Early in his career, Smith kept his growers abreast of changes in one of two ways: Through face-to-face contacts with growers — usually county meetings held in crop fields under the parching summertime sun —or through the printed word, typically through weekly bulletins he wrote, copied and bulk mailed to county Extension offices, which, in turn, distributed them to local growers.

To be sure, slow, ponderous methods compared to the media available today.

For more than a decade, Smith also wrote a weekly column for the Southeast Farm Press.

During the 1990s, Smith also pioneered the use of an 800 number to keep farmers fully apprised of insect outbreaks and recommended control measures.

Through it all, though, Smith has always remained mindful of the need to tweak and, in some cases, to scrap entirely practices that have become outmoded.

Two recent events have prompted radical change in the way Smith reaches his clients.

The first was a professional meeting in which an expert discussed social media as a highly efficient, cost-effective way to impart essential crop-related information to producers.

"I knew then that that was the way we had to go," Smith recalls.

The second was the repeated urging of Owen Taylor, editor of the Web-based agricultural news service Agfax.com, to start a crop insects blog.

The end result is the Alabama Insect Blog, Smith's forum for keeping Alabama growers abreast of specific insect threats throughout the state as well as the measures they can take to control them.

Smith, who remains a self-described computer illiterate, often dictates dispatches directly from crop fields to his technologically savvy departmental secretary, Zandra DeLamar, who posts them to the blog.