “Evy” Jaconis, joined the team as director, agricultural research. Jaconis brings diverse expertise to the division and will be responsible for projects ranging from plant nutrition, cottonseed nutrition and plant physiology.
Jaconis describes herself as having a passion for plants, people and science. She joined Cotton Incorporated after serving as the Director of Research for the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, the national non-profit promoting and protecting the interests of growers, and all members of the supply chain for dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. In this capacity, she managed research activities spanning all topics including human health & nutrition, breeding & genetics, crop management, sustainability and food technology.
A native of North Carolina, Jaconis earned a B.S. at North Carolina State University in plant biology and environmental toxicology. She earned a Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati working on air pollution impacts on plants.
Her past research focused on plants and abiotic stressors, with an emphasis on floral reproduction. Most recently, this included conducting a postdoctoral research fellowship with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. Additionally, she has worked closely with people across the globe including Brazil, Belize and Namibia, which has given her experience in effectively communicating science and collaborating with a range of audiences.
Jaconis commented on joining the team at Cotton Incorporated saying, “I’m so excited to be working with cotton again and to use my background in research on behalf of U.S. cotton producers. I look forward to working closely with fellow cotton researchers to support sound science that will be beneficial to the cotton community.”
Senior Research Director
Earlier this year, AERD also promoted Dr. Ryan Kurtz to senior research director. Kurtz is an international expert on insect resistance management of Bt traits in corn and cotton. Since joining Cotton Incorporated 10 years ago, Kurtz has delivered a consistently high level of support for producer profitability despite the continual challenge of pest resistance and invasive insects.
Kurtz has also led numerous projects for producer outreach including the recent update of the Cotton Cultivated website and the Focus on Cotton webinar series. “Dr. Kurtz’s ability to coordinate complex and collaborative teams has led to his success in the industry and in our organization,” says Dr. Kater Hake, vice president, AERD. “He consistently volunteers for new responsibilities that are critical for company success.”
Kurtz holds a B.S. in agricultural pest management from Mississippi State University and a Ph.D. in entomology from North Carolina State University where he studied resistance management in cotton bollworms to Bt crops. Prior to joining Cotton Incorporated, Ryan worked for Syngenta as the Lead for Traits Insect Resistance Management.
Kurtz commented on his promotion and his commitment to the U.S. cotton industry saying, “It’s been an honor to support U.S. cotton growers for the past 10 years. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue working with the research and Extension scientists on improving production practices in an expanded role through this promotion.”
Over its 50-year lifespan, Cotton Incorporated’s AERD has employed a strong team and developed an infrastructure of professionals to support Upland cotton farmers. I look forward to seeing how Drs. Jaconis and Kurtz contribute to AERD’s continued success.
Stacey Gorman is The Cotton Board’s director of communications. Contact her at email@example.com.