Ed Colburn, a leader for 10 years of agricultural research, Extension and education in southeast Arkansas, retired in January from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Colburn was appointed director of the Southeast Research and Extension Center and chair of the Division of Agriculture at the University of Arkansas-Monticello in May 1994. Kelly Bryant, Extension economist and professor of agricultural economics, became interim director and division chair on Jan. 1.

“Ed Colburn has done an outstanding job as director of the Southeast Research and Extension Center and chair of the UAM Division of Agriculture,” said Milo Shult, UA System vice president for agriculture. “He is one of those rare individuals who has excellent administrative abilities coupled with great people skills. He will be greatly missed by the Division of Agriculture and UAM.”

“SEREC is a little different from the other research and Extension centers because it's located on a university campus,” Colburn said. “It also has a higher percentage of Extension faculty than the division's other research and Extension centers. It's been very intriguing to me to work with the UAM academic programs as well as the Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service programs.

One huge change in agriculture, for both the Division of Agriculture and farmers, has been the amount of technology they are using and having to keep up with, Colburn said.

“The use of genetically modified crops, especially cotton and soybeans — and, to a lesser extent in Arkansas, corn — has grown significantly,” he said. “We also see greater use for global positioning system technology, from aerial application to directing truck drivers to cotton modules; yield monitors on combines; we're even seeing some use of variable rate fertilization using GPS technology.”

“I think we'll continue to see a lot more changes related to technology.”

Colburn anticipates some agricultural concerns are going to be troublesome in the future. “One overwhelming problem we'll face is water availability and, farther down the line, water quality,” he said. “I think we'll be looking at more regulation for water use.”

Some emerging technology will require vigilance in order to avoid problems, he said.

“Genetically modified organisms have been very useful to producers, but if not managed properly, they could present some problems,” Colburn said. “Many of the conventional herbicides are in limited supply, which may limit management options down the road if weeds become tolerant of the most popular herbicides used today.”