Courtney Cameron did the math—she has spent a third of her life involved in plant disease research. Cameron, from the Lowndes FFA Chapter in Valdosta, Ga., initially found a research avenue that would cultivate her interest in plant pathology when tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) spread through the plants in her high school’s greenhouse.
“It kind of helped me find a purpose,” she said about her research. “If you would’ve gone back and told little Courtney back in fifth grade, who wanted to be an art teacher, that she was going to go into agriculture, she would laugh.”
Cameron credits her parents and agriculture teachers for providing a support system while she clocked in hours after school to study TMV. They made sure that she didn’t push too hard and get too mentally exhausted.
Through her research, Cameron found that aspirin is effective in controlling TMV in heirloom tomato plants. Using this treatment, farmers could save $2.6 million a year. This positive impact on farmers is what fuels her passion.
“It was essentially seeing the impact it could have and the hope it can give to the farmer,” Cameron said. “That’s when I found out, ‘Wow, this is why I do it. This is why I need to do this.’”
She now attends the University of Georgia, where she studies agriscience and is involved in research concerning Neofusicoccum and Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum, both fungal pathogens. Cameron said plant disease is an interesting field of research, but she knows for sure she wants to make a future in agriculture, conducting research and communicating that science with others.
“I want the kind of job where I’m able to be very versatile in what I do and be able to serve the farmer and serve as a bridge between the farmer and the consumer,” she said.