Picking His Way to Success: Arkansas researcher devotes five decades to cotton breeding innovation

Over more than five decades, Dr. Fred Bourland has researched cotton varieties since 1978. The University of Arkansas Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics has developed, described, and released nearly 100 cotton lines and cultivars over the last five decades.

Dr. Fred Bourland stands as a testament to his commitment to the Arkansas cotton industry. The University of Arkansas Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics has amassed a lifetime of experience in the field of cotton breeding since earning his doctoral degree in 1978, guided by an unyielding drive to contribute to the industry’s progress.

“I grew up on a cotton farm,” Bourland said. “My Master’s [degree] and my Ph.D. were working with cotton breeding, and I’ve been in cotton breeding now for over 50 years.”

Despite earning advanced degrees, Bourland’s hands-on approach remains unwavering. He continues to hand-pick each cotton sample for his research, emphasizing the importance of individual plant samples that machines cannot handle. The seeds harvested are the key to the next generation of cotton.

Bourland’s dedication goes beyond the field, focusing on providing a sustainable and dependable source of food and fiber. Acknowledging his role is a few steps away from the end product, his work in processing seeds and breeding them for planting the following year contributes to the state industry’s enduring sustainability.

Bourland delights in developing selection procedures to identify lines that efficiently produce higher yields throughout his career. These procedures, honed over the years, represent a labor of love for Fred.

“That’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Working tirelessly over the past 45 years, Bourland has developed, described, and released nearly 100 cotton lines and cultivars through his research.


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