Helping growers economically manage pests has been my passion for the past decade—from my undergraduate studies to my graduate research to my most recent work with the USDA-ARS Sugarcane Research Unit in southeast Louisiana. There, I focused on integrated weed management strategies to control annual and perennial grasses that are especially problematic for sugarcane growers.
While Missouri has its fair share of specialty crops, sugarcane isn’t one of them. But weed control is a common struggle for producers, no matter what they’re growing. It is extremely rewarding coming back to the same fields with much lower weed densities years later after having a discussion on results from what research has shown.
I’m not only passionate about agricultural research and its results, but I’m also a strong believer that being stewards of our natural resources and passing down knowledge are essential for the success of future agriculturalists and rural communities. I’m bringing that philosophy to my new role as MFA Incorporated’s director of agronomy. You’ll hear from me regularly here in Today’s Farmer as well as other MFA print and online resources.
Though I’ve spent the past four years in Louisiana, I’m no stranger to Missouri agriculture. I was raised near Washington, Mo., which has long been known as the corn cob pipe capital of the world. During the summers as a youngster, I would help my uncle put up hay and bushhog pastures. I also showed hogs at the Washington Town and Country Fair for 11 years. My family had several rows of blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, which were sold locally. The trade-off, if you will, was us kids did a lot of the weeding throughout the spring and summer—all by hand.
I went to the University of Missouri in Columbia and received a bachelor’s degree in crop management in 2011 and a master of science in plant, insect and microbial sciences in 2013 under the direction of Dr. Kevin Bradley. In 2017, I completed my Ph.D. in botany and plant pathology at Purdue University with Dr. Bill Johnson. Managing glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed, waterhemp and Palmer amaranth made up the bulk of my thesis and dissertation research.
I’m joining MFA at a busy time for our agronomy team and growers. I’ve already made field visits across the trade territory, including our two training sites in Boonville and east of Columbia where variety, fertilizer, seeding rate and seed treatment trials will be conducted. My first several months will require significant time investment in getting up to speed with the team and products MFA offers to growers.
In many ways, I compare this orientation period to what it takes to prepare for the annual student weed science contest I participated in as a graduate student. To be successful, it required everyone on the team to be accountable, come prepared, communicate and work together effectively. This was especially critical for the team sprayer calibration competition, in which you were not only evaluated on accuracy but also efficiency. My team did especially well in the event, reflecting our ability to foresee and anticipate what we needed to do next. In some instances, sprayer tips were intentionally damaged, which required team members to spend more time finding a functional tip of the appropriate size and spray angle. Team members would never sit and wait—they would automatically see what we needed to do next to shave off seconds from our time. This is what made us successful.
This philosophy has not changed much at all to where we are today. I’m looking forward to helping bridge MFA’s sales, agronomy and precision folks into a more cohesive and interactive group. At the end of the day, we all have something to learn from one another. I also want to encourage an open mindset. A healthy debate in a respectful manner is good and helps move us forward as a team.
I’m eager to put my education, background and experience to work for MFA personnel, growers and customers across our geography. With spring planting season well under way, this is the time for our agronomy team to shine. I’m glad to be part of it.
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