soil

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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Agronomy graduate student Luis Bentancor, along with associate professor Dr. Bradley Miller, has been awarded $14,964 in grant money to study soil health indicators in areas impacted by the Dakota Access pipeline installation.

The North Central Region of Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) awarded the funds as part of their Graduate Student Sustainable Agriculture Grant Awards.

Bentancor said they spent about a month to get the proposal for the grant ready and it took about three months to hear they had been awarded the funds.

Robert Horton, who holds the Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professorship in Agriculture and Life Sciences in agronomy at Iowa State University, is one of the senior scientists recognized by USDA with its national Multistate Research Excellence Award for 2021 for his part in the long-running project, “Soil, Water and Environmental Physics to Sustain Ag and Natural Resources.”

The multistate project, better known among researchers as W4188, is an initiative whose representatives come from more than 24 research institutions across the country. They collaborate to better understand how heat, water, energy and nutrients move through and interact with soil.

An Iowa State University study looking at the impacts of soil disturbance and early remediation practices from construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline finds significant soil compaction and gradual recovery of crop yield in the right-of-way over five years. 

Led by Mehari Tekeste, our Robert Horton, agronomy soils faculty and Elnaz Ebrihimi, agronomy lecturer were also involved in the project.

The ISU Soil Judging team traveled to regional competition in Crookston, Minnesota last week. After practicing for a couple days, the team dug (ha!) into the contest pits. An entirely new team, some of whom joined just three weeks before contest, it was an incredible learning experience.

"Overall it was a valuable learning experience," said Jonah Gray, agronomy and environmental science major. "I spent the entire week in soil pits where I could apply the knowledge I gained in class and build a deeper understand of soil as a whole."

Including the addition of a new judging category. Jumble judging combines members from two different universities to form a full team. Both teams that our students served on placed 2nd and 3rd, showcasing their teamwork skills.

Climate change and soil erosion feed into one another in an environmental feedback loop that can have big consequences for Iowa land, but an Iowa State University agronomist is developing new models to illuminate these complex interactions.

Developing these new computer models of soil erosion and topography changes requires both innovative big-data technology as well as painstaking validation of soil measurements in the real world, said Bradley Miller, an ISU assistant professor of agronomy. Miller recently received support from the National Science Foundation to continue his research to develop updated soil maps of Iowa as well as erosion models capable of predicting how environmental conditions will influence Iowa’s soil in the future.

Kuan-Yi Lee came to Iowa State from Taipei, Taiwan with little experience and knowledge in agriculture. Following her curiosity, Kuan-Yi led a great adventure at Iowa State and has big plans for the future.

"I began my college experience at the Department of Agronomy at National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, where I studied for one year and became very interested in crop production and I learned more about agronomy," said Kuan-Yi. "My family asked me to study abroad and I decided to look for a university with an outstanding agronomy program and I found Iowa State University. In addition, the department chair of agronomy at my former university got his MS in Statistics at Iowa State University and spoke highly of the agronomy department."

Soil science will offer a certificate between a minor and a major by providing official recognition for the focus area of study. A bachelor's degree from Iowa State University is not required to earn the certificate, and it is designed to match up with federal and state requirements to obtain a federal job classified for soil scientists and get licensure in states requiring it. 

Dr. Bradley Miller, assistant professor of agronomy, explains that the certificate requires 31 credits, but 22 of those may count from other academic programs that students are involved in. The certificate is built to help students have a strong foundation in understanding soil systems.

After a crazy past month with everything moving to online and our graduation ceremony being canceled, our seniors deserve some extra love!

Our next senior feature is Austin Day.

Austin will be graduating in May and will be heading out in the industry to work in agricultural marketing. During his time as an undergrad, Austin says his favorite class was Soil Conservation and Land Use.

"Even when classes get hard and you want to give up, keep pushing through. You'll get through your troubles quicker than you think," said Austin.

Best wishes in your new job and future endeavors, Austin!

Research on the benefits from prairie strips placed in crop fields continues to grow at Iowa State University.

STRIPS, or “Science-based Trails of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips,” is a project investigating strips of farmland converted to native prairie plants. These strips are typically created between crops, at the edge of farm fields, or on lower performing fields.

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