October 9, 2012

3 Min Read

You must be good at your job when they start naming crop varieties for you. That’s the case with Fred Allen, who has been named a Fellow of the Crop Science Society of America for 2012.

Allen was nominated by a colleague in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture with supporting letters from peers within CSSA.

He will receive the award at the CSSA’s meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Oct. 23.

The CSSA Fellow award is the highest recognition given by the society to its members. Fewer than half of 1 percent of the active and emeritus members may be elected to Fellow.

“It’s a great honor for me to have my professional career achievements recognized by my peers. Most successful careers are built on team effort and that certainly is true in my case. I’ve been blessed to have a team of excellent support staff, graduate students and faculty cooperators who have helped make my achievements possible,” said Allen.

The plant scientist has served as the major professor for nine Ph.D. and 21 M.S. graduate students, and has taught more than 1,400 students.

Allen is in his 37th year with UT AgResearch and UT Extension, and has served as UT soybean breeder and department head before his current position as UTIA Coordinator of the statewide Agronomic Crop Variety Testing Program. He is an expert in plant breeding and crop genetics, and has been involved in the development of 14 different soybean varieties grown throughout Tennessee and the southeast.

One of the varieties developed and patented by UT AgResearchers is named “Allen” for Allen, as a tribute to his contributions to agriculture. At first, Allen wasn’t too keen on the idea of having his name attached to the variety because that’s something that’s usually done posthumously, and he didn’t know for sure how well it would work.

So how is “Allen” growing these days? In the drought-stressed year of 2007, the variety produced well over the statewide commercial average yield. And in the rain-soaked year of 2009, it did the same. Based on acres planted, this translated into more than $1 million in additional revenue for Tennessee farmers.

But Allen is far from a one-crop wonder. He also conducts research on corn, cotton, grain sorghum, switchgrass, strawberries and wheat – exploring which varieties give producers better yields and how different crop varieties perform in challenging conditions such as heat and drought.

Recent surveys of northwest Tennessee producers (corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton) show that over 90 percent of farmers base variety buying decisions on data provided in UT variety testing publications produced by Allen and his team. If only 50 percent of Tennessee producers buy the higher-yielding varieties based on the test data, then the increased income per year to those producers in Tennessee can be conservatively estimated to exceed $120 million, based on 2011 commodity prices reported by the Tennessee Agricultural Statistics Service. By the same token, if 50 percent of these Tennessee producers do not use the UT variety test data, then they lose $170 million in income and the state loses the extra revenue from that amount.

“The honor and recognition of Fellow by CSSA is very well-deserved for Dr. Allen,” says Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch. “His research has led to the development of new soybean varieties, and his program delivers this new knowledge to producers. The yearly crop testing publication produced by Fred and his colleagues is one of the most highly requested publications produced by UTIA,” adds Brown.

“Thanks to Allen’s leadership of crop variety testing, farmers and Extension agents have access to years of objective data that support sound variety selection decision, increasing production and profitability of Tennessee farms,” says Tim Cross, dean of UT Extension.

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