Louisiana’s Rusty Elston Honored as 2023 Rice Consultant of the Year

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Rusty and Karen Elston

Rusty and Karen Elston, who started Elston Crop Management, Inc., in 2003, are all smiles just prior to Rusty receiving the 2023 Rice Consultant of the Year award at The Peabody Memphis. 

Rusty Elston always has wanted to be outdoors. Whether hunting, fishing or gardening, he is happiest when he is under the dome of the sky. That affinity for the outdoors led him to contemplate a career as a wildlife manager. But around the age of 16, Elston’s life track led him to a cotton scout training program managed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture. Little did he know it at the time, but it would change his life.

Two college students, under the guidance of Grady Coburn, Ph.D., worked with Elston and the other novice cotton scouts. That summer, Elston scouted more than 1,000 acres at $1.25 an acre and bought his first car for $400. At summer’s end, he vowed to never go back. 

Rusty Elston (left) and Grady Coburn have known each other since Elston was 16 years old and attended the cotton scout training program managed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture.

He soon found himself at Louisiana Tech University pursuing that wildlife management degree. In his third year, he wondered how he would make a living in wildlife management. He considered pursuing a higher degree or moving out of state to seek opportunities, but he decided he really wanted nothing to do with either of those options.


He couldn’t suppress the consulting bug inside of him. He remembered Coburn’s charisma and unteathered energy for consulting cotton, so Elston opted for a double degree in agronomy and soil science. An internship was part of the agronomy curriculum and, as fate would have it, led him to Cheneyville, Louisiana, and back to someone he had not seen in six years — Coburn and Pest Management Enterprises, Inc.

In 1998, Coburn hired Glenn Johnson, a highly respected rice authority, and Elston became his protégé until Johnson’s untimely passing. Elston calls the time he spent with Johnson invaluable. For nearly 22 years, Elston honed his consulting skills at Pest Management Enterprises.

By the early 2000s, ground dedicated to cotton started going into rice and other crops. Elston picked up acres from two farmers who were former clients of Johnson. That paved the way for he and his wife, Karen, to start Elston Crop Management, Inc., in 2003, to consult on rice, soybeans, corn, grain sorhum and wheat.

Today, Elston offers weed, insect and disease monitoring and management; soil fertility and water management recommendations and grid soil sampling and plant tissue analysis. Like other growing regions, he and his farmer clients have to deal with herbicide and fungicide resistance.

Elston believes in starting clean, staying clean and overlapping different modes of action and residuals. He tries to get a permanent flood on fields as soon as the rice will tolerate it.

Unyielding faith and trust in the Lord has always guided Elston’s life. That continues today. He starts each day with a prayer and ends it with a smile from Karen. God had a plan for Rusty Elston, and he’s just glad that plan lets him spend his working days under the dome of God’s great sky, helping farmers produce rice and other crops that help feed the world. That drive, dedication and commitment to “always try to earn more than what you’re getting in return” helped pave the way for Elston to be honored as the 2023 Rice Consultant of the Year.