TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The University of Idaho’s newest nutrient and waste management specialist, Linda Schott, grew up in rural Iowa, but she didn’t consider a career in agricultural until graduating from high school.
With a strong background in math and chemistry, she took the path strongly suggested by one of her teachers and pursued degrees in agricultural engineering. With a Ph.D. almost in hand, she applied for a position with the University of Idaho.
“The job description matched perfectly with what I wanted. It meshed water quality, soil and waste management,” she said.
Her doctoral research focused on the effects of livestock manure on soil health, and her master’s research focused on the impacts of conservation practices on water and soil quality.
She came to Idaho a year ago to interview for the position, and the university was kind enough to delay her start date until she had her Ph.D. degree, she said.
She started her job in January, a perfect time for getting to know people at all the winter commodity meetings and workshops. She’s also been visiting with local USDA researchers and soil and water conservation districts.
One of her first assignments was to put together a producer advisory board for the university’s planned Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) to better understand producers’ practices and how the university can help them, she said.
Agriculture in Idaho is different and more diverse than in the Midwest, and she’s been working to understand the different agronomic practices used in the high desert.
“I’m really passionate about extension and helping producers as much as possible,” she said.
Her main interest is on-farm research, and she’s ready and willing to help producers assess the nutrient and agronomic practices on their farms.
“I’m excited that dairy producers are intermingled with crop producers. There’s a lot of opportunity to use manure as a soil amendment,” she said.
Dairy producers are under pressure to manage their manure, and she wants to find a way to build demand for it so it is fully utilized as a nutrient, she said.
Her goal is to help farmers optimize management practices to create synergy between manure and crops to improve soil health.
One planned research project is working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to assess soil health in south-central Idaho so farmers know how their management practices affect the health of their soil. She’s also planning a project to assess the economic and agronomic value of manure.
She’s eager to hear from producers about the kind of research that would help them deal with any challenges on their farm. Talking with producers one-on-one is the best way to learn about the area’s agricultural practices and how the university can help, she said.
“Everyone here has just been very nice and helpful and made it easy to settle in and feel like I’m at home,” she said.
In addition to the warm welcome, she’s also enjoying Idaho’s great outdoors and said she would have been back whether she got the job or not — but she’s glad she did.