From walking the fields with farmer Cecil Parker in Vidalia and working alongside longtime LSU AgCenter Agent Glen Daniels while a student at Vidalia High and Copiah-Lincoln, Matt Foster is now representing the state of Louisiana as an LSU AgCenter Assistant Professor and cotton, corn and grain sorghum specialist.
Foster will be a featured speaker at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Outlook Forum on Friday in Washington D.C.
Foster will provide an overview of cotton research and production in Louisiana, and focus on advances in biotechnology, which are enhancing cotton production.
“Cotton farmers face a lot of challenges, and I want people to understand how biotechnology can respond to these challenges and address issues such as rising input costs, volatile weather and pest management,” Foster said.
The forum includes more than 30 sessions and 100 agriculture leaders and subject matter experts. Sessions are offered live and virtually and will cover an array of topics, including commodity and food price outlooks, U.S. and global agricultural trade developments, supply chain disruptions and innovations to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Foster became enamored with agriculture at an early age, even though no one in his family was involved in farming.
“I was fascinated with cotton as a child,” Foster said. “When I was young, my family would always have to stop the car and let me walk through cotton fields. I really enjoyed working the crops with Cecil Parker, and I liked being outside. I thought to myself then that this was something I wanted to do as a career.”
Foster started his post-secondary education at Copiah-Lincoln, and he interned with Daniels, who was the Concordia Parish county agent at the time. Working alongside Daniels was Foster’s formal introduction to extension work, and it gave him something to aspire to.
“I really enjoy watching crops grow, and I really enjoy interacting with the people in agriculture, especially the growers,” Foster said.
Foster continued his studies at LSU, where he majored in agriculture with an emphasis on pest management. He received his undergraduate degree in 2012 and entered graduate school, where AgCenter weed scientist Jim Griffin served as his graduate adviser. Foster received his doctorate in 2018.
Foster’s first assignment with the AgCenter was working as an area sugarcane agronomy and soybean agent for seven parishes in south Louisiana, working out of Ascension Parish.
“The people down there are awesome,” Foster said.
Foster became the LSU AgCenter corn, cotton and grain sorghum specialist in January 2021.
As the state specialist of three crops, Foster has faced some unique challenges.
“Corn and grain sorghum are somewhat similar, but cotton is definitely a different crop,” Foster said.
Foster is charged with conducting on-farm trials across the state in cooperation with parish extension agents and growers. He currently has 15 on-farm corn hybrid trials, including one at the state penitentiary at Angola.
Foster is based at the AgCenter Macon Ridge Station near Winnsboro, and he will also maintains an office at the AgCenter Northeast Research Station at St. Joseph.
“I am looking forward to representing the state, and representing cotton in Louisiana,” Foster said. “The cotton acreage has fluctuated so much over the past few years. In 2021, cotton hit a record low in prices, but last year we were having a phenomenal year, but suffered a lot of damage from the August rains.”
As for now, Foster is concentrating on spreading the good word about Louisiana agriculture, while soaking up new information.
“I’m going to be talking about biotechnology, improving technology and a better environment,” he said. “I’m looking forward to teaching and learning.”
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