BY BOB KEMERAIT
UGA Extension Plant Pathologist
A GENERAL MISUNDERSTANDING of what itis we do, a fear of the challenges of the job,and the desire for an easier career path withhigher salary all steer many away from working in agriculture.
To safeguard food and fiber for the future,we must find a way to fill very large shoes ofthose who have gone before.
Looking back over my career at the UGACoastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga.,what has changed most has been the composition of the faculty with whom I work.When I started in 2000, the biggest difference between most of us was the school inthe SEC or ACC we attended for our doctorate programs.
Over the past 20 years the composition ofour faculty has become increasingly diverse.Where once pulling for the Bulldogs or theTigers or the Gators was a measure of “diversity,” we now work shoulder to shoulder withcolleagues from across the globe whose culture, language, religion, and cuisine are verydifferent.
Diversity makes our organization stron-
ger as we bring in the best talent to help solve
problems you as growers face. For some, this
diversity can be intimidating, especially when
one is confronted with the unfamiliar. Part of
what I do as a senior faculty member is to try
to help bridge this gap, to make the unfamil-
iar more familiar. Below I introduce six early-
career faculty members from the UGA Tifton
Campus. Though they are at UGA, there are
others like them in research and Extension
across the South. Though some are not origi-
nally from around these parts, they are part of
the next generation within Extension ranks.
Most importantly, each is dedicated to mak-
ing a difference in agriculture now and in the
From his first day on the job in early 2021,the number one question asked of UGA Cotton Team leader Dr. Camp Hand has been, “Canwe make wide-row cotton production work inGeorgia?” There has been significant interest inthat wide-row cotton may reduce input costswhile maintaining yields. Partnered with cropphysiologist Dr. John Snider and graduate student Caitlyn Lawton, Dr. Hand is assessing fourrow spacings: 36”, 48”, 60”, and 72”. Hand notesthat this research is the first step in determining if wide-row cotton production has a fit inGeorgia.
Since being hired as the new UGA preci-
sion ag specialist in August 2020, Dr. Simer Virk
has aggressively pursued on-farm research tri-
als with county Extension agents. These trials
specifically address questions from growers
on selection of optimal application parame-
ters and best utilization of precision technol-
ogy. For Dr. Virk these trials not only keep him
grounded and engaged growers, but also pro-
vide research-based information that can be
used to make better management decisions
which directly impact profitability.
As a new plant virologist at UGA TiftonCampus, Dr. Sudeep Bag works on a complexof insect-transmitted viruses in cotton, peanut and vegetables that can easily threatenthe profitability for growers. Since arriving atUGA three years ago, Dr. Bag has been a leaderin efforts that have significantly improved ourunderstanding of emerging viral diseases inthis region. Better understanding throughresearch will assist in improving current management strategies.
Extension plant pathologist Dr. Bhabesh
Dutta takes greatest pride in his project. He
develops sustainable and economically prof-
itable management options for growers
against center rot of onion. This long-term
project includes evaluation of cultural prac-
tice that impact center rot, screens cultivars
and breeding lines for disease resistance,
Attracting young and talented
to an ag career isn't easy
Simer Virk, UGA precision ag specialist, is one of the up-and-coming agricultural specialists in the SouthBob Kemerait refers to in this article.