MISSISSIPPI STATE, Miss. — The Mississippi State University Extension Service has filled two key positions for advancing the economic viability of Mississippi row crops. Effective July 1, Tom Barber assumes the role as MSU’s Extension cotton specialist, headquartered at Starkville, Miss. July 16, Nathan Buehring becomes the state’s full-time Extension rice specialist, headquartered at Stoneville, Miss. Both men are completing doctorate degrees from MSU’s plant and soil sciences department.

The cotton specialist position has been vacant since January, when former cotton specialist Will McCarty was promoted to Extension’s assistant director for agricultural and natural resources. The rice position was left vacant in the fall of 2003, when rice specialist Joe Street assumed the position as interim director at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center at Verona, Miss.

“Even in times when appropriated budgets are tight, we feel these positions are too important to leave vacant, and we moved ahead through the selection process to find young men who will be outstanding in these roles,” says McCarty.

“We recognize the importance of these crops, and it’s our goal to do everything we can to meet the needs our growers deserve and expect.”

While the cotton specialist position was and will continue to be a full-time Extension position, the rice position was changed to a 100 percent Extension position, which according to McCarty means rice growers will have a person completely devoted to technology transfer and education in rice production. The previous rice position was a split appointment between research and Extension.

James Smith, head of the Delta Research and Extension Center at Stoneville, says the change in the rice position to a full-time educational position demonstrates the Extension Service’s commitment to provide the necessary personnel to make Delta agriculture continually the finest in the nation.

“The fact they moved this position from a part-time to a full-time specialist indicates this dedication,” says Smith. “Nathan Buehring was selected from a number of qualified candidates and his rice experience with the Arkansas Extension Service will prove valuable in his position at Stoneville. Nathan will be housed in the DREC building and located with the rice research group, so his Extension activities can be closely related to research.”

Tom Barber

Barber, 28, has a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a master’s degree in weed science from the University of Arkansas. He is scheduled to complete his doctorate degree by Aug. 15. His research work toward that degree includes work in remote sensing and site-specific precision agriculture; weed control; field and plot research in corn and cotton; and best management practices in variety selection, nutrient recommendations as well as herbicide, insecticide and fungicide timings and applications.

“I look forward to working with the entire cotton group in the state of Mississippi. It is a close-knit group, and I look forward to being a part of that and getting to know the growers, consultants and other agronomists first hand. I’ve been so heavily involved the past few years on the research side that I have a lot of people to get to know now on the Extension side,” says Barber.

“I’m also looking forward to working with cotton specialists in the other states. I’ve talked to them a good bit, and they’ve been good to answer any questions I had. That’s another tight-knit group I look forward to being a part of.”

Nathan Buehring

Nathan Buehring, 28, has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture pest management from MSU and a master’s degree in weed science from the University of Arkansas. He will complete his doctorate at MSU later this summer.

His research work involved developing protocol for assessing herbicide drift in cotton and corn and using global positioning systems to assess drift situations. He created site-specific pesticide application maps and applied pesticides site specifically with a point-injection sprayer.

From 1999 to 2001, Buehring served as an Extension associate at the University of Arkansas with responsibilities in the rice weed control program. He designed and established various protocols for weed control in conventional and transgenic rice to develop recommendations at the producer level.

“It is exceptionally gratifying for me to be able to help farmers make profitable decisions,” says Buehring, a native of Tupelo, Miss. “The potential to stay and start a highly respected career in rice within this state brings great excitement to me as well.”

High regards

Michael Collins, the recently appointed head of the plant and soil sciences department at MSU, says both men have worked under the supervision of weed scientist Dan Reynolds in completing their doctoral degrees and have demonstrated the qualifications of leadership and subject knowledge to do an outstanding job for Mississippi growers.

“I take it as a good indication from the support we have from the administration that these critical areas were filled. We are under budget constraints. We have less money available this year than last year, but the administration managed to fill these positions with qualified young men,” says Collins.

“This is a positive indication of the importance of these positions.”

Dan Reynolds calls the two men some of the “best and brightest” he’s ever worked with. “They have been a tremendous asset to my program and have made significant contributions to the fields of weed science and site-specific agriculture. Tom’s research program focused on the use of new spatial technologies for site-specific application of herbicides while Nathan’s program focused on the use of these technologies for the detection and assessment of herbicide drift.

“Their backgrounds in these research projects will strengthen their ability to support producers in the implementation of future crop production programs,” adds Reynolds. ”I have no doubt Tom Barber and Nathan Buehring will be successful in fulfilling the expectations associated with their respective positions.

“They are the epitome of the type people MSU needs to serve the clientele of Mississippi.”

e-mail: eadorris@aol.com