From the Brain of Bob Shulstad

Bob Shulstad
CAES Associate Dean for Research Bob Shulstad has overseen the college's research programs for 16 years. Photo by Clint Thompson

The collective work of University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences researchers has flourished under the guidance of CAES Associate Dean for Research Bob Shulstad for the past 16 years. He’s conducted research on production economics, water resource allocation, land and water policy, and recreation demand. Before UGA, Shulstad spent 14 years in the University of Arkansas’ Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness. He was department head for his last five years there. Shulstad joined CAES as the head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics from 1987 to 1997. “I am eternally grateful to my wife, Carol, for her love and support over these last 48 years,” Shulstad said.

Southscapes writer Merritt Melancon asked Shulstad about his time as associate dean, a position he’s held since 2006. He’s set to change roles within the college this year. Allen J. Moore, UGA Distinguished Research Professor and head of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Department of Genetics, will begin in the role of CAES associate dean for research this summer.

Q: How would you characterize the progress made by CAES researchers since you became assistant dean for research in 2001?
A: CAES researchers are exceptional in their intellect, dedication and commitment to serve Georgia agriculture and increase the quality of life of Georgia, the U.S. and the world. Their overall contributions have increased significantly as research, Extension and teaching were combined in decision-making for the college and interdisciplinary teams were created to address the major problems facing Georgians. New centers and institutes were also formed to intensify multidisciplinary efforts to maximize impact.  

Q: What CAES initiatives from your time as associate dean are you particularly proud of?
A: We have been successful in hiring the very best new faculty and staff while significantly expanding our external funding, downsizing our physical facilities and improving facilities and equipment. The Iron Horse Farm; J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center; new greenhouses for horticulture, plant pathology, and the Center for Applied Genetic Technologies; as well as new turfgrass facilities and greenhouses on our Griffin, Tifton and Athens campuses are significant additions. The legislature provided bond funds for improving the facilities at each of the campus farms and research and education centers as well as replacing major farm equipment and irrigation systems. All of this significantly increased our ability to do applied research to improve the quality, yield, safety and nutrition of our food while improving the environment for all and profitability for our producers.

Q: What were the biggest challenges of the past 10 years?
A: The recession significantly impacted our ability to meet the expectations of our agricultural clients. Critical faculty or staff positions had to be left unfilled, critical farm machinery and lab equipment could not be replaced, facilities could not be properly replaced and operating dollars were lost. Our industry supporters were successful in convincing the Georgia Legislature to fund the most critical vacant faculty positions. The board of regents and governor also approved the sale of four properties, the acquisition of two properties and demolition of 148 buildings to improve the efficiency of college agricultural experiment stations’ operations.

Q: Do you feel that CAES is well prepared for the future of agricultural research?

A: Yes. There is an excellent administrative team in place and our faculty and staff are recognized as among the very best in the world. Georgia continues to be among the leading states in providing funds for agricultural research and Extension, though state funds alone cannot cover the cost of a world-class research program. New and existing faculty members have aggressively sought external funding. Over five of the last six years, the legislature provided major repair and renovation bond funding to remove dilapidated facilities and improve our remaining facilities. They also provided funds to update equipment at our research and education centers and departmental farms. This greatly increased our efficiency and the morale of our employees. UGA has also allowed our college to compete for funds to hire outstanding research and teaching faculty. External competitive funding has increased more than 100 percent over the last 10 years.

Q: What challenges do you see facing CAES researchers in the next 10 years?
A: Our CAES basic and applied researchers will have to partner with their fellow scientists from across the country and the world to effectively improve yields, decrease operating costs, efficiently use water and find more environmentally friendly ways to remain profitable while meeting the needs of the world for food and fiber.

Q: What challenges do you see facing agriculture in general?
A: Shortage of arable land, water, labor, low-cost energy and efficient markets

Q: What makes you say “Wow!” when you think about the progress of agricultural research at UGA and across the country?
A: Agricultural experiment stations were established to be the research and development departments for agricultural producers and agribusinesses. Our research and Extension faculty assess the problems facing agriculture and develop solutions to address those problems. Our health and safety depend on these programs, and the economic engine of the state of Georgia is its agricultural industry. At UGA, agricultural research is responsible for over 70 percent of all patents issued to UGA faculty and 65 percent of the royalty dollars received by UGA. Seventy-five percent of royalty funds from plant breeding is returned to the inventor and the college plant breeding program.

Q: Why should non-farmers care about the research that we do here at CAES?
A: Everyone needs to eat, needs to be clothed, needs shelter and needs to be healthy while they benefit from an improving environment. The faculty, staff and students of CAES contribute to meeting all of these needs. Our plant breeders and food scientists are providing the next generation of crops and the safest, most nutritious food.

Bit About Bob

  • Milwaukee native
  • Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics and agribusiness from the University of Wisconsin
  • Doctorate in agriculture and natural resource economics from Oregon State University