Dr. Conner & Mr. Hamilton: Sharing Rangeland Management, PESTMAN, and a Long-Lasting Friendship

Posted on May 2, 2014 by 

How did it all begin? This was the question posed to Dr. Richard Conner and Mr. Wayne Hamilton as we gathered around the table outside Mr. Hamilton’s office.

Within minutes of meeting, it was clear that this duo’s partnership extended well-beyond PESTMAN, a program designed to provide pest management options and economic impacts associated with weed and brush control, and our intended topic of discussion. It turns out that PESTMAN was just one of many adventures this pair had tackled together.

An Agricultural Economist and a Rangeland Specialist

Dr. Conner, a professor of Agriculture Economics and the Thomas M. O’Connor Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management, and Mr. Hamilton, a senior lecturer in Ecosystem Science and Management, began their friendship more than two decades ago.

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Dr. Richard Conner (left) and Mr. Wayne Hamilton

“Well, I guess it all began in 1989,” said Mr. Hamilton. “Richard and I were approached by the Agricultural Bank of China to come to China to teach a short course on grazingland management. So, with funding from the World Bank, we went to China.”

On three separate trips spanning over three years, Mr. Hamilton and Dr. Conner traveled to different regions of China, establishing the Sustainable Loaning Program for the Agricultural Bank of China. This included training on use of resource inventory, grazing management planning, land practice planning, and investment analysis to insure that loans to the Chinese pastoralists were sustainable.

Grazingland Management Systems

In 1990, Dr. Conner and Mr. Hamilton decided to form their own consulting company -Grazingland Management Systems, Inc (GMS). Through consulting with GMS, the pair has had the opportunity to share their knowledge internationally in such places as Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and China.

One of GMS’s largest projects came several years later when the USDA’s Risk Management Agency sought out the pair’s rangeland management expertise, asking them to research and develop an insurance policy for pasture, rangeland and forage.

“This type of insurance really opened the door for forage producers to have the ability to insure their forage,” said Dr. Conner. “Until this point, forage producers had never had this kind of opportunity.”

PESTMAN

Dr. Conner and Mr. Hamilton’s working-relationship with USDA’s Risk Management Agency continued when the agency funded the initial version of PESTMAN in 2006.  GMS partnered with Texas A&M AgriLife Research, New Mexico State University, AgForce, and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to assist in development of the program.

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A sample graph of the estimated forage increase using clopyralid as treatment for Honey Mesquite

Through these partnerships, PESTMAN developed into a user-friendly website that provides personalized treatment recommendations based on specific plant species. The recommendations include suggested mechanical practices, individual chemicals, combinations of chemicals, additives, and rates of application.

Once the user has entered data into PESTMAN and selected a method of treatment, the program will then provide an economic analysis of the selected treatment.

“PESTMAN not only keeps users aware of all pest chemical and mechanical treatment opportunities, it also  provides a way for users to estimate how effective the treatments will be in the long-run and the expected costs associated with the treatments,” said Mr. Hamilton.

Teaching the Next Generation

On top of their rangeland consulting work, Mr. Hamilton and Dr. Conner tag-team teach an Ecosystem Science and Management senior capstone course, Range Analysis and Management Planning.

The pair has taken a realistic approach to the course by having students design mock rangeland plans for clients. “Giving students these hands-on experiences prepares them to be hired by our primary employers, such as government agencies and consulting firms,” said Mr. Hamilton.

Along with the capstone course, both faculty members teach other courses at the undergraduate and graduate level and serve on a number of graduate committees.

The rangeland management sector has benefited greatly from the knowledge that Dr. Conner and Mr. Hamilton have shared over the years. In the words of Dr. Conner, “developing decision support systems, it’s what we do!” What will this duo do next?

This article was originally posted at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.