Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Industry News: May 2024

Irby Named Associate Director for MSU Extension

Dr. Trent Irby

Trent Irby has moved into an administrative role with the Mississippi State University Extension Service after more than 12 years of serving the state’s soybean growers.

MSU Extension Director Angus Catchot recently named Irby associate director of Extension. In this role, Irby will be working primarily in agricultural and natural resource programs. Prior to his appointment, he had been serving in the position on an interim basis since January.

“Soybeans are our most grown row crop, so Dr. Irby has been one of our busiest and most trusted agronomists for many years,” Catchot said. “He has logged a lot of road miles helping our producers solve problems, and he has shown natural leadership in the process. That ability plus his experience makes him an excellent fit for this role.”

A native of Brandon, Mississippi, Irby has earned three degrees from MSU: doctoral and master’s degrees in weed science, and a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering, technology, and business.

Irby joined MSU Extension as a soybean specialist in 2012. His Extension efforts as soybean specialist focused largely on demonstration activities at more than 370 locations across the state since 2013. These efforts provide growers with farm-level data demonstrating research-proven benefits related to crop production, including variety performance, fertility challenges, and pest management strategies.

He has also served as co-coordinator of the MSU Row Crop Short Course for several years. This annual educational conference hosts hundreds of producers, consultants, and industry professionals in agriculture.

“I am excited about being a part of the amazing things Mississippi State University Extension does to serve our state,” Irby said. “Having been a part of MSU Extension working in agriculture for most of my career, I am blessed to have witnessed firsthand the impact it makes for our state’s citizens.

“MSU Extension truly has something to offer to all Mississippians, and I am honored to serve with Dr. Catchot, the agents in each of our counties, and the faculty and staff located both on campus and around the state to enhance the lives of every citizen,” he said.

Irby will be based at the Bost Extension Center at MSU.

— Robert Nathan Gregory, MSU Extension

Diaz Tapped to Lead Invasive Species Research Center

Rodrigo Diaz, LSU AgCenter entomologist, has been named the director of the AgCenter’s Center for Research Excellence for the Study of Invasive Species.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Rodrigo Diaz has been named director of the AgCenter’s Center for Research Excellence for the Study of Invasive Species. The center is working to advance the understanding of destructive nonnative insects, weeds, wildlife and disease-causing microorganisms.

With more than 40% of invasive species found in the United States being present in Louisiana, the center is a necessity to better understand and control them, said Matt Lee, LSU vice president for agriculture.

“Rodrigo Diaz has conducted research in the control of the invasive roseau cane scale and giant salvinia,” Lee said.

Diaz, whose research has focused on the study of invasive species impact on managed and natural ecosystems, will facilitate the direction and management of the center; develop research goals and objectives; and coordinate research, education, and outreach activities.

“We will use our expertise to conduct risk assessments, develop monitoring programs and advance eradication and control measures,” Diaz said. “Additionally, we need to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders, including researchers, policymakers, land managers, farmers and citizens.”

Currently, the center has collaborators at Southern University, LSU, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

With the diversity of organisms and landscapes in Louisiana, Diaz said he envisions a dynamic team, allowing for recruitment of collaborators based on expertise.

Invasive species cause $120 billion in damage in the U.S each year, harming agricultural production, human habitation, forestland, wetland, and native species. They threaten economic and ecological stability, displace native species and increase agricultural production costs.

Louisiana is home to some of the most destructive invasive species found in the United States. The AgCenter has long worked to monitor and manage them.

“The center would benefit Louisiana by promoting interdisciplinary research, fostering proactive management strategies and enhancing stakeholder collaboration with the goal of safeguarding the state’s agricultural, ecological and economic interests from the impact of invasive species,” Diaz said.

With the connectivity of ecosystems, particularly via the Mississippi River, Diaz said the center initiatives could mitigate the spread of invasive species beyond borders and develop regional management plans.

Michael Stout, head of the LSU AgCenter Department of Entomology, is involved in research with the center and said the AgCenter is uniquely positioned for this work.

“The LSU AgCenter in general, and the Department of Entomology in particular, have a long history as leaders in the field of integrated pest management. Many of the pests on which our faculty conduct research are invasive pests,” Stout said. “Invasive pests will probably increase in importance in the coming decades in Louisiana due to the state’s subtropical climate, proximity to ports of entry, and the presence of diverse cropping systems.”

Stout said in addition to the research, the center will develop educational programs to increase the awareness of the importance of invasives by the public and engage them in the effort to prevent entry and manage established pests.

— Tobie Blanchard, LSU AgCenter

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