The Power Of Partnering With University Extension

stacey gorman

To say that Cotton Incorporated’s Agricultural and Environmental Research Department (AERD) staff have a lot going on may be the understatement of the year. Each of the scientists on the AERD team serves as a project manager for a specific research area, including agronomy, physiology, breeding, genetics, engineering, cottonseed research, weed management, pathology and entomology.

It is their role to set the specific priorities for the research area, ensure the priorities are in alignment with Cotton Incorporated’s corporate mission of enhancing cotton production and profitability and to ensure individual projects are meeting their objectives. That may sound like a potentially overwhelming workload for each staff member, but Dr. Ryan Kurtz, AERD Senior Director at Cotton Incorporated, said the staffs’ partnerships with university Extension personnel make it all possible. 

“Our research priorities are set through input from our board of directors, on-farm visits with growers and consultants, personal in-field experiences, attending research and Extension meetings, as well as regular one-on-one interactions with university research and Extension scientists,” Kurtz said.

University Extension personnel are critical in communicating the challenges occurring at the farm-level back to Cotton Incorporated, fellow researchers and allied industry.

Identifying Research Projects

Once research priorities are set, proposals are either requested broadly from the scientific community or targeted to specific Extension scientists known to excel in a particular research area. The AERD team regularly forms working groups of scientists to address problems, even across state boundaries.

“In many ways, we operate similarly to general managers in sports by managing the budget and putting together perfect teams of scientists to address current production needs,” Kurtz said.

For example, Mississippi State University Extension recently published a document on tarnished plant bug management in the Mid-South. The research project was funded by Cotton Incorporated and included input from an Extension working group consisting of Extension scientists from the University of Arkansas, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University and the University of Tennessee. 

Beyond their help to the Cotton Incorporated AERD team, Kurtz urges growers to utilize their Extension personnel whenever they need unbiased resources and information. “University Extension personnel conduct a substantial amount of applied research and relay their unbiased findings to growers in a timely manner,” Kurtz said.

These unbiased findings and communications are aimed at improving input efficiencies, reducing input costs, improving water-use efficiency, as well as managing resistant weeds and insects.

Cotton Specialists Corner

The Cotton Incorporated AERD team urges growers to listen to the Cotton Specialists Corner podcast to hear from a variety of Extension personnel.

One of the newest ways growers can hear from Extension personnel is through a podcast called “Cotton Specialists Corner.” This podcast brings together Extension cotton specialists from across the United States to weigh in on a variety of topics that impact cotton producers, consultants and the industry as a whole.

The podcast is available through Apple, Spotify, Google, or by doing an internet search for “cotton specialists corner.”

“I cannot stress enough how critical research and Extension scientists are to execute Cotton Incorporated’s mission,” Kurtz said. “Without their tireless efforts to deliver solutions to cotton production problems, the research side of the Cotton Research and Promotion Program would not be possible.”

Stacey Gorman is The Cotton Board’s director of communications and may be reached at

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