Beginning October 1, the Purdue University Department of Agronomy will have a new department head. That may not seem important if you've got a combine to get ready or cows to feed today, but it will help shape the direction of research and Extension coming out of the Agronomy Department for the next several years. Bob Nielsen won't come out and fix that combine for you, but he may come up with a tip or two from his experience or research that helps you produce a couple more bushels per acre. Any bushels that you can pull out without investing more on inputs in money in your pocket.
Jay Akridge, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue, made the announcement late last week. The new Agronomy department head is Joe Anderson, a research molecular biologist for the crop production and pest control research unit of USDA's Agricultural Research Unit. He's been based at Purdue since 1994. He earned his PHD in genetics at Iowa State University.
The department head position has been vacant for about 15 months. However, Herb Ohm, the world-renowned wheat breeder, capably filled the spot. Indications are he's anxious to return to his greenhouse and the field. He has several projects going aimed at producing wheat with better disease resistance to major diseases. Ohm has been instrumental in helping produce public varieties with various types of disease and insect resistance over the past several decades. Some of his discoveries are now include din commercial varieties through licensing agreements with Purdue.
A selection committee declined to pick one of the original set of candidates that were interviewed for the position. That prolonged the search, but Akridge is excited that they've got the right person. "I am very enthusiastic abut the future of the Agronomy Department under Joe's leadership," he says.
Lest you're worried that the department may take a strong right turn into molecular biology and discard applied Extension research, Akridge promised the Masters Farmers luncheon crowd on July 27, even before Anderson was announced as the new department chairperson, that Purdue Ag remained strongly committed to applied research on topics that farmers need to know to do a more profitable job o raising crops.
Additions to the department include Shaun Casteel, who arrive over a year ago and is doing practical research on ways to improve efficiency and yields in soybeans. The Dean also named a number of other recent hires that restock the Agronomy Department's ability to serve the applied research and Extension component of Purdue's mission.
He has been able to fill these positions, the Dean notes, because they are positions that were already on the books, not new positions. But the good news is he's filling them as fast as he can, rather than deciding not to fill them at all.