David L. Wright, professor and Extension cotton specialist with the University of Florida in Quincy, Fla., has been recognized by his peers from across the Cotton Belt as the 2010 Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year.

Wright received the award at the Extension Cotton Specialist’s annual banquet during the 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans. The banquet serves as the annual gathering for all of the country’s Extensions specialists who work with cotton.

Sponsored by Bayer CropScience, the annual award and banquet has been a featured event at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences since 1984. Extension cotton specialists representing every cotton-producing state select a recipient annually based on leadership and industry service.

Dale Monks, Auburn University Extension specialist and prior Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year (2009), has worked with Wright for 16 years as they share responsibilities for contiguous counties in Florida and Alabama. According to Monks, Wright’s research and expertise have been valuable assets to farmers in the Southeast and across the Cotton Belt.

“David is well-known for his work in crop rotation, especially in the crop systems that we have in South Alabama and in the Florida Panhandle,” Monks said. “He has been on the forefront of new ideas in research, and he works hard to get the word out through Extension. The University of Florida and growers in the Southeast are fortunate to have someone of David’s caliber with his patience, forethought and diligence.”

Monks said that he and Wright have worked together on many projects and local issues, such as hurricane and drought damage. Monks said Wright is dedicated to the farmers in his area, especially in tough times, and his knowledge and expertise help growers maximize their potential.

“If you are around David for any amount of time, you find out really quickly that he knows what he is talking about,” Monks said. “I trust his experience both personally and professionally. David is one of the most knowledgeable people that I know, but he is extraordinarily humble and never calls attention to himself.”

Wrights’ research program is focused on cropping systems and conservation tillage techniques for all major row crops in the southeastern United States — cotton, peanuts, soybeans and corn. During the early 1990s, only about 5 percent of growers in the Southeast were using conservation tillage or strip till practices in cotton.

Within 10 years, due in large part to the research and Extension work of Wright and others, 70 percent of cotton growers in Florida employed conservation tillage practices. Research indicates that this switch to conservation tillage saves Florida cotton growers more than $100 million each year.

In a collaborative, multi-state effort with Alabama and Georgia, Wright has also researched the impact of integrating a sod rotation with cotton. According to his findings, cotton could yield 50 to 100 percent higher when planted after bahiagrass, due to reduced nematode populations, coupled with increased plant root depth and organic matter.

Steve Nichols, Bayer CropScience U.S. agronomic manager, said the company offers its congratulations to Wright and is proud to sponsor this longstanding award to recognize the efforts of Extension specialists.

“Extension and university research are integral to the success of U.S. agriculture and the cotton industry, and we are pleased to congratulate David Wright on this notable achievement in his career,” Nichols said. “He has a strong commitment to cotton growers in the Southeast and across the U.S. It is a pleasure to see David recognized by his peers for his dedication, excellence and service to the industry.”

Wright has been honored for his work in agriculture and received many research awards, including: Research Award, Southern Conservation Agricultural Systems (2005); Green Chemistry Challenge Award, presented by C.T. Whitman, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2001); Research Award, Florida Soybean Association (1999); and Ciba Geigy Award, American Society of Agronomy (1986).

Wright received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Tennessee Technological University, his master’s degree in Soil Chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and a Ph.D. in Forage Physiology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

The banquet was attended by a number of retired specialists, including former University of Georgia agronomist Johnny Crawford and Tom Burch, the Extension cotton specialist in Louisiana for many years.

“I think the cotton industry is in good hands with these young specialists that are coming along,” said Crawford, who brought a laugh from the crowd when he said he was so old he could remember when “Temik was a numbered compound.”