College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

Clemson student places third in Beltwide Cotton Conference


Malaysia Barr, Communication 2022

Clemson, S.C. — Kyle Smith, a master’s student at Clemson University, placed third out of 14 students in the Beltwide Cotton Conference held Jan. 4-6 in San Antonio.

The Beltwide Cotton Conference has been held annually since 1955 with the focus on new technology of U.S cotton producers and other industry members. The goal of the conference is to strengthen U.S cotton’s competitive position in the world marketplace and enhance producer profitability.

The conference traditionally takes place over three days with individual reports, panel discussions, hands-on workshops and seminars designed to enlighten industry members about the latest developments in technologies to cotton production.

Majoring in plant and environmental sciences, Smith learned about the Beltwide Cotton Conference from his major professor, Michael Plumblee, Corn and Soybean Extension Specialist for Clemson University.

A Clinton, S.C., native, Smith presented research he has been working on since 2021, focusing on variable rate seeding in cotton. The goal of Smith’s research is to provide farmers in South Carolina with the agronomic and economic benefits of variable rate seeding in cotton rather than using a uniform seeding rate.

Plumblee said Smith’s work attitude is reflected in his passion for research.

“When Kyle first started working for me, he made it clear that he was interested in precision agriculture,” Plumblee said. “One chapter of his thesis is focused on variable rate seeding in cotton, a project that he is continuing from previous work that I have conducted. From the beginning, Kyle has displayed the type of attitude and work ethic that any advisor looks for in a student. Kyle routinely asks questions about unfamiliar topics and is truly interested in agronomy, precision agriculture and applied research.”

This positive attitude and understanding of his research carried Smith to the conference and allowed him to achieve success. Smith credited his success to his preparation.

“Overall, I don’t know how much time I spent because I worked on it here and there, but it took a while because I had to run all the stats on (the research). I met with my major professor several times to get the main idea of what we wanted to talk about. And I practiced the presentation about four or five times before actually presenting it,” Smith said.

When the time came for Smith to present the information, he was nervous.

“I had some anxiety because it was my first time having to give an oral presentation at a conference. All the cotton experts are there, and I have to give a talk as a master’s student, in front of all these people, so I was a little nervous.” Smith said.

His nervousness was soothed once he realized that he had truly mastered his topic.

“I know all of the details of my project and how everything was conducted in the field. Knowing all of the details and truly understanding the project helped settle my nerves,” he said.

While he knew many Clemson faculty at the conference, he also formed new connections.

“I like going to conferences because you meet a lot of interesting people. It was a good networking opportunity,” Smith said.

Smith has advice for other students who want to attend any conferences.

“Make sure you know what you’re talking about, and it is OK to say that you do not know the answer to a question. I’ve been to other conferences where students give a presentation and try to speak on unfamiliar topics when asked questions. The judges can pick up on that immediately,” he said.

With plans to graduate in May of 2023, Smith plans to enter a Ph.D. program.

“I had a few (professors) come up to me and ask me about my future plans while I was there. Giving an oral presentation to an audience on applied agronomic research was good practice for me because ultimately, I would like to become an Extension specialist for a land-grant university. So, it was good a good opportunity for me and a good way for me to get my name out there,” Smith said.


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