STORY BY Allison Sabine and Neil Melancon
This close to retirement, Dr. Jim Griffin, a weed scientist with the LSU AgCenter, is thumbing through memories in a notebook spanning his 34-year career.
Griffin remembers when glyphosate was a breakthrough in weed control that changed the face of agriculture. A native of Greenville, Mississippi, Griffin devoted himself early on to solving problems on the farm—from cover crops to weed control.
“To me, this work was cutting edge at that time,” Griffin said. “Things have changed since then.”
Griffin documented some of the first cases of glyphosate-resistant Johnson grass in Louisiana. He’s watched as it’s gone from those first few cases to a widespread problem today.
“By putting this selection pressure on these weed populations with continuous use of glyphosate, we selected for weeds that were resistant to it,” he said. “That is the situation we’re in today with Palmer Amaranth and Johnson grass. They worked very well at one time, but over time, that population slowly shifted toward these weeds that were harder to kill.”
Griffin made a name for himself at the AgCenter for his extensive research on weed management, which ultimately increased yields for soybean, corn and sugarcane growers. It became Griffin’s focus when he moved to the LSU main campus from the Crowley research station, where he got his start upon graduation from Penn State in 1979. New methods of weed control are still on his mind, even to this day.
“This is a new herbicide that we were evaluating that controls Hemp Sesbania,” Griffin said. “You can see clean plots and the weedy plots on both sides, so there’s still some work that needs to be done.”
It’s not just a new method of weed control that Griffin is interested in passing along, it’s planting seeds as well—namely, helping his undergraduate and graduate students succeed in their academic quests. Surrounded by his own mementos and awards, Griffin said teaching has been his greatest challenge and his most fulfilling accomplishment.
“I’ve had over 50 graduate students come through here and close to a 1,000 in my classes that I’ve taught,” Griffin said. “Watching these students come in with not a whole lot of self-confidence and then leaving here pretty confident in themselves and what they can do—that’s always extremely rewarding.”
One of his graduate students, Matt Foster said it’s an honor to work with such a prestigious professor.
“I’m very fortunate to be a part of his program,” Foster said. “I first met Dr. Griffin in 2011 when I took his week science class and I just fell in love with weed science. I got curious about research. I’ve always had a love of agriculture growing up and I wanted to expand my knowledge on weed science to help the growers.”
Looking ahead as he starts a new chapter in retirement in early 2016, Griffin said his new focus will be his hobby of playing the blues and spending more time with his two grandsons.
“Early in my life when my daughter was young, I spent a lot of time with her, but not the extent that I have with these grand-boys,” griffin said. “I’ve been able to do things with them that I would not have had a chance to do with her. That's going to be a real treat for sure.”