K-State Current

K-State Current - April 6, 2022

K-State Current is a weekly news update for the Kansas Board of Regents to apprise the Regents on a few of the many successes and achievements made by K-State faculty, staff, and students.

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K-State lands $12M grant to lead agricultural growth in Haiti

Haitian ChildKansas State University’s Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab has been awarded a five-year $12 million grant from United States Agency for International Development to establish a Center of Excellence that will enhance capacity of six universities to support agriculture-led growth in Haiti.

Vara Prasad, director of the innovation lab (also known as SIIL), said the grant will help to create the Center of Excellence on Mitigation, Adaptation, and Resilience to Climate-Change – or CEMARCH -- to foster agricultural education, training, research and extension through improved collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing.

The effort will address agricultural problems, and food and nutritional security in the Caribbean country.

According to Prasad, CEMARCH will focus on building institutional and human capacity so that Haiti is able to identify and seek solutions to its agricultural problems in partnership with U.S. universities.

“The SIIL is perfectly positioned with its international recognition and extensive experience to engage in a co-creation process with the six Haitian university partners and USAID-Haiti to successfully establish the CEMARCH,” said Ernie Minton, dean of K-State’s College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension.

SIIL will work closely with a consortium of six universities, including:

  • Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
  • Faculté d’Agronomie et de Médecine Vétérinaire in Port-au-Prince.
  • Campus Henry Christophe de Limonade in Limonade, Haiti.
  • North Christian University, Cap-Haitien
  • American University of the Caribbean in Sint Maarten.
  • University Notre Dame, Les Cayes, Haiti.

Together, those universities will help identify areas of research, curriculum development, and opportunities to engage the farming community and other local partners to redesign agri-food systems.

“Engaging with scholars, educators, policy makers, smallholder farmers, and building social capital and human resources is a hallmark of SIIL’s portfolio, and we have successfully done this in multiple countries around the world,” said Prasad, who is also a University Distinguished Professor and the R.O. Kruse endowed professor at K-State.

“We are fortunate that USAID values our work and is willing to support and invest in our research, education, outreach and capacity building approaches (so that we can) replicate these proven models in Haiti.”

According to Prasad, SIIL has built capacity around the world by training 160 students and establishing seven agricultural technology parks in Cambodia; and one in Senegal. The lab has plans to establish more in West Africa (including Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana and Mali).

“This latest significant award to the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab is the perfect example of how K-State is focused on promoting collaborative, high-quality research programs around the world,” said David Rosowsky, vice president for research at K-State. “We are pleased to have worked with Prasad and (SIIL associate director Jan) Middendorf on this large grant and significant accomplishment.”

Prasad said work at CEMARCH focuses on three objectives:

  • Increasing institutional and human capacity and social capital to better meet the demands of the agricultural economy and workforce needs.
  • Developing revenue-generating services to provide to the region.
  • Establishing technology parks to showcase high-potential Climate Smart Agriculture technologies and strategies to sustainably intensify smallholder production systems.

He said SIIL will work directly with the universities to provide support for management, reporting, communications and outreach, and organizing events. The SIIL at K-State will work with the Haitian institutions to develop a five-year plan based on the needs, priorities, opportunities and commitments of Haiti.

“This initiative gives us a great opportunity to emulate the land-grant model by working with local Haitian universities to foster agricultural education, training, research and extension,” Middendorf said. “We will also work toward improving collaboration, coordination, and knowledge sharing to concentrate on Haiti’s food and nutritional security challenges, especially during these very challenging times.”


Groundbreaking: 104-bed residence hall at Kansas State University’s Aerospace and Technology Campus to meet demand of rising enrollments

Groundbreaking GroupLeft to right: Eric Brown, Salina Chamber of Commerce; Jason Gillig, Hutton Corporation; Greg Lohrentz, KSU Foundation; Alysia Starkey, K-State Salina; Tim Rogers, Salina Airport Authority and K-State Salina Campus Advisory Board; Daran Neuschafer, K-State Salina Campus Advisory Board; Kyle Chamberlin, K-State Salina.

In an era of slowing college enrollments nationwide, Kansas State University’s Aerospace and Technology Campus in Salina, Kansas, recently broke ground for a new 104-bed residence hall as rising enrollment intensifies students’ challenge of finding available housing in the community.

It’s the latest chapter in a season of growth for the campus. In response to changes in the aerospace and technology industries, K-State Salina added two new academic degrees and — with the philanthropic support of donors — 17 aircraft to its fleet in the past year.

The new residence hall is another substantial strategic development on campus and enhances the accessibility for prospective students who require housing.

Importance of on-campus housing

“This new residence hall is another step forward in establishing our campus as a global aerospace leader,” said Dean Alysia Starkey, K-State Salina dean and CEO. “Studies show students earn better grades and are more likely to finish their degrees when living on campus. This ideal space allows our students to build their network, further their goals and find support that is important to them. When students are empowered by a positive community, they become leaders of tomorrow.”

Dean Starkey, the dean’s advisory council, alumni, and representatives from KSU Foundation and Hutton Corporation gathered March 25 to break ground on the $9.1 million project.

Commitment to community

“K-State Salina’s commitment to the community and its enrollment growth is realized by the construction of this new residence hall,” said Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport Authority. “This not only helps students but reduces the housing pressure in Salina and benefits the Kansas economy from increased enrollment. The success of K-State Salina has a positive impact on our local community and the surrounding region.”

Accelerating design-build process

Construction will begin north of the existing residence halls and student union in April 2022 with an expected completion in August 2023.

“This is exciting for the K-State Salina campus and we are pleased to accelerate with an integrated design-build process to address rising enrollments,” said Greg Lohrentz, senior vice president of operations and finance at the KSU Foundation. “As the university’s strategic real estate partner, we appreciate the momentum that building this new dorm will bring to the university and for students wanting to launch their futures at K-State Salina. And the university will own the residence hall once the project financing is paid.”

Hutton Corporation, Salina, Kansas, is both architect and contractor of the project.

As Kansas State University’s strategic partner for philanthropy, the KSU Foundation inspires and guides philanthropy toward university priorities to boldly advance K-State family. Visit www.ksufoundation.org for more information.


Rendering of Kansas State University’s Aerospace and Technology Campus’ new residence hall due to open August 2023.
Courtesy of Hutton Corporation.


K-State Faculty Highlights

Sharda receives grant to innovate planting systems

Ajay ShardaAjay Sharda, Patrick Wilburn — Carl and Mary Ice Keystone research scholar and associate professor in the Carl and Melinda Helwig Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Kansas State University, has received a grant from Deere & Company to innovate planting systems to more accurately place seeds and maximize productivity and profitability.

Sharda will lead the three-year, $285,000 project, "New innovations and controls for planting systems," in an effort to help further evolve planter technology and aid producers.

"With rising input costs, increasing size of farming operations, uncertainty of available planting days and global supply chain issues, producers are continuously looking for newer innovations in planter technology to accurately place inputs while planting at higher operating speeds," Sharda said. "This project will focus on the evaluations of newer planting systems, developing implementation practices and establishing newer technology innovations needed for accurate seed and nutrition handling and placement for even emergence."

Sharda said the project goals will be accomplished through continuous on-farm research on producer's fields. The spatial data collected from crop production fields with real-world operating scenarios will help drive the innovation process to produce more intelligent and functional systems for farmers.

"Successful completion of this project would identify enhancements needed within row units for accurate placement of seed and nutrition for optimal emergence and yields," he said.


Agronomy professors receive the highest distinction from professional societies

The American Society of Agronomy, or ASA, and the Soil Science Society of America, or SSSA, named three faculty members in the agronomy department as fellows, the highest recognition bestowed by both societies. Members of each society nominate worthy colleagues based on their professional achievements and meritorious service. Up to 0.3 percent of each society’s active and emeritus members may be elected fellow. The awards were presented at the society’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City in late 2021.

New agronomy fellows

Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, professor of agronomy, was named a fellow by the American Society of Agronomy. His program focuses on soil fertility and nutrient management research and extension.

Ruiz Diaz has made extraordinary contributions in developing high-impact education programs that serve producers, industry and extension, and an active program training the next generation of agronomic scientists. He developed a progressive research program in soil fertility and has made a significant impact on national and international initiatives. He provides leadership and service to regional and state professional organizations, and he is active serving ASA and SSSA on numerous committees. He served as division chair, associate editor and technical editor for the Agronomy Journal.

Ganga Hettiarachchi, professor of soil chemistry, was named a fellow by the Soil Science Society of America. Her research at K-State focuses on understanding the chemistry of both nutrient and contaminant elements in soils, with the goal of developing solutions to agricultural or environmental problems.

Hettiarachchi is internationally recognized for her work on better understanding fundamental reaction processes ascertaining soil nutrient and trace elements’ bioavailability in the environment and uses this knowledge to develop practical solutions for nutrient deficiencies or elemental toxicities. In addition to contributing substantially to training graduate and undergraduate students in soil science or related fields, Hettiarachchi provides leadership at the international, national, state and university levels. She has authored 75 peer-reviewed publications and has made numerous invited presentations at national and international conferences. She is active in SSSA, ASA, the International Union of Soil Sciences and the International Society of Trace Element Biogeochemistry. She also holds an adjunct professor position at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

John Holman, professor of agronomy, was named a fellow by the American Society of Agronomy. His expertise is in integrated cropping systems with an emphasis on weed science and forages.

Holman is stationed at the Southwest Research and Extension Center in Garden City. He received his bachelor's and master's from Montana State University and his doctorate from the University of Idaho. He is internationally recognized as an authority on semi-arid cropping systems. His research has made a meaningful impact on the agricultural industry, improving water use efficiency, weed management, crop production and profitability. He is recognized for generating meaningful research for producers and effectively communicating his research. He has authored 75 peer-reviewed publications, 950 proceedings and abstracts, and 350 extension publications. In addition to his work at K-State, he is active in ASA, the Crop Science Society of America, and agricultural industry groups.


K-State Student News

K-State MANRRS students earn national awards

Wrapping up Women’s History Month, the K-State College of Agriculture Diversity Programs Office and Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS, chapter attended the National MANRRS Conference and Career Fair, March 24-26, in Jacksonville, Florida.

MANNRS at K-State

Zelia Wiley, assistant dean and K-State MANRRS advisor; Summer Santillana, Diversity Programs Office coordinator; and Lonnie Hobbs Jr., co-advisor; accompanied a 10-student delegation representing K-State at the conference. All student attendees competed during the conference and brought home four national awards.

  • Ivan Bueso-Interiano, senior in animal sciences and industry, placed third in Division I Undergraduate Research Poster.
  • Lonnie Hobbs, Jr., doctoral student in agricultural economics, placed second in Division II Graduate Research Poster.
  • Brandon Green, junior in animal sciences and industry, placed third in Division II Undergraduate Research Poster.
  • Marie Bruce, freshman in animal sciences and industry, pre-veterinary option, placed second in Division II Undergraduate Research Poster.

Congratulations to all of our student competitors for their great work.

As we move into the spring, the Diversity Program Office will continue to share diversity events, including MANRRS Week, April 4-9, along with two College for a Day sessions with our Junior MANRRS chapters at Wichita Southeast High School and Junction City High School.

Stay up to date through the Diversity Program Office social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — or contact Zelia Wiley, assistant dean and director of diversity programs, at 785-532-5793 or zwiley@k-state.edu.





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