Ron Rayner is a pioneer of double-crop no-till irrigated agriculture in Arizona. His fields are a patchwork of alfalfa, durum wheat, cotton and sorghum. He plants alfalfa for three years, then harvests two crops in a single year – winter wheat and no-till cotton.
He knows this land and he's reaped the benefits of UACE research and expertise over the years. He remembers the days when crop-dusting planes sprayed the fields with pesticides every week during the growing season and farmers still lost cotton to a trilogy of destructive insects – pink bollworm, whitely and Lygus bug.
That was before the UA field-tested genetically engineered Bt cotton that ultimately led to the eradication of pink bollworm from Arizona, and developed other high-tech solutions that target only the menace insects, allowing all the beneficial bugs to survive.
Working with UACE faculty, Rayner and his brothers have doubled their yield while cutting water use nearly in half.
Now Rayner is excited about another new strain – Roundup-ready cotton.
That's what helps him grow two crops a year – wheat and cotton. No-till farming is common practice elsewhere – but not with irrigated crops. "It took a long time to figure out how to make it work."
Rayner, 70, pointed out that "the average age of a farmer is not much younger than me. We're at risk of losing a lot of collective knowledge." That's another benefit of working with UACE faculty and doctoral students.
Rayner, a 1964 UA graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, received his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and was named Ag 100 Council Agriculturist of the Year in 2010. His daughter's also a UA graduate. His son is enrolled now.