Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has created a new team and is moving in a new direction in advising farmers regarding questions and information related to corn and soybean production.
"We're moving from the more traditional model of dedicated corn or soybean specialists to a new team of integrated cropping systems specialists who will focus on how corn and soybean production interacts with soil, weather, cover crops, crop rotation and management practices and support farmers' use of data-driven technologies in precision agriculture," says John Lawrence, director of agriculture and natural resources extension and associate dean of ISU's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.
"We also are more closely integrating research, extension and teaching in these positions," Lawrence adds. Helping to move along this change was a recent initiative by ISU president Steven Leath to help colleges and other units hire "high impact" faculty positions. A new integrated cropping system position with an emphasis on precision agriculture was part of that initiative and will be part of the new ISU Extension team in the Department of Agronomy.
Sotirios Archontoulis (pronounced: So-tee-ree-os Ark-on-tool-is), who joined Iowa State in 2012 as a postdoctoral research associate in agronomy, began July 1 as an assistant professor responsible for leading the team. Archontoulis, a native of Greece, earned masters and doctorate degrees in 2006 and 2011 from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and a bachelor's degree from the University of Thessaly in Greece in 2004. His research interests include cropping systems modeling, agronomy, crop physiology and bioenergy.
"Dr. Archontoulis is an excellent addition to our faculty and will be a tremendous resource for Iowa agriculture. His strong background in cropping systems and cropping systems modeling will lead to asking better research questions, decision support tools for agriculture and enhanced extension education programs," says Kendall Lamkey, chair of the ISU Agronomy Department.
Another member of ISU Extension's integrated cropping systems team is Mark Licht, who has served as the Extension field agronomist for central Iowa since 2011. Licht recently moved to the ISU campus in Ames as part of the new team. He is an Iowa State agronomy alumnus who joined Agronomy Extension in 2006.
Both of the new positions will integrate research and extension and will be involved in teaching the next generation of agronomists, Lawrence says.
To fill the field agronomist position held by Licht, Mark Johnson, the extension field agronomist for north central Iowa, moved to the central region. Angie Rieck-Hinz, former coordinator for the Manure Applicator Certification Program, was recently appointed field agronomist for north central Iowa. Roger Elmore, professor of agronomy and extension's campus specialist for corn production since 2005, left ISU last January to take a faculty position at the University of Nebraska.
New manager for ISU animal science farms
In other changes recently at ISU, Ben Drescher has joined Iowa State University's Department of Animal Science as coordinator of its livestock teaching and research farms. Drescher, a Minnesota native, earned a bachelor's degree in ag education in 2005, with a minor in animal science, from ISU's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Before joining Iowa State, he was a territory manager for Murphy Brown, LLC.
The animal science department has nine Ames-area teaching and research farms. Drescher will supervise daily operations of the dairy, beef, swine, horse and poultry farms that are home to nearly 6,000 animals and their farm managers. He'll also provide coordination of the farms for budgets, maintenance and repair, equipment needs and coordination of feed procurement.
Each year 2,000 ISU students take classes on these farms
Every year on the farms, an estimated 2,000 ISU students take classes, are involved in hands-on education or work with faculty on animal science research. About 35 ag and life science faculty teach courses or conduct research at the animal science farms, along with some veterinary medicine faculty.
This is a new position for overall animal science farms' management, although some of Drescher's responsibilities previously were overseen by ISU animal science professor Dan Morrical. Drescher says it's an exciting time for students to be involved in the livestock, agriculture and food production industries. "I can't wait to work with young leaders at Iowa State as they work to make a difference and look forward to feeding the world," he says. As a student at ISU, Drescher was a member of both the meat and livestock judging teams; a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, an ag fraternity; served as president of Block and Bridle Club; and was the 2005 CALS Ag Man of the Year.