The first time I met Jay Chapin in 1979 he was a relatively new entomologist to the Clemson staff. Among other things he was working on a new chitin-inhibiting material later to be marketed as Dimilin.
Dimilin has remained around under various trade names and with some modest success. Chapin on the other hand has built a world-class research and outreach program that daily touches the lives of South Carolina farmers, bringing him immense respect and gratitude for his many contributions to agriculture..
In recognition of his long-standing programs of success, Jay Chapin was recently presented the Clemson University Alumni Distinguished Cooperative Extension Pubic Service Award — the highest level of achievement available to Clemson Agriculture faculty members.
Though he started off working as a cotton entomologist, Chapin has made his most significant contributions to agriculture as a small grain and peanut specialist in a state where neither crop was even a minor player in the state's agriculture industry. It is an understatement to say Chapin was a key player in the dramatic resurgence of peanuts and the steady growth in wheat production in South Carolina.
For the past few years Chapin has hosted a South Carolina Peanut Growers Meeting in Orangeburg, S.C. He is based at the Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C. The Edisto facility is new and modern, but it simply doesn't have a room large enough to house the number of peanut growers and farm product representatives who come to the annual meeting.
As a former agriculture faculty member who has been to hundreds of university-sponsored field days and events, I can say with some degree of confidence that finding a place big enough to house farmers for such an event is not a constant problem. It is indicative of the quality of information shared at this meeting and of the confidence peanut growers have in Jay Chapin.
John Mueller, a plant pathologist at the Edisto Station, says of his long-time colleague, “Jay has world class research and Extension programs on the control of Hessian fly and Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus on small grains and burrowing bugs on peanuts. His annual peanut and wheat production guides are used throughout the Southeast,” Mueller adds.
In addition to his scientific contributions, Chapin is a favorite among growers. Britt Rowe who operates Riverside Farms near Florence, S.C., relied on information from Chapin to get into peanut production in a big way in 2005. The result — the first-time grower was the State Yield Champion.
“We talked to Dr. Chapin almost daily, Rowe recalls. He always had time to talk to us and to keep us going down the right road. Without his help, we wouldn't have been able to produce a crop, much less have an award-winning crop,” Rowe says.
Long-time peanut grower, Ricky Kneece in Pelion, S.C., echoes the accolades. Though his family had been growing peanuts before the big upswing in production in the state, Kneece says he still relies on Chapin's Money Maker guide in making production decisions with his crop.
When current South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and his brother Landy made the decision to add peanuts to their cropping system, they turned to Chapin for production information. “We got in the peanut business to help us improve crop rotations for our dairy operation,” says Landy Weathers — the 2006 Peanut Profitability Award winner. Without the information generated by Chapin's program, they would not have made the decision to get into peanuts, Weathers adds.
Recognition of Chapin's dedication to the South Carolina peanut industry doesn't stop at the border — South Carolina or U.S. The American Peanut Research and Extension Society (APRES), which despite its name is truly a worldwide organization, recently presented Chapin with the Bailey Award — the highest honor given by the group.
Chapin who has been either a graduate student or faculty member at Clemson since 1975, modestly shrugs all the accolades off as just part of the job he was hired to do. Modesty aside, for an entomologist to be recognized for research excellence in agronomy by agronomists and in plant pathology by a plant pathologist is at least unique, maybe unheard of in the land-grant community.
As we head into another cropping year, Chapin will again be in the forefront of production decisions by hundreds of farmers. Big increases in wheat acreage across the Southeast will bring his ‘Wheat Cheat Sheet’ into play by growers who have never grown the crop, or who haven't grown it in many years. And, his updated Peanut Money Maker will again be a constant companion of peanut growers as they make management decisions for the 2008 crop.
Despite the intense demands for his time, Chapin always seems to have enough to spend with anyone interested in his programs — whether that be a farmer or a magazine writer. In today's environment in which the focus of too many university researchers is too often on themselves and chasing research dollars that brings personal success, it is refreshing to have a hard-working, honest public servant like Jay Chapin get some of the glory by doing things for other people.