Two new scientists will fill key positions at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Amarillo.
Jourdan Bell will be the new Texas AgriLife Extension agronomy specialist, beginning Jan. 1, and Dr. Jenny Jennings will be assistant professor in beef nutrition with Texas A&M AgriLife Research beginning Nov. 1.
Bell will replace longtime agronomist Dr. Brent Bean with whom she worked at the Conservation Production Research Laboratory near Bushland as a student technician and then with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.
A native of Amarillo, Bell offers strong agricultural roots in the Texas Panhandle, as well as excellent training and practical experience in agricultural research, said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension agronomist and Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences associate department head in College Station.
“We are excited to have her join the AgriLife team, filling a vital position for the Texas High Plains,” Miller said.
Bell will officially start Jan. 1, after meeting the qualifications for her doctorate from Texas A&M University in December. She will be an assistant professor and have a joint appointment with both AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research.
“We believe Jourdan Bell is exceptionally well prepared to take on the role of research and Extension project leader in agronomy and soil and crop sciences at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Amarillo,” said Dr. John Sweeten, resident director at the Center.
“As a lifelong resident of the Texas Panhandle, my research interests have been driven by challenges faced by local producers, specifically, soil-plant-water relationships with regards to efficient use of irrigation, rainfall and stored soil water in both irrigated and dryland crops,” she said.
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“I strongly believe that sustainable production systems must incorporate sound management practices to optimize crop quality and yield, in addition to managing diversified crop and livestock operations that are continually evolving as technologies improve.”
Bell said declining well capacities and pumping restrictions present difficult choices for producers in the region that can be addressed not only by improved irrigation water management, but also by crop variety choices and rotations to maximize water productivity.
“Crop variety trials will be a fundamental component of my research program, as they can provide indispensable data for area producers when new varieties become available,” she said. “In addition, I believe there is an increasing research need for weed management practices that can be incorporated into regional cropping systems and rotations due to the escalation of herbicide-resistant weeds.”
Through her employment with USDA-ARS, she has experience in research-based projects in manure and nutrient management, irrigated and dryland cropping systems, tillage systems, forage systems and alternative biofuels. She also has extensive practical and specialized knowledge of irrigated and dryland cropping practices for grain sorghum, corn, forage sorghums, millet, sweet sorghum, sunflower and wheat.
Bell earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Texas A&M University, in general agriculture and plant, soil and environmental science, respectively, and her doctoral degree in soil sciences at Texas A&M.
Dr. Jennings responsibilities will include cattle feeding trials in the research feedlot at the Conservation and Production Research Laboratory at Bushland as well as with the private sector.
“This is a critical faculty research position in the midst of the cattle feeding capital of the world,” Sweeten said.
The position is a joint appointment with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and West Texas A&M University. Jennings will be located at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Amarillo.
Jennings, a native of New Haven, Mo., earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Missouri State University, a master’s degree in animal science with an emphasis in animal physiology from the University of Arkansas, and a doctorate in ruminant nutrition at South Dakota State University
Since completing her doctorate, she has worked for Alltech, building the company’s beef cattle research program focused on the cow-calf, stocker and feedlot sectors of the industry. She currently serves as the company’s research manager for ruminant nutrition in North and South America, and oversees Alltech’s Ruminant Physiology Lab in Brookings, S.D.
“This position truly coincides with my research ambitions and overall career goals,” Jennings said. “I am interested in developing strategies that would allow the beef industry a better understanding and manipulation of growth, efficiency and carcass characteristics.”
She is focused on understanding the role of nutrition and how it affects energy metabolism and genetic factors connected to body composition.
“The amount of lean relative to fat tissue in beef determines the value of the product at market and the efficiency and quality of the beef produced,” Jennings said. “By analyzing expression of genes that affect fat cells and muscle formation, we can begin to understand how to manipulate tissue formation and energy utilization.”
She said the knowledge gained from research could be used in adjusting management practices, improving efficiency of gains and developing superior carcasses. Additionally, this research could include how certain management strategies and available technologies can improve animal health, food safety, and the industry’s environmental footprint.
“I’m excited about this new opportunity,” Jennings said. “The ability to pursue innovative ideas will allow me to form a progressive, competitive, nationally recognized research program at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Amarillo.”