Homer B. Tisdale

Homer B. Tisdale, who died in 1955, spent 42 years in the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station at Auburn as an agronomist and plant breeder focusing his plant breeding skills on cotton. Tisdale made it his life’s work to develop cotton plants that could resist nematodes and fungi, which were at the time causing severe yield reductions for Alabama farmers. To that end, he developed ‘Auburn 56’ cotton, which was released in 1953.

Known as a modest man who was reluctant to blow his own horn, Tisdale played a key role in saving the cotton farmer and cotton industry in the Southeast. During Tisdale’s tenure at Auburn, cotton growers in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana were facing severe yield losses due to the microscopic roundworms known as nematodes and two types of plant fungi.

The variety that Tisdale developed, ‘Auburn 56’, was the salvation of the region’s cotton industry. ‘Auburn 56’ offered both wilt and nematode resistance while also producing high quality fiber. During the 1950s and 1960s, ‘Auburn 56’ was the number one cotton variety in the nation in resistance to wilt and root-knot nematode and was heralded as “the greatest thing that ever happened to the cotton industry.” It remained the most prominent commercially grown variety for a decade and today is still considered a variety standard by plant breeders, serving as a scientific reference point for more than 50 years.

Tisdale received his bachelor’s degree from Auburn (Alabama Polytechnic Institute) and did graduate work at Cornell University.