Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Kirk Jessup, 806-354-5817, kirk.jessup@ag.tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Kirk Jessup, Texas A&M AgriLife Research senior research associate in Amarillo, has been awarded the Vice Chancellor’s Award of Excellence for technical and programmatic staff.

The Vice Chancellor awards program was established in 1980 to recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions of faculty and staff across Texas A&M AgriLife.

Since 2010, Jessup has provided technical support and leadership to the crop stress physiology research program, said his supervisor Dr. Qingwu Xue, AgriLife Research crop stress physiologist in Amarillo.

Dr. Kirk Jessup and Dr. Mark Hussey pose with award
Kirk Jessup, Texas A&M AgriLife Research senior research associate in Amarillo, was presented with the Vice Chancellor’s Award by Dr. Mark Hussey, Texas A&M University System vice chancellor and dean of agriculture. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

The program focuses on understanding the physiological mechanisms of crop performance under stress conditions, particularly under drought stress and typically involves 15-20 field and greenhouse studies each year. Jessup supervises other staff, graduate students and student workers to ensure all project objectives are completed in an accurate and timely manner.

“Kirk was hired as a technician and promoted to research assistant in 2011, research associate in 2012 and senior research associate in 2014 due to his exceptional job performance,” Xue said. “He has played a critical role in many research projects in our program.

“With his participation and leadership, we are able to complete our field activities promptly and thoroughly each year. He not only understands the overall research goals and objectives in each project but also is very creative in developing protocols for data collections.”

Also, because projects in crop physiology are cross-cutting issues among all crop-focused projects in Amarillo, Jessup has had to extend his knowledge and expertise to disciplines other than plant physiology, Xue said.

“Kirk routinely assumes the responsibility of liaison between cooperating programs and is responsible for data collections that range from soil sampling to plant biomass sampling to taking physiological measurements with delicate instrumentation,” Xue said. “His dedication, technical skills, expertise and overall leadership attributes have been particularly noteworthy in collaborations with the agronomy, wheat breeding and irrigation management programs.”

Each year, the program collects over 10,000 points of data physically, ranging from plants to soils, and from corn to wheat to sorghum and cotton, Xue said. Jessup has meticulously maintained high data quality, and not only ensures the completion of the data collections but also summarizes and analyzes them well.

“He holds the highest standards for managing our field and greenhouse trials,” Xue said. “In particular, field research plots require extremely high maintenance from planting to irrigation to pest control to harvesting. Kirk has been working diligently to assure our research plots have healthy plants and are free of weeds and other pests, which ensures high quality field data.”

Academically, Jessup has co-authored 13 journal articles since 2013 and numerous abstracts and presentations related to the crop stress physiology research program. Most recently, he submitted a disclosure of invention on an improved chemical-protective apron for pesticide handlers.

The Texas A&M University department of soil and crop sciences presented him with the 2015 Field Technical Staff Award, saying he is an excellent example of the quality of personnel who would be an asset to any organization. He was also honored as 2016 Team Builder of the Year in the Amarillo Center and a recipient of Texan Caring for Texans Award in 2017.