Dr. Elver Hodges is known for his pioneering research in the area of cattle forage. During his 39 years as an agronomist at the University of Florida’s Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, he helped develop new and improved forage plants for South Florida’s cattle industry.
Hodges was born in 1912 on a farm near Lynch, Nebraska, where his family raised corn, wheat, alfalfa and hogs. In 1934 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Nebraska. After graduation he returned to the family farm, but the Dust Bowl soon ended his dream of farming.
He went on to Rutgers University, earning a doctorate in agronomy in 1939. After two years at the University of Hawaii, he joined the faculty at the University of Florida’s Range Cattle Research and Education Center.
Hodges came to the Range Cattle REC at a time when beef production in South Florida was undergoing tremendous change. Until the 1940s, most of South Florida was open range, with cattle grazing on fence-free native pastures. The “fence law” of 1949 required Florida ranchers to fence cattle off the roads. With fences now mandatory, cattlemen began using better management practices, including rotational grazing, the planting of improved grasses and legumes, and pasture fertilization.
Hodges’ research focused on forage introduction and utilization, especially with legumes and grasses. He was involved in the development of a number of new forages, including Pangola digitgrass, Pensacola bahiagrass and stargrass. He also developed new pasture fertility programs to aid in the establishment of these plants. The forage improvement program at the Range Cattle REC revolutionized peninsular Florida beef production.
Hodges left the Range Cattle REC in 1980. He spent the final years of his career as an agronomist in Malawi for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Hodges was a member of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Florida Farm Bureau, the American Forage and Grassland Council, the Society for Range Management, and the American Society of Agronomy. He is a past president of the Florida Soil and Crop Science Society and has been honored by the American Forage and Grassland Council, the University of Florida, and the University of Nebraska.
Hodges is well regarded for his volunteer work and community involvement. He was a 4-H leader and helped members with their livestock projects. He has long been active in his church, First United Methodist of Wauchula, and serves on the board for Central Florida Health Care.
Elver Hodges and his late wife, Ruth, were married for 70 years. They have three daughters, Margaret, Kathleen and Lucinda Maie.