Seth Byrd, Oklahoma State University assistant professor and Extension cotton specialist, is the 2020 recipient of the Dr. J. Tom Cothren Award for Outstanding Research in Cotton. Byrd was presented the award Jan. 10 at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences Cotton Agronomy, Physiology and Soil Conference in Austin, Texas.
Several colleagues applauded Byrd in letters of support.
"His research and experience in variety performance and management, irrigation management, new herbicide technologies, and harvest aid performance make him one of the most diverse resources in the industry," says Darrin Dodds, professor and head, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mississippi State University, Starkville.
The award is named after Tom Cothren, a professor and crop physiologist at Texas A&M University. In 2015, the Outstanding Young Cotton Physiologist Award was renamed in remembrance of Cothren and his many academic and scientific contributions to the cotton physiology community.
Byrd is described as enthusiastic and an exceptional scientist and communicator by those who nominated him. "Seth has given numerous guest lectures and invited presentations throughout the southwestern United States. He has demonstrated he can effectively communicate with scientists and growers alike – this is a skill that few possess in our field," Dodds adds.
In 2015, Byrd, as the Texas A&M AgriLife cotton specialist in Lubbock, initiated a new model for variety testing, incorporating a uniform lineup of varieties for on-farm trials so data could be pooled and used to provide insight into variety adaptability and performance stability across a large geography.
Because this analysis included fiber quality, loan values and seed costs, Byrd's program also provided producers with gross return analysis.
When Byrd relocated to Oklahoma State University as the state cotton specialist, he adapted this model to the OSU variety testing program. The focus of his program also included the state's recent acreage increase, expanding the variety testing program to un- or under-represented areas in west-central and northwest Oklahoma.
Byrd's research has also provided insight into the response of cotton to exposure of sublethal levels of the herbicide 2,4-D.
"This was a Beltwide project with over 12 site-years across six states," says Gaylon D. Morgan, director of Agricultural and Environmental Research, Cotton Incorporated, Cary, North Carolina. "In addition to the geographic scope of the project, Seth identified multiple new approaches to quantifying the herbicidal injury to cotton. The results from this study were widely presented at field days across the Cotton Belt, professional meetings, and published in Weed Technology with 18 authors."
Byrd is also credited for his leadership skills.
"Dr. Byrd is accomplished as a team builder and knows how to assemble the right group and get them focused on the needs of cotton farmers. Since arriving at OSU, he has broadened the cotton research team to include soil scientists, weed scientists, irrigation specialists, and soil and water conservation specialists," says Jeff Edwards, OSU professor and head, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Stillwater.
"His ability to assemble these teams and garner the support of growers was instrumental in getting the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station to make significant irrigation investments at cotton research facilities. It is uncommon to see a state specialist develop this type of following and have such influence in such a short period of time."
Byrd also conducts trials on harvest aid management and fiber quality. He has co-authored papers on defoliation strategies and application methods, including coordinating a Beltwide study on the effect of carrier volume and nozzle selection on defoliation success and fiber quality. He continues to investigate defoliation timing and product selection in short season environments to address the needs of new producers in challenging climates across his territory.
"Seth’s emphasis on putting this research into action, combined with his willingness to advise producers, regardless of their home state, has been instrumental in the growth and success of cotton production in areas such as the Oklahoma Panhandle and southern Kansas," says Edwards.
Byrd has peer-reviewed 13 publications and co-authored a book chapter, along with authoring and co-authoring an additional 17 articles.
Morgan adds, "Dr. Byrd’s creativity, dedication to cotton, and team approach have led to his current success and will fuel his future success in the cotton."