Seth Byrd, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension cotton agronomist, was named Beltwide Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year, Jan. 6, 2020, during the virtual Beltwide Cotton Conferences.
The award, sponsored by BASF, was announced during an online event virtually attended by cotton specialists, BASF personnel and retired Extension specialists from across the Cotton Belt.
Tyson Raper, University of Tennessee cotton and small grains specialist and the 2019 recipient, presented the award.
(Byrd family: from left, Misha, Florence, and Seth, the 2021 Beltwide Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year. (Photo courtesy of the Byrd Family.)
"We're really excited to have you as a part of this group," Raper said. "I'm very proud to consider you not only a colleague but a friend."
Following a virtual applause, Byrd responded from his Stillwater home.
"I'm surprised," he said.
Byrd addressed fellow cotton specialists from 17 states across the Cotton Belt who evaluate and select the award recipient based on a number of considerations, including exceptional leadership and outstanding industry service.
"Thank you. I don't think I deserve it," Byrd said. "It means a lot."
Byrd also referenced previous winners. "There are a lot of big names on that list. I've always thought of that list as the cream of the crop. I don't think I belong on it but hopefully one day I'll earn it. I appreciate it."
He also thanked BASF. "I appreciate everything BASF does for us. It means a lot," he said. "I appreciate y'all having this opportunity for us."
The annual awards banquet has been a featured event at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences since 1984. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Beltwide, along with each awards ceremony, is being displayed virtually.
Keeping the award a surprise required communication and coordination with Byrd's wife Misha.
"Misha has been critical in helping us get this award and poster to you, on top of being a brand-new mother," Raper said, referencing the couple's daughter Florence, born in December. "I really appreciate all she's done."
Raper also thanked Jeff Edwards, OSU Plant and Soil Sciences department head, for his assistance in pulling off the virtual surprise.
"We are so fortunate to have him in Oklahoma," Edwards said. "He's been such an asset to the cotton industry in the Southern Plains and a great addition to our family, to our team at Plant and Soil Sciences."
Edwards also congratulated the couple on the birth of their daughter. "Any of us who have been involved in Extension know that it's not just the Extension specialist, it's the whole family that's involved and responsible for making everything work. We appreciate their work."
Edwards praised Byrd for bringing a team-based focus to the cotton program at OSU.
"As a result of Seth's hard work, we have more scientists working in the area of cotton at Oklahoma State than we've had, at least since I've been here. Seth's been able to recruit and get more people involved in cotton research and Extension."
Edwards noted Byrd's "tremendous work ethic," and his passion for the cotton industry.
"We have two major production areas in the state, the historical production area in the southwest, but we have a lot of expansion acres in northern Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Panhandle. That's not a short distance between those two locations -- a lot of windshield time, a lot of time on the road. Dr. Byrd is very dedicated. This is very well-deserved."
"I agree with every accolade given," said Steve Nichols, BASF Agronomic Services. "It speaks well to the consistency of the way you are viewed in the industry. It's evident you enjoy your work.
"You represent Oklahoma State University and the growers in that region with strong leadership and a level of professionalism that's hard to match. You bring a lot to the cotton industry."
Nichols said he appreciates how Byrd puts the growers' interests first. "You work to help them achieve the goals they've to set to help them be successful in farming. I appreciate everything you do for the cotton industry and the contributions you've already made."
Kenny Melton, BASF Western Region Agronomic Manager, also addressed Byrd.
“Seth, I remember when you first moved to Lubbock, straight out of grad school, eager to take on the new challenges of a completely new production environment from what you had been used to. You rapidly adapted and did a fantastic job for the West Texas area. We hated to lose you to Oklahoma, but you have done a wonderful job there and brought great value to the growers all across that state.
"You’re always a pleasure to work with and, as others have said tonight, you always keep the best interest of your growers at heart.”
BASF has a portfolio of cotton solutions for growers that includes flagship cotton seed brands FiberMax and Stoneville.
Before coming to Oklahoma, Byrd was the cotton specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Lubbock. Last year during Beltwide, he received the 2020 Dr. J. Tom Cothren Award for Outstanding Research in Cotton.
Past recipients of the Beltwide Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year are as follows:
- J.C. Banks
- Tom Barber
- Randy Boman
- Claude Bonner
- Steve Brown
- Tom Burch
- Charles Burmester
- Guy Collins
- Johnny Crawford
- Darrin Dodds
- Keith Edmisten
- Dan Fromme
- Lawrence Harvey
- Bob Hutmacher
- Andrea Jones
- Mike Jones
- Tom Kerby
- Robert Lemon
- Chris Main
- Jim Maitland
- Will McCarty
- Bob Metzer
- Dale Monks
- Gaylon Morgan
- Randy Norton
- Bobby Phipps
- Tyson Raper
- Bill Robertson
- Paulus Shelby
- James Supak
- David Wright