Agronomy

Early Faculty

Agronomy has been an important subject in the curriculum since the School of Agriculture had its beginning in 1912 under River Falls Normal School President J. W. Crabtree. It was taught early on by Professors E. J. Prucha (B.S., M.S., U.W.-Madison) and W. W. Clark. Clark left in 1918 but Prucha remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1959, serving as Registrar from 1924 to 1958.

Dr. Melvin (Mel) Wall joined the faculty as an agronomist in 1940 and was the sole agronomy/soils faculty member listed during the 1940’s and early 1950’s. He was joined in the mid-1950’s by Dr. Richard (Dick) Delorit who initially took over some of the soils courses and also helped out with horticulture, shop, and agricultural education courses. Delorit came to River Falls following his earlier career as a high school vo-ag teacher. Dr. Eliahu Wurman came on board in 1957 in soil science, and taught in that area until he left in 1962.

Dr. Wall and students
Dr. Wall and students

In 1960 Dr. Delorit became Dean of the School of Agriculture as it was then known, and in the mid-1960’s he became the first Dean of the newly designated College of Agriculture.  He moved up to become the University’s Vice Chancellor in 1967. As an administrator, however, he continued to teach the Weed Control course he initiated in 1959.

Dick Delorit 1986
Dick Delorit 1986
Dr. Wall and student
Dr. Wall and student

The efforts of these early faculty members, especially Dr. Wall, during the middle years of the twentieth century laid the foundation for the Agronomy and Soils curricula that developed over the succeeding years and are in place today. Dr. Wall’s tenure at River Falls ended suddenly with his untimely death in a plane crash while on an education mission in Vietnam in 1967.

Agronomy Enters Into an Expanding Era

Agronomy had been listed as a subject area under Agriculture in the College Catalogs throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s. In the 1950-52 Catalog, Agronomy courses were listed under the Division of Agricultural Education. The 1952-54 Catalog lists the following Agronomy courses under the Smith-Hughes Agriculture Major: Crop Production (2 courses), Soils (2 courses), Soil Conservation, and Forage and Cash Crops. The non-teaching degree in Agriculture, which was authorized in 1952, allowed students to concentrate 26 credit hours of course work into one program area. Grain crops and cash crops were pulled out of the general Crop Production courses and Forage Crops course and were offered as a separate course, Grain and Cash Crops, in the 1958-60 Catalog. Weed Control was first listed as a course in the 1958-60 Catalog, and Plant Identification first appeared in 1962 as a separate course. The Senior Seminar also was a requirement by this time.

Enrollment was now increasing steadily and the addition of Dr. Donald (Don) Steinegger as a Plant Science faculty member in the mid-1960’s enabled offering courses such as Crop Improvement, Turf Management, Plant Breeding, as well as additional Horticulture courses. With the addition of Dr. Louis (Lou) Greub in 1968, the Plant Science/Agronomy course offerings were soon expanded to include Economic Crop Physiology, Crop Ecology and Geography, and Pesticides.

Dr. Louis Greub with students
Dr. Louis Greub with students

Dr. Dwayne (Tom) Burmood came on board as a grain crop agronomist in 1970. When he left to join private industry in 1977, Dr. Steve Carlson replaced him in the grain crop and plant breeding area. Dr. Arden Campbell, a plant geneticist, was on the faculty for a short time in the late 1970’s and Dr. Ken Barnett taught agronomy courses from 1981 – 1988. Stan Vetch and Mark Kimball also taught Introductory Plant Science lab sections as academic staff members in the 1980’s.  Later additions for various durations to the Plant Science/Agronomy/Soils faculty included Drs. Dennis Cosgrove, Michael Crotzer, William Anderson, Holly Dolliver, Veronica Justen, and Loretta Ortiz.  Pam Weller (B.S. and M.S. UW-River Falls) has been a regular in teaching Plant Science/Agronomy lab sections since 1999.

Dr. Steve Carlson (second from right) engaged in crop judging with students
Dr. Steve Carlson (second from right) engaged in crop judging with students
Lou Greub (right) and Mark Kimball in Greenhouse
Lou Greub (right) and Mark Kimball in Greenhouse

Agronomy, which had been listed as Agronomy and Soils, was first offered as a distinct major within the newly organized Plant and Earth Science Department in 1967-68. In 1969, it was given the name Plant Science with options for Crops or Horticulture; however, the official university printout listed the major as Agronomy/Plant Science. Several courses were shared between the two disciplines. Soil Science also became a separate major beginning in 1969. The Crops option was later changed to Agronomy and during the1970’s a Science option was added which substituted a heavier concentration of courses in math, chemistry, and physics for some of the agronomy courses. This was intended to better prepare students who planned to attend graduate school.

Drs. Cosgrove, Carlson and Greub 1995
Drs. Cosgrove, Carlson and Greub 1995
Dennis Cosgove with students
Dennis Cosgove with students
Steve Carlson with space seeds
Steve Carlson with “space seeds”

Student numbers and faculty in the Plant Science program grew to the point where Agronomy and Horticulture were offered as separate sub-majors beginning in 1981. In 1986, the Plant Science major was split into separate Agronomy and Horticulture majors which continued until 2001 when Soil Science was merged with Agronomy due to low enrollment in Soils. The new major was given the name Crop and Soil Science with Crop Science and Soil Science options. In 2006 a Sustainable Agriculture option was added and all three options are included in the present (2009) catalog

The Agronomy Curriculum Rapidly Expands

To illustrate the rapid increase in the breadth of the Agronomy curriculum during the 1970’s compared with what it had included in the 1950’s and early 60’s, the 1977-79 catalog lists the following courses either required or available as electives to Agronomy majors: Introduction to Plant Science, Plant and Seed Identification, Forage Crops, Grain Crops, Crops Evaluation (Lab), Plant Genetics, Biometrics, Weed Control, Plant Breeding, Crop Improvement, Economic Crop Physiology, Crop Ecology and Geography, Advanced Forage Management and Utilization, Pesticides and Pest Control, Organic Gardening and Farming, Special Problems in Agronomy, and Senior Seminar. The Grain Crops course was later divided into Corn and Soybean Production and Small Grain and Miscellaneous Crop Production. In addition, 6-12 credits could be earned via the Cooperative Internship program. At that time the 192 quarter credit hour Agronomy Option major required 52 credits of University Basic Studies; 20 credits Basic Studies in Agriculture; 64 credits in the Major Concentration of which about 50 were in Plant Science/Agronomy/Soils; and 56 credits of courses in Biology, Chemistry and electives. The Basic Studies in Agriculture along with additional requirements from Animal Science and Agricultural Economics provided Agronomy Majors with a well-rounded exposure to all the important components of production agriculture.

The Pesticides course was initiated in 1969 in response to the need to have Plant Science students well trained in the proper selection, safe handling, and correct application of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. There also was interest in the non-use or minimum use of chemical pesticides; therefore, an Organic Gardening and Farming course was begun in 1975. Both courses continued until 1990 when the University switched to the semester system.

In 2003 a course entitled Sustainable Agriculture, which included organic system topics, was introduced into the curriculum by Dr. Michael Crotser. More recently, the increasing consumer demand for organically produced food products and the need to have farmers and growers skilled in their efficient commercial production prompted a senior-level Organic Production Systems course to again be offered beginning in 2008 by Dr. William Anderson.

Much of the Agronomy/Plant Science course consolidation and reorganization since the mid-1980’s was made necessary by four events. These are: (1) The Plant Science Major being split into the separate Agronomy and Horticulture  majors in 1986-87; (2) The University switching from the 192 credit-hour Quarter System to the 132 credit-hour Semester System in 1990 along with an accompanying increase in the University’s General Education credit-hour requirement; (3) The University reducing total minimum semester credit hours needed to graduate from 132 initially to128 and then later to 120; and (4) The merging of the Agronomy and Soil Science majors in 2001.

Laboratory Facilities and Their Role in Agronomy

Laboratory experience has been an important component of the Agronomy curriculum. The addition of the small plot field laboratory and the greenhouse facility in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s began a steady introduction and upgrading of the outdoor plot area and the Agriculture-Science building laboratory and classroom facilities. A small tractor and basic tillage tools were acquired for the plot work; growth chambers were included in the greenhouse structure; and lab and classroom remodeling projects in Ag-Science during the 1980’s significantly improved those facilities.

Forage Crop Production, Pasture Production, Corn and Soybean Production, Crop Physiology, Integrated Pest Management, Plant and Seed Identification, Introductory Soils, Soil and Water Conservation, and Pedology, as well as the freshman Introduction to Plant Science course, all include laboratory components. Students have gained hands-on experience examining and working with plants and seeds, observing crops in the outdoor nursery or in the field, collecting data, doing experiments in the greenhouse, visiting farms, and touring agribusiness facilities. Forage Crop students have sampled and tested forage crops for quality, calibrated seeding equipment, determined yield, judged hay and silages, and evaluated pastures. In the Corn and Soybean Production labs students have learned how to grade grain for its quality, determine moisture content, determine yields, identify diseases, and visually evaluate seed crops.

Equipment such as an electronic grain moisture tester, a carbon dioxide analyzer for photosynthesis applications, and a near-infrared reflectance (NIR) spectrophotometer for forage quality analysis were acquired over several years and incorporated into lab exercises, student projects, and faculty research. UWRF Forage Crop Production students have been among a relatively few undergraduate students in the entire U.S. that have had the opportunity to test forages for feed quality using NIR technology since it became the predominant method for testing in commercial and state-run labs throughout the country in the 1980’s.

When the Ag-Science building was constructed in 1966, the planers had the foresight to include several large walk-in freezers and coolers. One freezer and one cooler were designated for use by Agronomy, Horticulture, and Soils. The availability of frozen materials has been a valuable resource making it possible to gather plant material of many different species at various stages of growth during the summer and have them available for use in Plant Science Labs during the entire academic year. It also makes it possible to maintain a wide variety of corn silage and haylage samples for use in training students to evaluate them at any time of the year.

Mainframe computer technology arrived on campus in the 1970’s, and initially was housed on third floor in the Ag-Science building. It was utilized initially in Agronomy via the Crop Physiology course. Students often were in awe at how rapidly the main frame computer could take all the data from their punch cards and print out the results compared with the time it took them to do just a few of the calculations with a hand calculator.

In the 1980’s several desktop computers were installed in the agronomy classroom, crop physiology lab, and in the herbarium-seed storage room. These were used for operating and recording results from the NIR instrument, lab exercises involving spreadsheet data processing applications, and for student special projects.

Computer- related experiences in agronomy were further enhanced by the installation of a campus Information Technology Center and the availability of computer labs that could accommodate an entire class of 25 or 30 students. Computer exercises in pest control and other agronomic applications involved various simulations and “what if?” scenarios that could be completed in one two-hour period. The wiring and connection of Ag-Science to the campus fiber optic Ether Net System enabled computer connections in all classrooms, labs, and faculty offices. Present-day agronomy students and faculty members can readily access on-line and Internet information sources for their classes, prepare and present Power Point project reports, and interact via computer.

The Internship Program has been another valuable asset to Agronomy since its inception in 1968. A large number of agronomic agribusinesses and agencies in the Wisconsin-Minnesota-Iowa area have needs for temporary employees, especially during the summer months. In Agronomy, the Cooperatives and other firms that offer pest scouting services have been among the leading intern employers. There are also a wide variety of others such as canning companies, experiment stations, university research projects, fertilizer dealers, various ag businesses, and farmers that avail themselves of intern student help. Almost 100 percent of agronomy interns have been in paid positions. UWRF Agronomy interns consistently placed very high in an agronomy-oriented general knowledge and practical skills exam that the Cenex Cooperative administered to all of its interns from a five-state area during the 1980s and 90s,

In a 2005 survey of Agronomy alumni, 92% rated the quality of instruction in the courses of their major as “good” to “very good”. Two-thirds felt that they were “better” or “much better” prepared than their colleagues of similar age and training. Alumni respondents were generally pleased with the major for providing them with the skills, understanding, and depth of knowledge that they had sought, and 82% felt that their present occupation was very much related to the major.

Looking Toward the Future

Entering into the new century, the Agronomy curriculum continues to incorporate new technology such as biotechnology and its role in developing new hybrids and crop cultivars; global positioning systems for field work applications; rotational grazing for low-cost and efficient use of forages; growing crops with a minimum use of pesticides and other high-cost or potentially polluting inputs; and soil-conserving tillage, fertility, and cropping practices to protect the environment. Courses have been added in Grain Quality, Sustainable Agriculture, Hydric Soils and Wetland Environments, and Plants and Society. The latter is now a course within the University’s General Education program offerings. The curriculum of the 2000’s gives increased attention to the integration of tillage systems, cropping systems, profitability, and environmental quality along with an attempt to educate students of all disciplines regarding the role of plants, crops, and soils in the human existence.

Storm clouds looming on the horizon at the time of this writing are due to the severe economic crisis facing our nation, state, and individuals. A serious contraction of state budgets and university funding may continue to impact the UW-System for several years to come. The implementation of a hiring freeze and its effect on acquiring new agronomy faculty to replace Dr. Crotser who resigned in 2008 and Dr. Carlson who retired at the end of spring semester, 2009, are  unknown at this time.

Agronomy / Natural Resources / Crops & Soils Clubs

Agronomy and Soils students have had major-related clubs available for their participation since the majors were first developed in the mid- to late-1960s. During a period in the 1970s when the number of Agronomy and Soils majors was down, it also was the club of interest to students in the emerging Horticulture and Resource Management disciplines and operated under the name Natural Resources Club. When those areas of the department gained sufficient majors to support their own student organizations, it became known by its current name, the Crops and Soils Club

The club is affiliated with the American Society of Agronomy and participates in  ASA-sponsored student activities at the annual national meetings and the Midwest Regional meetings. The local club promotes and supports sending teams to crop judging and soil judging contests. The club has also worked closely with Soil and Water Conservation organizations to promote student interest and involvement in that field.

ASA meetings

The Crops and Soils Club usually sends a student delegation and a faculty chaperone to the annual meetings of the American Society of Agronomy. Students gain the experience of traveling to a large metropolitan area somewhere in the U.S., participating in the Student Section Activities contests, which include a Quiz Bowl to test agronomic knowledge.  UW-RF students also meet fellow agronomy students from all parts of the U.S., and they generally visit important agricultural production or processing facilities in the area of the meeting. UW-RF has had a student delegate elected as one of the national student officers on more than one occasion.

NACTA Crops Contests

UW-RF agronomy teams have always done very well in the national NACTA (North American  Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture) contests. The contest sites rotate around to different locations in the U.S. each year, and generally include a greater number of universities and colleges of all levels than do the ASA contests. The nature of the NACTA contests allows our students to apply their knowledge from a variety of courses in the agronomy and general agriculture curriculum and better reflects the training they receive to enter into the production and business world upon graduation. UW-RF teams frequently finish among the top five in this contest.

Soils Judging

Soils Judging is another annual event with contests at the state, regional, and national levels. Agronomy majors and minors usually make up a significant portion of the team. Our teams frequently win their way into the regional and national contests and have placed high in national contests.

Some Notable Placings by UW-RF Agronomy and Soils Teams and Individuals in Contests, 1993 – 2006.

Year Contest and Placement
1993 NACTA: National Crops Contest – 2nd, National Soils Contest – 1st
1994 NACTA: National Crops Contest – 3rd; National Soils Contest – 1st
1995 NACTA: National Soils Contest – 1st
1996 NACTA National Crops Contest – 2nd; ASA Region III Soils Contest – 3rd
1997 ASA Region III Soils Contest – 3rd
1999 ASA Region III Soils Contest – 3rd
2000 NACTA National Soils Contest – 3rd
2003 NACTA: National Crops Contest – 2nd; National Soils Contest – 2nd
2004 NACTA National Crops Contest – 5th
2005 NACTA: National Crops Contest – 5th; National Soils Contest – 3rd
2005 ASA: Leah Viesselman (agron. major) – 1st in the nation in the Student Activities Subdivision Poster Contest
2006 NACTA National Soils Contest – 6th; National Quiz Bowl – 1st
2006 ASA Student Activities Subdivision National Quiz Bowl – 2nd

Rothermel Fund and Scholarship

Mr. William A. Rothermel, a Wisconsin resident, received his B.S. degree in Agronomy and a M.S. in Soil Science. He had a very successful professional career working for 40 years in agriculture-related areas of Merck Pharmaceuticals. He and his wife Audrey became good friends with Dr. Carlson and in response to Steve’s quest for scholarship funds, Mr. Rothermel was able to facilitate and support the establishment of the Rothermel-Merck Scholarship for Agronomy students at UW-RF. The Rothermels so enjoyed the thank-you letters from students receiving this scholarship that they decided in 1995 to also directly support the Agronomy Program at UW-River Falls by establishing the William A. and Audrey W. Rothermel Professorship in Agronomy through the UW-River Falls Foundation. Together, the Scholarship and Professorship endowments made up the largest single bequest ever received by the Foundation up until that time.

A percentage of the interest earned by the Professorship grant funds is made available each year for support of agronomic activities. This has made it possible to support student and faculty travel to meetings, judging contests, and other activities and to acquire needed laboratory and classroom equipment items that otherwise would not be possible. It also has allowed significant Plant & Earth Science Department funds not now used by agronomy to be utilized by other disciplines in the department.

Highlights of Agronomy Faculty Members Since Prucha and Clark

Dr. Melvin (Mel) Wall graduated from the River Falls State Teachers College in 1936 with a degree in Agricultural Education and briefly taught Vo-Ag before getting an M.S. in Agronomy. He joined the River Falls faculty in 1940 and obtained his Ph.D. from UW- Madison in 1957.

He was an avid golfer and maintained a first-class putting green in his backyard at home for practicing his putting. As head of the Campus Planning Committee in the 1960s he convinced Chancellor Kleinpell to allow him to design and construct an outdoor amphitheater just south of the campus across the South Fork of the Kinnikinnic River. The idea for it had come from a Greco-Roman amphitheater he had seen while on a trip to Italy. He not only raised money from donors for its construction but got many students, both ag and non-ag, involved in building it over a several-year period. Unfortunately, he never lived to see it fully completed but it was dedicated as the Melvin Wall Amphitheater in 1972. It has been used for graduation exercises, various stage presentations, and it is presently used for the summer weekly concert series and other special events.

Wall was recognized for his agronomic teaching skills and accomplishments by Crops and Soils Magazine. He had chaired the Agronomy-Soils/Plant & Earth Science Department for 27 years prior to his death. A memorial fountain for Dr. Wall is located on the University Mall north of the Ag-Science building.

Dr. Richard (Dick) Delorit graduated from WSU-RF with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Education and spent several years teaching high school vocational agriculture before going on for his graduate degrees at UW-Madison and returning to the College at River Falls as a faculty member. His Ph.D. degree emphasized weed control and he maintained a deep interest in the subject, regularly teaching a weed control course throughout his entire administrative career at UWRF. Delorit’s most prominent legacies to agronomy probably are in the form of an agronomy textbook and two seed identification manuals. Initially authored by Delorit and Dr. Henry.

Dick Delorit with Gary Rohde and Roger Swanson in background
Dick Delorit with Gary Rohde and Roger Swanson in background

Alghren, his former graduate school mentor at the U.W.-Madison, the 600-page Crop Production book was an agronomy textbook for use primarily in high schools, but it also found its way into many technical and junior colleges. When Dr. Alghren could no longer actively participate in revising the book, Dr. Delorit recruited Dr. Greub to co-author the substantial revisions incorporated into the fourth and fifth editions.

Delorit’s other very significant contribution to agronomy was the production and publication in 1970 of his Illustrated Taxonomy Manual of Weed Seeds, a color photo-illustrated manual of weed seeds including detailed descriptions of their size, shape, and color along with deductive keys for identification by species. Getting good, high-detail color photographs of small seeds is very difficult because of lighting and shadow problems. Delorit accidentally discovered that when seeds were laying on top of a piece of thick plate glass, the shadows were eliminated. He could then use an appropriate colored background underneath the glass to enhance the seeds’ colors and physical characteristics. His manual has become a classic among agronomists and seed technicians in the U.S. and abroad. He later collaborated with a USDA staff member in Washington, DC to produce a similarly illustrated Seeds of Continental United States Legumes in 1986.

Dr. Donald (Don) Steinegger (B.S. University of Wisconsin-Madison; Ph.D. University of California-Los Angeles) joined the Plant Science faculty in 1965. Although basically trained in horticulture, he had a very good understanding of plant growth and physiology as they applied to agronomic species. He related well to agronomy students and got them interested in the breeding and improvement of crop species as well as providing basic information about plant growth and characteristics important for field crop production. Dr. Steinegger left UWRF for an extension horticulture position at the University of Nebraska in 1975.

Dr. Louis (Lou) Greub was also an Agricultural Education graduate of WSU-RF and had Professor Mel Wall as his adviser. After receiving his M.S. and Ph.D. in Agronomy at Iowa State University, he returned to River Falls in 1968 essentially filling the position vacated by Dr. Wall’s death a year earlier.

Lou Greub explaining NIR forage testing machine and procedure to student

One of Professor Greub’s legacies that still surfaces occasionally in discussions with former students, agronomists, and farmers around the state is his investigation into quackgrass as a possible forage grass. During the 1980s he gathered and grew a nursery full of dozens of quackgrass specimens collected from all over Wisconsin and a few other locations in the Midwest and evaluated them for possible forage use. His demonstration plots at the 1980’s Barron County Wisconsin Farm Progress Days attracted a lot of attention from farmers, including a few who said that there were years when their cows would have starved if it had not been for quackgrass. Later, Greub combined efforts with Dr. Mike Casler, Wisconsin’s grass breeder agronomist at the U.W.- Madison, in growing and evaluating dozens of the USDA’s world collection of quackgrasses. Disease problems; difficulties in getting Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection approval for releasing seed of a species that is declared a noxious weed in the state; and lack of financial support for practical applied research of that type forced Casler and Greub to finally abandon the effort. The forage grass breeder at the University of Minnesota has since picked up on a somewhat similar project.

Dr. Greub became the coauthor with Dr. Delorit in substantially revising the fourth (1974) and fifth (1984) editions of the Crop Production textbook. Greub received the Wisconsin Forage Council “Educator of the Year “ award in 1992 and was the CAFES “Outstanding Faculty Member” in 1998. Beginning in 1999, an annual “Louis J. Greub Forage Award” plaque has been awarded to the high school scoring highest in the forage crops portion of the Ag Technology “Tops of the Crops” Contest.

Greub plays a concertina (a musical instrument somewhat similar to, yet different from an accordion) and has, upon occasion, shown up to play dressed in alpine lederhosen and felt hat. He also plays in the in the local-area “Polka Notes” band.

Greub likes to brag that both of his grandfathers came from Switzerland and one of his great-grandfathers there was an Admiral in the Swiss Navy.

Dr. Dwayne (Tom) Burmood (B.S., M.S., Univ. of Nebraska; Ph.D., Iowa State Univ.), a grain crops agronomist, came on board in 1971. Burmood left in 1977 to join the private seed industry.

Dr. Steven (Steve) Carlson (B.S., U.W.-Madison; M.S., N. Carolina State; Ph.D., Purdue Univ.) joined the faculty in 1977 and retired in 2009. He taught Corn and Soybean Production, Small Grain Production, Plant Breeding and Genetics, and sections of Introduction to Plant Science. Carlson is a faculty member who has often been cited as being “out standing in his field” – down on his farm, that is. He owns, has lived on, and together with his wife Joann, operates a 100-acre farm 6.5 miles south of River Falls. He raises sheep, beef cattle, and chickens and grows corn, small grains, forage, and miscellaneous other crops. He periodically reported to students in his classes regarding the results of experimenting with a new or unusual crop such as forage turnips. Carlson often has hired students to help with his farming operations and discussions in his Corn and Soybean or Small Grains classes sometimes got sidetracked onto what he was or was not doing right on his farm.

Dr. Steve Carlson (left) and crops show winners
Dr. Steve Carlson (left) and crops show winners

Steve and his family have been frequent exhibitors of their livestock at county and state fairs. During the Fair season he also can be found judging the crop and produce entries at several of the County Fairs in the state.

Dr. Carlson has been very active in the CAFES Scholarship Funds Committee and served as its co-chair for many years. He was directly responsible for obtaining the Rothermel/Merck Scholarship and the Rothermel Agronomy  Professorship Grant which has been of great benefit to the Agronomy Program at UWRF. Carlson was instrumental in initiating the “Tops of the Crops” contest in 1979 as a part of the Ag Technology Contest, and he also was an Internship faculty coordinator for 25 years.

At one time the buzz among students in Carlson’s classes was with regard to his infamous crossword puzzle exams and quizzes. Some students liked them and others hated them.

Jokes that often have circulated around the College’s classrooms, hallways, offices, and coffee room and are usually very short and simple, sometimes not readily understood, but occasionally hilarious, are often referred to as “Carlson jokes” because that is very likely the source from which they were first introduced.

In recognition of his work with students, especially through the Internship Program, Carlson received the Friend of Growmark Award from Growmark Cooperative at their national meeting in 2001. He received the Wisconsin Fertilizer and Chemical Association Education Award at the annual meeting in Madison in 2005 and was also selected as the CAFES Outstanding Faculty Member for that year.

Dr. Arden Campbell (B.S., M.S., Purdue Univ.; Ph.D., Iowa State Univ.) and Dr. Ken Barnett (B.S., Rockford College; M.S., Northern Illinois Univ.; Ph.D., Iowa State Univ.) also were part of the agronomy faculty at times during the 1970s and 80s.

Arden Campbell
Arden Campbell
Ken Barnett
Ken Barnett

Dr. Dennis Cosgrove (B.S. and Ph.D., Michigan State Univ.) came to UWRF in 1988. His training was strong in forage crops and he immediately moved into the newly created UWRF Forage Extension Specialist position. Although a part-time position, it has state-wide responsibilities. This position was part of a new direction in decentralizing extension work in Wisconsin made possible by a change in the personnel at the UW-Madison that previously had resisted such moves. Since Cosgrove’s entry into the position, he has amicably shared the state’s extensive forage extension work with Dr. Dan Undersander, the Forage Extension Specialist at UW-Madison. Cosgrove has been an avid promoter of rotational grazing in Wisconsin and during the summer months he usually can be found carrying on a pasture-related research project of some type and conducting an annual grazing short course at UWRF. Upon Greub’s retirement, Cosgrove took over the Forage and Pasture courses while still retaining his extension responsibilities.

Professor Cosgrove plays the fiddle and at one time was a regular member of the well-known Bluegrass Band “High Water” operating out of central Wisconsin.

Dr. Cosgrove passed away unexpectedly in 2013.

Dr. Michael (Mike) Crotser (B.S. Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Ph.D. Univ.. of Kentucky) filled the agronomy faculty position vacated when Professor Greub retired in 1999. Dr. Crotser was brought on board for his training and experience in weed and pest control and taught the courses in that area. He had a strong interest in integrated pest management. He also has had a role in bringing biotechnology and interaction with other basic-science oriented departments across campus into the agronomy curriculum. He left UW-RF in 2008 to go into private business.

Dr. William (Bill) Anderson (B.S., M.S. Ohio State University, Ph.D. University of Nebraska) left the Dean’s position in 2002 and became a member of the Agronomy faculty. He had at one time been heavily involved in teaching agronomy courses at the University of Minnesota-Waseca campus and has taught horticultural courses at The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical College. He has been very much involved in coaching crop judging and soils judging teams participating in ASA and NACTA contests. Dr. Anderson also has had an integral role in designing and refining the self-evaluation instruments and procedures for agronomy currently being used by the major. His interest in the sustainability of agriculture has led him to develop not only a new course but also a sub-major in that area. He has been actively involved in the multidisciplinary Biotechnology Program at UW-River Falls and teaches an Introductory Biotechnology course.

Bill Anderson
Bill Anderson

Dr. Holly Dolliver (B.S. North Dakota State Univ.; Ph.D. Univ. of Minnesota) joined the Crop and Soil Science faculty in 2006, coming to River Falls from the University of Minnesota, and teaches courses in both the soils and geology areas. She also has become active in assisting with the soils judging team responsibilities.

Agronomy Enrollment

Enrollment in Agronomy has waxed and waned over the years. During its early decades it increased or decreased largely in conjunction with enrollment in the Agriculture Department, and later the College, as a whole. In the 1980’s enrollments dropped because of economic problems in the farming industry and a reduction in available jobs. At that time some farmers advised their sons and daughters to not go into agricultural fields. Better economic times in the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, along with a continuing demand for college-trained agronomists in the businesses and industries serving production agriculture, temporarily reversed the downward trend somewhat but now a new challenge has emerged. Quoting from the Plant & Earth Science Department’s Spring 2006 “Seven Year Audit and Review (Program Evaluation)” for the Crop and Soil Science Major:

The declining pool of traditional rural-backgrounded students likely has been responsible for some of the enrollment declines in the major. Some feel that the name change from “Agronomy” to “Crop and Soil Science” has confused some prospective students and hurt enrollment. The U. S. economy must take part-credit, too; in agriculture, enrollment has always followed the economy unlike most other colleges, where the relationship between enrollment and economic well-being is often indirect. Marketing a major to suburban/urban students, many of whom equate Crop and Soil Science, Agronomy, and other agricultural majors to production agriculture, has been challenging.

During the period from 1970-1982, the Plant Science majors, consisting of Agronomy and Horticulture, went from a low of 31 in 1970 to a high of nearly 140 in the late 1970’s, later dropping to just over 100 by the early 1980’s.

In tracking Agronomy majors from 1990 to 2000, the number increased steadily from 20 in 1990 to over 50 in 1995, holding steadily in that range through 2000. Beginning in 2001, majors in the newly consolidated Agronomy/Soils/Sustainable Agriculture majors went from a high of 58 in 2001 to a low of 22 in 2005, and have steadily increased to about 50 in 2010. Enrollments have remained near or above that number since.

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