Search for research leader critical to South Carolina agriculture

Search for research leader critical to South Carolina agriculture

Clemson University is in the process of seeking candidates for, and hopefully soon hiring a director at the Pee Dee Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Florence.

This will be a significant hire from many perspectives, including the record of positive change achieved via research and outreach programs at the Florence, S.C., facility over the past 100 years.

Since 2009, the large research center has been under the leadership of Bruce Fortnum. A Clemson faculty member since 1978, Fortnum took over the leadership reigns officially in 2009, though he had been the interim director for some time.

Aside from helping establish a renewed sense of purpose for the Pee Dee Station, Fortnum has had a long and successful career as an agricultural researcher and Extension leader in South Carolina. He is a former recipient of the Godley-Snell Award for Excellence in Agricultural Research, among other prestigious national and international awards.

Fortnum is well known in the tobacco industry for his many innovations in managing soil-borne diseases and nematodes. Though retiring as Director of the Pee Dee Station, Fortnum will continue to help with the tobacco research program in something less than a full-time basis.

Quiet and reserved by nature, Fortnum has in a short period of time re-established some old crop research basics that are constantly in demand from growers and has at the same time created some new paths of research, like one of the Nation’s top biofuels/biomass cropping programs.

Replacing him will be a significant challenge for the Clemson agriculture family.

The Pee Dee Station celebrated its 100th birthday in 2012, and as a present almost got a $4 million cut in funding from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley — funds that had been earmarked for renovations and updates at the Pee Dee Station.

Fortunately, the South Carolina House of Representatives over-rode the veto and the Senate concurred, allowing the historic center to move forward with plans for the future.

Making the right choice for director is critical to the continued progress of the station and subsequently continued political support.

Leading the research program there, with new facilities is a small part of the challenge for the next research leader. Turning the state’s investment into a site that can better attract innovative scientists, who in turn can use the facility to attract grant money to be used to ultimately help farmers, is a far bigger challenge.

Political support for the infrastructure of the state’s leading industry, agriculture, should be a given for politicians. It’s not! As in most states, too many politicians are more interested in current events and re-election than in securing the food supply and economic sustainability of the future.

Finding the right leader at the Pee Dee Station is significant from a historical perspective. The current Pee Dee Station was moved in 1971 at great expense and after significant political wrangling among South Carolina’s political elite of the time. 

Making the investment pay off for the first 100 years is likely to be a breeze compared to the next century.

Though the Pee Dee Station is officially 101 years old, research at the site along the Pee Dee River actually began back in 1669. No one seems quite sure exactly what the research plan was back then, but it has been well documented that ‘Crown-sponsored’ research was conducted on a small tract of land up to about the time of the Revolutionary War.

The search for the new Director of the PeeDee Research Station is well under way and the Search Committee is being headed by Jeremy Greene, a researcher at the state’s other flagship research facility, the Edisto Agriculture Research and Education Center in Blackville, S.C.

For more information about the position or to nominate someone to fill the important role in the future of South Carolina agriculture, contact:

Jeremy K. Greene, Chair, Search Committee, PDREC Director, Clemson University Edisto Research and Education Center 64 Research Rd. Blackville, S.C. 29817 or by e-mail at: [email protected].

Or contactMichael J. Simmons, Administrative Officer. PSA & Economic Development Business Services, Clemson University, 107 Barre Hall, Clemson, S.C. 29634 or by e-mail at:[email protected].

The job announcement can be seen at


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