Department

Valeria Cano Camacho spent her summer on one of Hawaii’s islands, Big Island, where she was a summer field intern for Ulu Mau Puani. All summer long, she helped with six different projects. Some of those projects included: collecting data, extension and outreach, and lab work.

“It was different every day. Some days I would be hiking up a volcano to find berries and other days I would be working with elementary students and learning about the Kohala Field System,” Valeria said about her favorite part of working on Big Island.

Not many people can say that they placed 11th as an undergrad competing against Ph.D. students. Kelli Roush is the lucky holder of this title. The third International Soil Judging competition was held a week before the 21st World Soil Congress.

The soils in Ro de Janero, Brazil are very different from here in Iowa. Kelli had the opportunity to see an Oxisol, but most of the soils she worked with were Ultisols or Alfisols. They spent three days practicing and learning about the environment they were in before the competition started. Kelli and the other team members had to adapt to the way Brazil judges their soils. 

Boone, Iowa held the nation’s largest outdoor farming event: The Farm Progress Show. This event took place August 28th through August 30th.  There were lots of new information to talk about over the three day event, some of that ranged from butterflies all the way to new tools that would greatly benefit agronomists.

Our incoming freshman spent the weekend before classes start on a tour of agriculture industry and farms in northeast Iowa. They toured Beck's Hybrids in Marshalltown, Pioneer Hi-Bred in Reinbeck and Landus Co-op in Dike. A stop at UNI allowed them to cool down (the air conditioning broke on the bus) and learn about urban soil conservation on the UNI campus. Near Nashua they learned about soil health from the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service

Conservation Learning Group, a think tank dedicated to addressing conservation and environmental challenges, was established as a part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in July 2018. The group is a collaboration of researchers, educators and advocates having the goal to better understand issues and come up with creative, sustainable solutions that are repeatable at scale. Our Drs. Mark Licht and Emily Heaton are involved in the project.

Representatives from bioengineering, social science, agronomy, crop science, soil science, wildlife management, water resource management and conservation are on the CLG team. Specialists from other areas of study will be welcomed to contribute to the group’s goals.

Our Bradley Miller was presented with the Dan Yaalon Young Scientist Medal by the International Union of Soil Sciences at the World Congress of Soil Science in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil earlier this week. The award honors Dan Hardy Yaalon (1924-2014), a professor of soil science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dan H. Yaalon had 57 years of an exceptional research career. He contributed to some of the most fundamental issues of soils in space and time as well as theory and history of soil science. In particular, he made some of the most significant contributions in pedology and palaeopedology, especially regarding arid and Mediterranean landscapes.

Africa needs plant breeders to fight food insecurity. Our Plant Breeding E-Learning in Africa program is part of an effort to help educate the next generation of plant breeders in Africa thanks to support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Growing up, Megan Kemp just wanted to fit in with her peers in Durango, Iowa. At Iowa State University the junior in agronomy and global resource systems, says she found a place where she feels comfortable embracing and celebrating her differences.

“My mom is Filipino,” says Kemp. “She and my dad met as pen pals while he was serving in the military. He went to visit her in the Philippines, and that’s where they fell in love. It’s honestly the stuff movies are made of.”

Kemp’s extended family are involved in dairy and beef operations in northeastern Iowa. While she lived on a dairy farm, she didn’t do chores.

“My mom’s heritage instilled very traditional ideals about gender roles,” says Kemp. “So I spent more time in the kitchen.”

Lee Burras sets his Diet Pepsi on the podium and grabs a piece of chalk off the ledge. Class is about to begin.

Burras’ classroom is upbeat and adversarial; he encourages his students to challenge him as much as he challenges them. In order to keep students engaged he uses the chalkboard.

“I want students engaged,” says Burras. “I want whatever I’m talking about to come to life in front of them. I can’t make that happen with a Power Point presentation.”

Burras’ passion is infectious, not just for soils but also for life and for learning. His classes are some of the most sought after in the Department of Agronomy.

Ehsan Askari and his wife Sayareh Irani joined the Department of Agronomy as visiting scholars in 2012-2013 under Drs. Knapp and Lubberstedt. After graduation in 2014, Ehsan with a Ph.D in agronomy and Sayareh a Ph.D in plant breeding, the couple returned to Ehsan’s home town, Rafsanjan in Central Iran known as the capital of pistachio in the middle east.

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