I consider myself a farmer first then a scientist/researcher. It was my early childhood on a small family farm back home in India which made me passionate about the science of agriculture. After having completed high school, it was an obvious choice for me to go to a College of Agriculture to pursue an undergraduate degree during which I became interested in entomology. It is that curiosity and the interest along with a strong desire to pursue graduate studies overseas landed me in West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon Texas where I obtained an MS degree. I worked on screening sorghum genotypes for resistance to maize weevil under the guidance of Dr. Bonnie Pendleton. I completed a PhD in entomology at Texas A&M University, College Station where I was co-advised by Drs. M. O. Way and R. F. Medina. My PhD research focused on the development of an integrated pest management (IPM) program for redbanded stink bug (RBSB), an invasive insect pest of soybeans in the southern U.S. For this project, I conducted field experiments to study the impact of RBSB feeding on soybean production and the occurrence of delayed maturity disorder. My dissertation research was the first to report an occurrence of the most damaging species of stink bug, RBSB, in Texas soybeans. One of the objectives of my PhD research also involved investigation of development of insecticide resistance in RBSB field populations.
Following my PhD, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension center in Beaumont where I worked towards addressing insect pest issues in soybean, sugarcane, sorghum and rice across the Upper Gulf Coast region. Overall, I have over five years of experience in designing and conducting field research establishing economic thresholds, evaluating insecticide efficacy including promising seed treatments, and germplasm screenings for insect resistance in diverse agricultural crops.
My long-term association with the Beaumont Center as a graduate and postdoctoral researcher has further strengthened my understanding of relevant regional pest management issues. This experience has provided me with excellent opportunities to actively work with other researchers, IPM agents, county extension agents, industry cooperators, and ag-consultants to address stakeholders’ issues. I am a strong advocate of a need for an extension education in agriculture. I think it is not enough to conduct research on research farms. I strongly believe in the need to disseminate and apply research findings to solve stakeholders’ problems. As an extension specialist I am committed to ensure that new technologies and discoveries reach farmers’ fields in such a way that farmers are empowered to use them.
Agriculture has become very challenging in recent times. There are environmental extremities farmers have to face, new insect pests and diseases show up every now and then, and finally after having a commodity in hand there is an uncertainty surrounding market prices. With the fierce competition from global producers and volatile commodity prices, we need to provide our producers with the technology that will not only increase the pounds per acre but also cut down the production cost to help producers stay in business. In this position, I envision developing a well-rounded program that will involve an active participation and cooperation from cotton producers, IPM agents, extension county agents, crop consultants, and commodity groups like Plains Cotton Growers Inc. to deliver information that will directly address the issues faced by cotton producers in the Texas High Plains. Also, being a strong supporter of modern technology in agriculture, I am very eager to initiate collaborations with industry folks to evaluate and screen different tools in order to provide multiple options to clientele. Finally, I am very excited about having the opportunity to work in an area I am passionate about. I am confident my program can make significant contributions towards developing nationally recognized Extension and applied research programs to address regional entomological issues and improve economic productivity across the Texas High Plains.