Department

About the Department

Agronomy is focused on new and improved ways of agriculture. New methods of conservation. Improved soil health. New approaches to bioenergy. Improved water quality. Advanced genetic traits. The end goal is producing food, fuel and fiber in a more efficient and economical way for the benefit of people and the environment around the world.

We are applying science to advance crop production systems while protecting and improving air, soil and water quality.

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A recently published study led by Iowa State University scientists applied a fresh perspective to vast amounts of data on rice plants to find better ways to predict plant performance and new insights about how plants adapt to different environments.

The study, published in the academic journal Genome Research, unearthed patterns in datasets collected on rice plants across Asia, said Jianming Yu, professor of agronomy and Pioneer Distinguished Chair in Maize Breeding. Those patterns allowed the researchers to develop a matrix to help them predict the traits of rice plants depending on their genetics and the environment in which they’re grown. The research could improve the ability of farmers to predict how crop varieties will perform in various environments, giving growers a better sense of stability and minimizing risk, Yu said.

Perla Carmenate started exploring the science of agriculture in high school after reading a book about space travel.

The book, “Shades of Earth” by Beth Revis, features a character whose mom is a scientist studying the soils and agriculture of another planet while traveling through the universe. That fascinated Carmenate, who graduates on May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy.

“She was a scientist, who would take plant and soil samples from a new planet to study and compare it to the agriculture on earth and the spaceship,” Carmenate said. “I just thought that was so cool and I followed that into agronomy which over time has led me to study soils and as I refined my major, I decided to pursue urban soils.”

For Carmenate, agriculture is similar to a beautiful painting composed of several layers.

How long does it take to shift the way you do business? Turns out about eight days. The migration to virtual instruction could not have gone smoother thanks to the work of our faculty and various teams.

Administration announced the decision to hold classes virtually on March 10. Led by Department Chair, Kendall Lamkey priorities were established, action steps were outlined and communicated.

Daniel Kohlhase is the recipient of the C. R. Weber Award for Excellence in Plant Breeding. Daniel grew up in Bloomington, IL. He discovered his passion for agriculture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, earning a BSc in Crop Science. After internships in plant breeding and seed production, Daniel decided to attend graduate school at Iowa State University in 2013. He earned a MSc in Crop Production & Physiology working with Dr. Mike Owen in 2016.

Students in Robert “Bob” Hartzler’s Agronomy 217: Weed Identification course have been given an excuse to take a break from sitting in front of their computers and get outside.

Hartzler, professor in agronomy, said the purpose of the class is for students to learn to identify weeds, which usually involves going on class field trips. With the switch to online learning, he wanted to find a way for students to learn to identify weeds in person, rather than just looking at weed pictures online. Thus, the idea to send students on a weed hunt was born.

Kan Wang, professor of agronomy and holder of the Global Professorship in Biotechnology at Iowa State University, is widely recognized as an international leader in the fields of plant biotechnology, plant genetic transformation and genome editing.

Her research has ranged widely from increasing the nutritional content of corn and yam, to improving corn varieties for bioethanol production. Currently, she serves as co-director for Iowa State’s Crop Bioengineering Center, a cohort of faculty whose research focuses on using genome-editing technologies for crop improvement.

Using machine learning to develop and utilize plant breeding tools that can deliver improved genetics to farmers faster is a dream of Asheesh (Danny) Singh, associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University and recipient of the 2020 Raymond and Mary Baker Agronomic Excellence Award.

Singh, the Monsanto Chair in Soybean Breeding at Iowa State, collaborates across disciplines with fellow innovators, combining artificial intelligence and genetics to speed selection of crop varieties finely tuned to the needs of farmers now and in the future.

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