New Assistant Director Named for Ames Research and Education Center

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Matt Backus Returns to Ames

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Matthew Backus, research coordinator with the University of Tennessee’s Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, has been appointed as the new assistant director of the Ames AgResearch and Education Center in Grand Junction, Tennessee. The center is one of ten research and education centers operated by University of Tennessee AgResearch, a division of the UT Institute of Agriculture.

The Ames Center is part of a vast, privately owned land resource in Fayette and Hardeman counties. The Ames Foundation, established by the will of the late Julia Colony Ames, makes the 18,400-acre facility available for agricultural and natural resource research and education and is one of the largest such facilities in the Southeast. It is also home to the National Championship for Field Trialing Bird Dogs, an event held annually in February.

Backus should be a familiar to West Tennesseans and cattle producers. He managed the world renown Angus herd at Ames from 2012 until his appointment to the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg in 2018, where he managed the day-to-day operations of the UT Beef Heifer Development Center. His responsibilities both at Ames and the Middle Tennessee Center included developing nutrition, reproduction, forage and animal health routines and overseeing research efforts in coordination with UT animal science and veterinary medicine faculty.

Hongwei Xin, dean of UT AgResearch, is excited that Backus is joining the Center’s leadership team. “His years of work experiences and knowledge both at Ames and the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center will serve the mission of Ames well. I fully expect that Matt and Dr. Carlisle will work side by side to take the research and education programs at Ames to the next height,” said Xin.

Rick Carlisle, director of the Ames AgResearch and Education Center, is also pleased that Backus is returning to Ames. “Matt will be responsible for not only his old job as Beef Herdsman, but also for everything else at Ames, which includes row-crops, forestry and wildlife programs and the field trials for All-Age Bird Dogs competitions. Superimposing agricultural research projects over all of the various aspects of Ames is a challenge. Matt is already familiar with the workings of Ames and will quickly pick up on the administrative aspects of managing such a large, diverse research and education center.” 

Backus is knowledgeable about integrated forage systems used in the Mid South, particularly native warm-season grasses, including biomass yields, nutrient composition, cattle gains and pasture composition. He earned his master of science degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a research focus in ruminant nutrition. His undergraduate degree is also from UT in animal science, with a minor in agricultural economics.

Backus, a native of Alcoa, is a Tennessee Master Beef Producer and is certified through the Select Sires Artificial Insemination School. He is also certified in IACUC Animal Handling. IACUC (institutional animal care and use committee) is a required oversight by federal regulations for most institutions that use animals in research, teaching and testing to ensure animal health and well being. Backus is also active in the local agricultural community as a member of the Tennessee Cattleman’s Association and the Fayette County Livestock Association.

Backus began his new role on June 27.

For more information about the Ames AgResearch and Education Center, visit the center’s website:

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