Delta-based MSU researchers receive national recognitionsWednesday, March 9, 2016
By: Vanessa Beeson
Two Mississippi State scientists at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville are being honored by national commodity organizations for outstanding research.
Tom Allen and Wayne Ebelhar are, respectively, 2016 soybean and corn researchers of the year.
Both received their awards at the 19th Annual National Conservation Systems Cotton and Rice Conference, Southern Corn and Soybean Conference, Southern Precision Ag Conference and Delta States Irrigation Conference. The combined events took place recently in Memphis, Tennessee.
Allen conducts research on diseases in soybean and other crops as a plant pathologist with the Washington County branch of the university's Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. He also holds a joint appointment with the MSU Extension Service.
Ebelhar, a DREC specialist in soil fertility and crop production, leads MAFES investigations on a range of agricultural commodities. He is a University of Illinois doctoral graduate.
Allen is an Auburn University doctoral graduate. One of his projects involved frogeye leaf spot, a fungal disease that was showing resistance to a commonly-used fungicide. As a result of his work, growers changed management practices, explored varieties resistant to the disease and considered alternative control methods.
Jason Bond, an extension and research professor at the Delta Research and Extension Center, nominated both researchers.
"Tom's energy is unparalleled," Bond said. "He travels across Mississippi studying plant diseases that impact various areas of the state."
Soybeans are Mississippi's No. 1 row crop commodity. In 2015, Mississippi farmers grew more than 100 million bushels.
As part of a multi-state team, Allen also recently helped identify a new disease known as soybean taproot decline that was reducing yields in several fields. He and other MSU scientists are working with colleagues in Arkansas and Louisiana to determine the organism's causation.
Ebelhar manages the Centennial Rotation program that was launched in 2004 at DREC. His studies involve both the long-term effects of crop rotation and nitrogen management techniques in corn production. He is credited with helping average corn yields increase from less than 50 bushels per acre to more than 185 bushels.
"Wayne has conducted research across commodities and researched corn before it was a leading commodity in the state," Bond noted, adding that Ebelhar has "helped producers converting acreage to corn establish best management practices."
Nearly 90 million bushels of corn were produced in Mississippi in 2015, totaling $343 million value of production for the state.
Current research by Allen, Ebelhar and other MAFES scientists at the DREC focuses primarily on developing solutions to help producers increase yield and improve efficiencies. In 2015, the value of Mississippi agriculture totaled $7.4 billion and accounted for nearly 30 percent of the state's employment.