Robert G. Lemon, Ph.D., professor and Texas AgriLife Extension Service agronomist for cotton with Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, has been recognized by his peers from across the Cotton Belt as the 2007 Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year.
Lemon received the award at the Extension Cotton Specialist's annual banquet Jan. 10, during the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Nashville, Tenn.
Sponsored by Bayer CropScience, the award and banquet has been a featured event at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences since 1984. Extension cotton specialists representing every cotton-producing state select a recipient annually based on leadership and industry service.
Travis Miller, professor, Texas AgriLife Extension program leader and associate head of the Soil and Crop Science Department at Texas A&M University, has worked with Lemon since he was a graduate student at TAMU.
“Whatever is happening in cotton, Robert is on top of it,” he said. “He coordinates well with other specialists around the state. Robert has the best interests of cotton and cotton farmers at heart, and I couldn't be more pleased for him.
“Robert is not bashful,” Miller continued. “He's energetic, forward-thinking, well-organized and works well with people. He has a natural analytical ability to readily develop and implement a solution to any problem. Robert has had a great deal of success because of the way he thinks and his ability to relate well to producers and producer organizations.”
For example, Lemon initiated the successful chemical stalk destruction program. Timely cotton stalk destruction is important in boll weevil management. In regions engaged in the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Program (approximately 1 million acres), this production practice reduces post-harvest spraying operations, decreases pesticide use and conserves program and producer funds.
Randy Boman, Ph.D., Texas AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist at Lubbock, and the 2005 Extension Cotton Specialist of the Year, said Lemon is a skilled communicator and an excellent resource for his cotton grower clientele.
“He is an outstanding Extension specialist and works extremely hard to keep Texas Extension agents and producers informed of rapid changes in the cotton patch,” he said. “Robert has a comprehensive educational program supported by timely, well-designed and high-quality research trials.
“He's a tremendous thinker,” Boman added. “He thinks outside of the conventional wisdom to truly bring valuable educational programs to the cotton grower. Robert was instrumental in the development of the 2005 Cotton Resource CD for Texas, which was updated to a DVD format in 2007. This DVD includes a tremendous amount of production information to help answer producer questions, as well as those by Extension agents, ginners and consultants.”
Boman said Lemon is a “great team player who is committed to the success of the Texas cotton industry. He is most deserving of this award, and I think it speaks volumes of his contributions to the cotton industry. I am proud to call him my colleague.”
In his acceptance speech Lemon praised his predecessors and colleagues for their roles in his success. He also acknowledged the professionalism of others in the cotton industry.
“I have a high reverence for the folks who work in cotton,” he said. “This is a special group and I am honored. We do things that no other academic discipline can do and what we do is important.”
Lemon cited retired Supak and Boman for their roles in improving the Texas cotton industry.
“A lot of great folks contribute to this industry,” he said. “You can look at any other commodity you want to but you won't find the kind of kinship we have.”
He also credited his wife Sharon for “keeping things together at home while I'm gone.”
Lemon said a lot has happened in the cotton industry in the past few years and said he had been privileged to be a part of the changes.
“I appreciate this award,” he said. “Sometimes awards and recognition help us get down the road.”
Lemon's first success was with at the Vernon AgriLife Research and Extension Center in the Texas Rolling Plains. Several years later, when the state peanut specialist position opened, Miller said Lemon turned the program around. An Extension reorganization and the retirement of long-time Extension cotton specialist James Supak brought Lemon back to cotton.
“When Dr. Supak retired, we gave Robert the statewide position and he took to it like a duck to water,” Miller said. “Robert has a way of making the programs he works with very successful.”
Steve Nichols, Bayer CropScience U.S. agronomic manager, said the company is proud to sponsor this longstanding award.
“Extension is the backbone of our industry, and we are pleased to congratulate Robert Lemon on this achievement,” Nichols said.
To support his research focus, Lemon has successfully obtained $900,000 in funding from private, federal and state agencies. He has refereed 14 journal publications, written 23 Extension bulletins, eight technical publications, 71 abstracts and proceedings, two production guides, one book chapter and has been quoted in more than 112 popular press articles.
Lemon received his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in agronomy from Texas A&M University. He and Sharon have been married for 20 years and have two children.