Tom Kerby, former cotton specialist with the University of California and vice president, technical services with Delta and Pine Land Co., received the 2005 Research Award in Physiology.

The presentation was made at the opening session of this year's Cotton Physiology Conference during the Beltwide Conferences in San Antonio, Texas. This is the first time the award has gone to an individual who works in the private sector.

Keith Edmisten, Extension cotton specialist at North Carolina State University who presented the award, cited contributions Kerby has made to the industry during his career. Kerby's focus on making this research practically applied on the farm helped revolutionize the industry, Edmisten said.

xDuring Kerby's tenure with the University of California Extension Service, he pioneered many of the tools and initiatives that are used in cotton fields throughout the United States and around the world.

Some of the specific contributions include: plant-based applications of mepiquat chloride, in-season plant mapping, computer-assisted crop management, narrow row cotton production, potassium fertilization and heat unit-dependent planting guidelines.

“Tom exemplifies everything we could wish for in a crop physiologist with a strong understanding and considerable experience in production agronomy,” said Derrick Oosterhuis, distinguished professor of cotton physiology at the University of Arkansas. “He has been an inspiration to countless colleagues with ideas and explanations of physiological phenomena and interpretation of production problems.

“Dr. Kerby has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to research and academic excellence. His concern for detail, precision and data integrity are apparent and reflected in the quality of his research, as well as in his impressive list of high quality, widely cited publications.”

J.C. Banks, Oklahoma Extension cotton specialist, said he first learned of Kerby's work when he researched his possible entry into the specialist job. Later, Banks participated in a Beltwide team effort Kerby led that “conducted field experiments to develop and verify the nodes above cracked boll technique of timing harvest aid applications.

“This is another technique now used universally by cotton producers and consultants. He has taken complicated research concepts and delivered them to the turnrow where they are universally accepted by cotton growers and consultants.”

Banks said that the type of cottonseed testing done prior to Kerby's entry into the industry caused confusion for customers trying to make variety selections. He cited Kerby's work at Delta and Pine Land as pivotal for the industry and critical to the successful introduction of transgenic varieties in the mid 1990s.

“When Dr. Kerby joined Delta and Pine Land Co., he used his knowledge of cotton development and statistical analysis to develop the most complete data set of cotton varieties and cultivars in the industry,” Banks noted. “He developed a data set to accurately analyze the potential of new strains of cotton and how they would perform as compared to standard varieties.

“As variety development became more transgenic based, this data was invaluable to sort out genetic material for further development into varieties. The tremendous success of D&PL varieties is due largely to variety selection based on Dr. Kerby's expertise in analysis of genetic material.”

Kerby created D&PL's technical service department in 1993. Prior to joining D&PL, he was the cotton specialist for the University of California. He earned his Ph.D. and master's degrees in crop physiology at the University of Arizona. His bachelor's degree is from Brigham Young University in soil science.