Cotton Root Rot team awarded AgriLife Extension’s highest honor

COLLEGE STATION – A group of professional colleagues have been awarded the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s 2012 Superior Service Award, the agency’s highest honor.

The award was presented during the annual Texas A&M AgriLife Conference in College Station on Jan. 8. The honor goes to personnel who demonstrate outstanding performance or who provide exceptional service to AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.

The honor was presented to the 23 individuals in the team category for their landmark accomplishments in finding an effective means to combat cotton root rot, a disease caused by a persistent soilborne fungus of cotton, an array of other crops and landscape plants.

The AgriLife Extension team members honored were:
Dr. Tom Isakeit, plant pathologist, College Station; Richard R. Minzenmayer, integrated pest management agent in Runnels and Tom Green counties; Archie Abrameit, Stiles Farm manager at Thrall; Dr. David Drake, agronomist at San Angelo; Warren Multer, integrated pest management agent in Glasscock, Reagan and Upton counties; Marty Jungman, integrated pest management agent in Hill and McLennan counties; Dr. Gaylon Morgan, agronomist, College Station; Dale Mott, cotton program specialist, College Station; Norman Fryar, agent in Pecos County; Chance Crossland, agent in Castro County; Jeffrey Stapper,  agent in Nueces County; Steve Sturtz, agent in Tom Green County; Dr. Dan Fromme, agronomist at Corpus Christi; Dr. Salvador Vitanza, integrated pest management agent in El Paso County; Dr. Jaime Iglesias, agent in El Paso County; Ryan Collett, agent in Hill County; Rebel Royall, agent in Glasscock County; Tyler Frey, agent in Reagan County; and Dr. Chris Sansone, recently retired associate department head and entomologist at San Angelo.

“Cotton root rot is the most destructive disease in Texas and it has been an important source of loss of lint, seed and income for 140 years,” wrote Doyle Schniers, Texas Cotton Producers Inc. president.

“Since the disease was reported in 1872, little help has been available for farmers trying to farm cotton in disease prone fields,” he wrote. “Recent data suggests growers lose about $29.4 million per year to root rot in Texas alone.”

In 1998, the team began evaluating fungicides for root rot control in the Coastal Bend. In 2008, TopGuard was found to have good activity against the fungus. This discovery on the Wilde farm in Tom Green County led to numerous trials that were conducted in the Trans Pecos/St. Lawrence area, the Concho Valley, the Blacklands and the Coastal Bend to test fungicide rates and application methods.

Armed with this data, the team made a request for an Emergency Exemption label in 2011, which was subsequently granted in 2012 allowing the product to be used on Texas cotton.

“The team worked hard to educate producers about the product and how it should be used,” wrote Schniers. “The fungicide was applied to about 175,000 acres in 2012, and growers realized a net benefit conservatively estimated at $5 million.”

Schniers wrote that the team took a “no stone left unturned” approach that worked.

“Farmers who have been affected for many years by this disease can now plant cotton without risking losing the crop to root rot,” he wrote. “And the economies of rural communities, which have for years been damaged by the disease, can anticipate better days.”

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