Two University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture agronomists were recognized for their efforts in cotton and rice research at the National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference in January.
Bill Robertson, cotton agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, was named Cotton Researcher of 2019. Jarrod Hardke, rice agronomist for the Division of Agriculture, was named Rice Researcher of 2019 at the conference.
The award recognizes researchers for their work in testing and evaluating conservation systems concepts and equipment and promoting the benefits of conservation farming. Conservation and sustainable farming are important to both Hardke and Robertson.
“My work involves a sustainable approach to rice production,” Hardke said. “I am fortunate to be able to collaborate with researchers across disciplines where we attempt to emphasize conservation and sustainability of all resources including fertility, pest management, agronomics, and irrigation. Efficiency is the key to conservation and we pursue it every day.”
Robertson’s research puts a focus on evaluating more environmentally friendly practices the cotton supply chain desires and how those practices impact producer profitability.
“It is truly a great honor to be recognized by the Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference for my work in cotton,” Robertson said. “This has always been one of my favorite meetings. The producer to producer information exchange is great. I love having the opportunity to help facilitate this interaction at this and other meetings.”
Hardke earned a bachelor’s in crop and pest management from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and a doctorate in entomology from Louisiana State University. He joined the Division of Agriculture in 2012. His research focuses on agronomic production practices in rice including the evaluation of seeding rates, planting dates, cultivar selection, and emerging grower management issues.
“It is always a very humbling experience to be recognized for the work I feel fortunate to do,” Hardke said. “Having grown up working on a rice farm, being able to work on rice issues to help all growers is something that means a great deal to me. I sincerely appreciate this recognition and hope to continue working on behalf of rice growers for a long time.”
Robertson earned a bachelor’s in plant science from West Texas State University and a master’s and doctorate in agronomy from Texas A&M University. He joined the division in 2014. Robertson spends most of his time in the field working with county agents and producers overseeing 12 large-plot on-farm cotton variety testing locations. Robertson uses several of these locations to evaluate practices that reduce cotton’s environmental and how those practices improve soil health and impact producer profitability.