Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, [email protected]
Contact: Dr. Murilo Maeda, 806-746-6101, [email protected]

Dr. Murilo Maeda is returning to his roots when he trades the Texas coast for the South Plains to take the position as Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton specialist in Lubbock, effective Oct. 1.

“My family’s roots run deep into the cotton industry, and I would like to contribute to its improvement,” Maeda said, as he leaves his position as a Texas A&M AgriLife Research assistant research scientist in Corpus Christi.

“Working out of the Corpus Christi center, I had the opportunity to work with many different crops, but cotton is special to me,” he said. “With that being said, there is no better place than the Southern High Plains to work with cotton.”

Murilo Maeda
Dr. Murilo Maeda has joined the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service cotton program in Lubbock. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

As he makes the move to Lubbock, Maeda brings with him a growing expertise on using unmanned aerial systems, or UAS, to assist cotton research.

Maeda said the transition from AgriLife Research to AgriLife Extension will be a change in day-to-day focus as program activities shift to more traditional outreach/educational/applied research.

“But the main goals are still the same – improve agriculture, food security and farmers’ well-being; to make a difference in someone’s life, to have a long-lasting impact,” he said.

With AgriLife Research, his primary focus was UAS platforms and methodologies for high-throughput plant phenotyping and UAS-based applications for plant breeding, agricultural research and precision management applications.

Maeda earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Centro Universitário do Triângulo, Brazil, and master’s and doctorate degrees in agronomy/crop physiology from Texas A&M. Before moving to the U.S., he worked at Netafim Brasil assisting in the development of precision irrigation systems for commercial coffee and citrus farms and with TCMA Agropecuária Ltda, assisting with large soybean, cotton, and corn commercial operations across Brazil.

In 2005, he joined Deltapine/Monsanto’s cotton breeding program as a research assistant. In this position, he served as the breeder’s assistant, designed and conducted breeding research trials across the Brazilian cotton-growing regions, managed breeding-associated field tasks, as well as research databases.

After leaving Deltapine/Monsanto in 2010, Maeda moved to College Station to pursue his master’s and doctorate degrees. While working on his degrees, he served as a graduate teaching/research assistant for the cotton physiology program and the department of soil and crop sciences.

His degrees focused on the morphological and physiological responses of cotton to drought and high-temperature stress, and at Corpus Christi, he was responsible for managing the development of a cropping systems and remote sensing program for agricultural research and crop precision management applications.

Because the South Plains is a completely different region from the Coastal Bend, Maeda said he will need to spend time adapting to the regional culture and farming practices. There will also be a need to establish new working relationships with allied industry, a regional network of county and integrated pest management agents, as well as colleagues both in and out of the Texas A&M University System.

But the South Plains cotton industry also has plenty of issues to put him to work right away.

“You name it: lack of adequate rainfall, hail storms, dwindling water supply for irrigation, pest pressure, diseases, herbicide-resistant weeds, soil fertility, off-target movement of herbicides, crop management issues, and the list goes on,” Maeda said.

“The South Plains is a challenging environment, but that also means there are opportunities to improve. Thankfully, the region is well served with some of the best people working with cotton in the nation and in the world, and by collaborating I am confident we can make a difference.”

One area he is excited to expand in that region is the UAS technology, which he said has great potential to change how agriculture research and farming will be done in the future.

“UAS provides a level of information about the crop’s responses to the environment and/or experimental treatments that we did not have access to before,” Maeda said. “I plan to continue collaborating with our colleagues at Corpus Christi and across the U.S.

“The ultimate goal for me in this new role as it relates to UAS technology is to participate in the development, validation and deployment of UAS-based tools for crop monitoring and management that will improve our farmers’ efficiency and overall farm sustainability.”

As UAS-based educational tools are developed, those will be a great addition to AgriLife Extension’s outreach efforts, he said.