Saturday, May 25, 2024

The UGA Extension Peanut Team: 1985 To Present

11-13PGcvrWhile team members have changed over the years, one constant is the outstanding job they do to provide valuable information to producers
By John P. Beasley, UGA Extension Peanut Agronomist

It has been an amazing 28-year ride! It seems like yesterday, but it was 1985 when I joined the faculty of the University of Georgia as an Assistant Professor and Extension Peanut Agronomist. I was certainly excited about my new position and felt truly blessed to have been chosen to serve as UGA’s Extension Peanut Agronomist.

I was fresh out of graduate school, having completed my doctorate at LSU working in cotton breeding and genetics. I had worked in peanut breeding on my Master of Science degree at Oklahoma State University and had worked as a peanut IPM scout for five summers while an undergraduate in agronomy and soils at Auburn University.

I felt those seven years working in peanuts certainly would be to my advantage in this new job. I grew up in Columbia, Ala., just a little over 100 miles from Tifton and in the heart of the Southeast Alabama and Southwest Georgia peanut region, and my wife Kathy grew up in Albany. Tifton was the perfect location for the two of us.


25th Anniversary

It’s time to start planning for next year. Growers need to decide which fields will be planted to peanuts next spring, because fall is the best time to take soil samples for next year ’peanut fields.

Nutrient problems in conventional tillage are often traceable to sampling too shallow. Be sure to sample to plow depth – soil from this level will be coming to the surface. It’s also a good time to decide whether to use conventional tillage or reduced tillage, because this may influence the choice of cover crop.

While completing the harvest, take the time to make detailed notes on specific problem areas with maps highlighting the exact locations. In good rotation, mental notes are likely to become fuzzy by the time the field is in peanuts again. Detailed records give growers the opportunity to fight problems and save money by treating specific areas.

Published in November 1998, this was the first Peanut Pointer by Dr. Beasley.

A Perfect Fit
I was one of two “young pups” on the UGA Peanut Team at that time. Dr. Carroll Johnson had joined the Peanut Team one year earlier as the other Extension Peanut Agronomist. Our other UGA Peanut Team members were folks whose names you would certainly remember. There was Dr. Sam Thompson (Extension Plant Pathologist), Dr. Charles Swann (Extension Weed Scientist), Herb Womack (Extension Entomologist), Lawton Samples (Extension Ag Engineer) and Marcus Eason (Extension Ag Economist). The seven of us were the UGA Peanut Team. Carroll and I had huge shoes to fill as we were in the positions that Frank McGill and Dr. Ron Henning had occupied; Frank for 28 years from 1954-1981.

Herb and Lawton were near the end of their careers when I started. They both had retired by 1989. Charles Swann left UGA to go to Virginia Tech in 1988. Sam retired as plant pathologist in 1992. Mark Eason left Tifton to go to Athens in a different role in 1987. Carroll moved over from Extension Peanut Agronomist to Extension Weed Scientist in 1986. As you can see, we had a complete turnover in the makeup of the Peanut Team in my first seven years.

Shifting Responsibilities
Dr. Steve M. Brown had been hired as an Extension Weed Scientist in 1987 working in cotton and took on weed science responsibilities in peanut as well when Charles Swann left for Virginia Tech in 1988. A new Extension Soil Scientist position was created in 1987, and Dr. Steve Hodges was hired to fill that position. In late 1987, we hired John Baldwin to fill the position that Carroll had vacated, starting a 17 and a half-year run that John and I served together as the two UGA Extension Peanut Agronomists.

Dr. Foy Mills was hired in 1987 as Extension Ag Economist to fill the position Mark Eason vacated. Foy left to go back to Texas in 1989. Dr. Mike Bader was hired in 1989 to replace the retired Lawton Samples as the new Extension Peanut Engineer.

In 1990, there were two new hires to fill vacancies on the UGA Peanut Team. Dr. Don Shurley was hired as the new Extension Ag Economist, and Dr. Steve L. Brown was hired as the new Extension Entomologist. Now we had two Steve Brown’s on the team so, as most folks know, we simply called them “weed” Brown and “bug” Brown. Dr. Steve Hodges left UGA for a position at North Carolina State University in 1991, and in 1994 Dr. Glen Harris was hired as the new Extension Soil Scientist working all agronomic crops. Dr. Harris is currently the second longest serving (19 years) UGA Peanut Team member behind my 28 years.

Dr. Boyd Padgett was hired in 1994 to fill the Extension Plant Pathology position that was vacant due to Sam Thompson’s retirement in 1992. Padgett was heavily recruited to go back home to Louisiana and LSU in 1998 and left our team to go start a great career back in his home state.

Big Changes Ahead
Dr. Steve “weed” Brown took over the duties as Extension Cotton Agronomist in the middle 1990s when Dr. Johnny Crawford retired. Dr. Greg MacDonald was hired to fill the Extension Weed Scientist position working in peanut. Mike Bader and Don Shurley both opted to work full time in cotton when the Georgia cotton acreage exploded in the middle 1990s. Dr. Mark Siemens was hired as Extension Ag Engineer in the late 1990s, but he stayed less than a year.

The years 1999 and 2000 saw some big changes on the UGA Peanut Team. Dr. Eric Prostko was hired to fill the Extension Weed Scientist position that Greg MacDonald had vacated. In early 2000, Dr. Bob Kemerait was hired to fill the Extension Plant Pathology position vacated by Boyd Padgett two years earlier and Dr. Nathan Smith was hired to fill the Extension Ag Economist position vacated by Don Shurley. Jay Williams had retired from USDA-ARS as an Ag Engineer and wanted to continue working so UGA hired Jay to fill the Extension Ag Engineer position.

At The Turn Of The Century
So as we started the new millennium, the UGA Peanut Team consisted of: John Beasley and John Baldwin as Agronomists; Glen Harris as Soil Scientist; Eric Prostko as Weed Scientist; Bob Kemerait as Plant Pathologist; Steve L. “bug” Brown as Entomologist; Nathan Smith as Ag Economist; and Jay Williams as Ag Engineer.

Things began to change a few years later. In 2005, John Baldwin left UGA to go to the University of Florida as an Extension District Director. In 2006, Steve L. Brown moved into UGA administration as the Interim Assistant Dean of the UGA Tifton Campus, and a couple of years later up to the Assistant Dean for Extension. Dr. David Adams, a retired Extension Entomologist, was asked to “come out of retirement” and serve a “year or two” as the interim peanut entomologist.

In 2007, Dr. Scott Tubbs was hired in a newly created position of Cropping Systems Agronomist. This position was created due to the vacancy created when John Baldwin left. Although Dr. Tubbs’ position is mostly research, he has some Extension responsibilities and serves on the UGA Extension Peanut Team. Mrs. Amanda Smith was hired as an Extension Ag Economist working in the area of budgets, and she became a member of the UGA Peanut Team. Jay Williams retired again around 2009 creating a void in the area of Ag Engineering that remains unfilled.

The Team Today
Just this year, we hired Dr. Mark Abney as the new Peanut Entomologist, which allowed David Adams to retire again after serving for seven years instead of the “one to two-year” interim. Other faculty members in Ag Engineering that have served in various roles on the UGA Extension Peanut Team include Kerry Harrison, Irrigation Engineer, now retired; Joel Paz, Extension Engineer working in climatology who is now at Mississippi State University; Pam Knox, our current UGA climatologist; and Gary Hawkins and Calvin Perry, both whom have helped with irrigation information.

The current UGA Extension Peanut Team consists of: John Beasley, Agronomist; Scott Tubbs, Agronomist; Glen Harris, Soil Scientist; Eric Prostko, Weed Scientist; Bob Kemerait, Plant Pathologist; Mark Abney, Entomologist; Nathan Smith, Ag Economist; Amanda Smith, Ag Economist; Pam Knox, Climatologist. A new Extension Ag Engineer working in irrigation is in the process of being hired.

When I look back on the folks I’ve had the privilege of working with on the UGA Extension Peanut Team (about 30 folks in total), I feel truly blessed to have worked alongside some outstanding professionals and great people! Your work is so much more enjoyable when the people you work with are not only your co-workers but your friends. They have all been terrific to work with. When I also include all of the UGA Peanut Team members that are on the research side, it doubles the number of folks I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside.

What A Ride
I can’t leave this position without thinking about Cathy Andrews Kvien, who asked me to help her by serving on the Advisory Board of the new publication she was starting, The Peanut Grower magazine. Cathy was a great person, and it has been my privilege to serve as an advisory board member of this publication since its inception.

As I approach the end of my UGA career, I can’t help but think about how fast the time has gone by. I’ve made a lot of great friends in the peanut industry and look forward to maintaining those friendships for many years to come.

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