Bradley Wilson is the new cotton specialist for the University of Missouri. Wilson assumed his new role on Jan. 2. He will be based at the Fisher Delta Research, Extension and Education Center in Portagville, Mo.
Wilson said he’s excited to be back in the Delta working with cotton growers. While a native of North Carolina, Wilson completed his master’s degree at Mississippi State University. That’s where he first encountered the region’s fertile soil, generous hospitality, and delicious food. After earning his PhD from Oklahoma State University in December, he said he jumped at the chance to move back to the area.
“I’m excited about planting on beds again,” he said. “You don’t see very many in Oklahoma. I’m also happy to be working in a climate that receives more than 20 inches of rain per year.”
“Mostly, I’m thrilled to be working with cotton and cotton producers,” he continued. “In my opinion, cotton is the most beautiful and fascinating crop we grow. The unique challenges that come with managing cotton drew me to it as a career.”
In 2021, Missouri producers planted almost 400,000 acres of cotton — most of it within a short drive of the Delta Research Center. The Missouri cotton specialist position has been vacant since 2017. Wilson said he knows he has a big job before him.
“My two biggest goals are to get the Official Variety Trials back up and running and try to build the on-farm variety program,” Wilson said. “My ultimate objective is to build a program that will positively impact the growers in our state.”
Wilson’s new role includes an 80% research appointment. In his prior research projects, he evaluated disease and pest control practices on cotton growth and yield with an emphasis in nematode control. At OSU Wilson’s research projects focused on improving fiber quality and evaluating the utility and impact of foliar fertilization in cotton.
It’s an exciting time at Missouri’s Delta Research Center, as Wilson is one of three new faces at the Portageville facility. In August, Justin Chlapecka joined University of Missouri Extension as a state rice specialist. In a new partnership with MU and the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council, Chlapecka leads rice agronomy research at the Fisher Delta Research Center and the Missouri Rice Research and Demonstration Farm near Malden, Mo.
And in September, Justin Calhoun began a role as Extension state specialist in soils and cropping systems based out of FDREEC. He also serves as an assistant professor in MU Division of Plant Science and Technology. He will work with Wilson and Chlapecka on soil fertility and agronomy in cotton and rice, while also working with soybean, corn and peanut producers in the Missouri Bootheel area.
“The Delta Center has a big reputation, and historically it has played such a significant role in agricultural production in the Missouri Bootheel,” Chlapecka said. “As these vacant positions are being filled, I think farmers are feeling optimistic about the changes and the future direction.”
“Now we just have to live up to those expectations,” Calhoun added.
A lot of work is ahead of the three new hires as they look to get their programs up and running. That includes assembling crews and hiring student workers for the summer. (Calhoun said students are strongly encouraged to apply for summer worker positions.) The men are also anxious to make a mark on Missouri agriculture. And when asked where they see themselves in five years, all three answered “here.”
“I’m from this general area and I hope to be here in five years, building this program and continuing to make advancements in production rice research,” Chlapecka said.
Wilson and Calhoun seconded his remarks, expressing their eagerness to provide a beneficial service to the growers of the state.
“Not only do I want my program to impact their practices, but I hope I’ve built a relationship with every grower so they can come to us with questions and issues,” Calhoun added.
Interested student workers should contact the Delta Research Center to inquire about opportunities. To reach the main office, call 573-379-5431 or email email@example.com.