SPOKANE — Farmers will continue to receive reliable, unbiased data from Washington State University's cereal variety testing program, its new leader promises.
Clark Neely, currently extension small grains and oilseed specialist at Texas A&M University in College Station, will take over WSU's program beginning Aug. 5. He will also be an extension agronomist.
"Under my leadership, farmers should expect the same high level of reliable data from the cereal variety testing program that WSU is known for," Neely said in an email to Capital Press. "I want WSU Extension to be their go-to source of information for varieties and agronomic management when making decisions."
Neely said he intends to run a collaborative program that will explore and answer issues that growers are facing on their farms.
"With depressed commodity prices it is more important than ever that growers are as efficient as possible with their resources," he said.
Neely said there could be ways to improve trials or data through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. He'd like to work with colleagues to use the variety trials to explore why certain cultivars perform better than others.
Neely's responsibilities will be split, as he will teach a cropping systems course each fall and obtain external funding for research projects.
The WSU position combined the two things Neely liked best about his current job, focusing on wheat and extension.
"And it did it in an area of the country that I fell in love with during my time in Moscow, Idaho, getting my master's (degree)," Neely said.
Neely received his master's degree at University of Idaho, working under Professor Jack Brown for nearly three years, developing dual-purpose canola.
"I think he'll do as good a job in Washington state as he did here," Brown told the Capital Press. "A good decision by everyone. ... I think WSU is very fortunate to have him on board."
Neely's current position at Texas A&M is similar to the WSU position, said Rich Koenig, interim dean of WSU's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.
There, Neely handles cereal varieties statewide and beyond Texas' borders, Koenig said.
"He was clearly the top choice," Koenig said. "He's going to hit the ground running. He's a phenomenal communicator. I think folks will be pleased when they meet him."
Neely's wife, Haly, will join WSU as an assistant professor of soil science Aug 19. She is currently an assistant professor of spatial soil and water management at Texas A&M. She received her bachelor's degrees, dual majoring in agricultural journalism and organic agriculture and master's degree in soil fertility at WSU before the couple moved to Texas for their doctorates. She majored in soil science with a focus on soil physics.
Koenig also said he expects to announce WSU's new barley breeder, in the Robert Nilan Endowed Chair in Barley Research and Education, by June 1.