28th Annual Texas Plant Protection Conference

December 6 - 7, 2016
Brazos Center in Bryan, Texas

This year's theme:
"Advanced Technologies for Texas Agriculture"

Opening Session Speakers

Advanced Technology Overview

Bob AvantBob Avant, Program Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research

Bob Avant earned his bachelor’s degree in 1975 and his master’s in 1976, both in Agricultural Engineering, from Texas A&M University. Avant has 40 years of public and private sector experience in executive management of agricultural research programs, bioenergy research management, agricultural production logistics, food, fiber and oilseed research management, agricultural air quality engineering, environmental site selection and evaluation, and engineering design.

He is a registered Professional Engineer licensed to practice in Texas and is a member of the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers, Cotton Incorporated Texas State Support Committee, and Texas A&M College of Agriculture Development Council. He is President of Williamson County Farm Bureau. He has served on the USDA Agricultural Air Quality Task Force, Texas Agricultural Forum Steering Committee, USEPA Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, and Texas Agriculture Council. He is a member of eight academic honor societies in science, agriculture, and engineering, was awarded Texas’ Agricultural Engineer of the Year in 1989, the Government Service Award from Professional Ag. Workers in 2003, and the Distinguished Alumnus, Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2005. In 2006, Bob earned a special service award from the Texas section of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Apps for Agriculture

Ron SmithRon Smith, Editor, Southwest Farm Press

Ron Smith has spent more than 35 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975.

He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications.

Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies.

Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tennessee. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

UAVs and Use of Ag Data

Alex Thomasson Alex Thomasson, Professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University

J. Alex Thomasson is Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University. He earned a BS from Texas Tech University in 1987, an MS from Louisiana State University in 1989, and a PhD from the University of Kentucky in 1997, all in Agricultural Engineering.

As a research engineer for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service from 1989 to 1997, he developed sensing and control systems for cotton ginning. Then as a faculty member at Mississippi State University through 2004, he taught and conducted research in precision agriculture and remote sensing. While there he was recognized as the MSU division of agriculture’s top researcher in 2003.

Since joining TAMU in 2005, he has continued to focus on agricultural machine systems and sensing with an emphasis on cotton. He teaches courses in machine design and measurement systems, and he serves as advisor to his students’ robotics competition team and Mexico exchange group. Dr. Thomasson has also developed other international collaborations in Australia, China, Japan, Spain, and the U.K. His current research concentrates on autonomous vehicles, sensors, and remote sensing with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for precision agriculture and high-throughput phenotyping. He has published 60 peer-reviewed journal articles as well as numerous other technical and popular press articles, authored two book chapters, and patented one invention. His research has been funded by numerous federal and state agencies as well as corporations and private foundations. Dr. Thomasson is a member of ASABE (American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers), ISPA (International Society for Precision Agriculture), ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education), and SPIE (Society for Optics and Photonics). He is a registered Professional Engineer and a retired officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, finishing his career as a Lieutenant Commander in the Civil Engineering Corp.

Raised in Houston, Texas, he came about his love for agriculture and machinery through visits with rural relatives as a child, working on his cousin’s farm in high school, and working for a seed company during college. He now lives in the country north of Bryan, Texas, and spends as much time as possible with his family there.

Texas Crop Register

Robert Coulson Robert Coulson, Professor, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University

Robert N. Coulson earned the BS degree in biology (1965) from Furman University and MS (1967) and Ph.D. (1969) degrees in entomology from the University of Georgia. After a year of post-doctorate study at the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia , he joined the Texas A&M University System, where he was initially employed as Principal Entomologist with the Texas Forest Service and Assistant Professor with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (now Texas A&M AgriLife Research). In 1973 he received an academic appointment with the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Coulson's research has been transdisciplinary in approach and directed to investigations of the activities and impacts of insects and other taxa in forest, prairie, savanna and agricultural landscapes. The research addresses issues of significance to ecological science as well land-use management. In 1984 he co-founded the Knowledge Engineering Laboratory (KEL) to facilitate research and development of computer applications for planning, problem-solving and decision making in environmental science and management. Focus of KEL research is directed to landscape-scale problems that require integration, interpretation, and use of different representations of knowledge. Special emphasis has been placed on ways and means of blending qualitative heuristic knowledge of experts, using methodologies from artificial intelligence, with quantitative information that results from scientific investigations. His research accomplishments have been recognized at local (Former Student Association Faculty Achievement Award for Research, Texas A&M University), state (Award of Merit in Recognition of Outstanding Achievements in Forest Research, Texas Forestry Association), regional (A. D. Hopkins Award, Southern Forest Insect Work Conference), and national (J. E. Bussart Award, Entomological Society of America) levels. Dr. Coulson teaches undergraduate courses in insect ecology and forest protection and a graduate course in landscape ecology. He currently is a member of the Entomological Society of America, International Association of Landscape Ecology, and the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations. He is a regular contributor to the scientific agenda of these societies.

Flag the Technology App

Todd SinkTodd Sink, Assistant Professor & Fisheries Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences

Todd Sink earned his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in fisheries and aquatic sciences with a double specialization in fish physiology and nutrition and fisheries management. He earned his doctorate from the University of Tennessee in philosophy of natural resources. He also taught courses on fisheries and aquaculture topics and conducted research with the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine in fish endocrinology. While in Tennessee, he worked as the aquaculture lab manager at the Johnson Animal Research and Teaching Unit, as a fisheries technician for Conservation Fisheries Incorporated, as a fisheries survey crewman for Fish and Wildlife Associates and as a contractor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After completing a short post-doctoral study on the rainbow trout at the University of Tennessee, Sink accepted a post-doctoral research associate post at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff where he continued to teach and conduct research across a wide range of topics. Sink has conducted research on more than 45 fish species ranging from baitfish to food and sport fish of both fresh and saltwater. He also has studied fish native to South America, Africa and Asia.

Sink grew up on a cattle farm in Connersville, Ind. where he showed cattle, hogs and sheep competitively in 4-H. His interest in aquaculture began to grow at age 14 when he began to raise channel catfish in cattle tanks that he fed waste grain from the family cattle operation.

Agriculture in an Unknown Federal Environment of Regulations and Policy

Chandler GouleChandler Goule, CEO, National Association of Wheat Growers

Chandler Goule is NAWGs Chief Executive Officer, coming into that role in July 2016. Chandler oversees NAWG’s industry relations, acts as Executive Director of the National Wheat Foundation, and leads NAWG’s efforts to advocate for American wheat farmers.

Prior to his position at NAWG, Chandler served as the Sr. Vice President of Programs for the National Farmers Union for several years. Goule also formerly served as the staff director of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry for the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture under former chairman Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn. Peterson is a member of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats Coalition.

Goule has worked extensively in Washington, D.C., on agriculture, food safety and trade policy. His previous experience extends to companies such as Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Washington office of Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas.

Growing up in rural Morgan Mill, Texas, Goule is familiar with agriculture policy and the rural way of life. He graduated from Texas A&M University on a 4-H scholarship, earning a Bachelor of Science in animal science with an emphasis in production. While in Washington he completed his master’s in political management and corporate and public affairs at The George Washington University.

Goule has appeared on “Good Morning America,” CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show.” He has also been interviewed on Bloomberg TV and C-SPAN’s “The Washington Journal.”

Goule resides on Capitol Hill and is an avid scuba diver and snow skier.

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