MSU plant and soil sciences professor designated Southern Weed Science Society fellow

MSU plant and soil sciences professor designated Southern Weed Science Society fellow

A Mississippi State plant and soil sciences faculty member is now a fellow of the Southern Weed Science Society. (Photo By: David Ammon)

By: Vanessa Beeson

John Byrd, a research and extension professor, received the honor at the organization's annual meeting held recently in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The highest honor the society presents, fellows are recognized for their significant contributions to the society itself and advances they have made in the weed science discipline across the South.

"Dr. Byrd is an excellent scientist who has worked to understand and stop the spread of invasive species that are detrimental to Mississippi's native plants and wildlife," said George Hopper, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. "He is a trusted resource to our state agencies tasked with keeping our roads and public right-of-ways safe."

As a weed scientist in the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Byrd has spent nearly 30 years focused on control of undesirable plants and invasive weeds that impact everything from home lawns and crops to ornamentals and public lands. As an MSU Extension specialist, he understands in-depth the problems landowners and state and county roadside managers face when it comes to weeds, and he helps develop scientific-based solutions.

"I work closely with roadside vegetation managers and utility companies to help ensure they have the tools to combat invasive weed species that threaten rights of way and could affect road safety for motorists or availability of electricity to homes and businesses," he said.

Byrd's research, which he presents at cattlemen's association meetings, also focuses on finding ways to reduce weeds present in pastures and hayfields.

A trainer of master gardeners, Byrd grew up on a 40-acre farm in coastal South Carolina. He earned a bachelor's degree in agronomy at Clemson University and master's and doctoral degrees in weed science at North Carolina State University.

"My dad was a part-time farmer who didn't use a lot of the modern technology. As a result, I frequently used a hoe to get rid of weeds in cotton, tobacco, and soybean fields," he said.

The manual labor, coupled with the mentorship by extension specialists during his collegiate years, inspired him to embark on a career helping landowners, land managers and producers find better, more efficient ways to control weeds. He said his designation as an SWSS fellow is a reflection that his efforts haven't gone unnoticed.

"This recognition by peers across the southern United States gives me self-satisfaction knowing that I've made significant contributions to my discipline over the course of my career," he said.

Byrd has been involved in SWSS since 1986 and currently is the organization's representative to the Weed Science Society of America, an elected three-year position. A former SWSS board member, he's also been active on several committees, having chaired the graduate student contest, the Outstanding Young Weed Scientist program, and the constitution and by-laws committees, among others.

Byrd has served on the graduate committees of 76 MSU students and held leadership roles with the Mississippi Association of County Agriculture Extension Agents, Mississippi Weed Science Society and the National Roadside Vegetation Management Association.

MSU's Department of Plant and Soil Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in agronomy, horticulture and environmental science in agricultural systems. Master's and doctoral degrees are offered in agronomy, horticulture and weed science.

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