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UC Cooperative Extension weed science advisor Kurt Hembree retires on July 1

Kurt Hembree
Retiring UC Cooperative Extension weed science advisor Kurt Hembree credits his mentor and predecessor, Bill Fischer, for his successful 26-year career conducting a weed research and extension program for farmers in Fresno County.

“He instilled in me a real appreciation for both the art and science behind weed management,” Hembree said.

Hembree started working as Fischer's agricultural assistant when he was a plant science student at Fresno State. After graduation in 1986, Hembree was promoted to staff research associate, a position he held for eight years.

Recognizing the opportunity to succeed Fischer in his academic role, Hembree returned to Fresno State to complete a master's degree. Fischer retired in 1994 and Hembree was named UCCE weed science advisor later the same year.

Hembree said he was privileged to work with a tight-knit group of academic and non-academic staff, growers, consultants and the allied industries.

“Everybody knew everybody. I developed strong friendships over my career,” he said. “I cherish that.”

An early research success set a course for the future.

The weed nightshade posed a significant problem in seeded fields of processing tomatoes, a plant in the same family. Hembree conducted trials on a new product that selectively removed the nightshade.

“That was a major breakthrough,” Hembree said. “We were able to get the product labeled for tomatoes and it made a huge impact right away.”

That was just the beginning.

“When I came on board, there weren't many products registered for weed control in orchards, vineyards and agronomic crops,” Hembree said. “We worked closely with the industry and there were lots of opportunities to look at new products. These new tools were economically sound and reduced the hard labor of hand weeding.”

In retirement, Hembree plans to move with his wife to northern Mississippi to be closer to family.

Posted on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 8:41 AM

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