Despite 'budget uncertainty,' universities plan to replace soil specialist
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Hans Kok, conservation tillage extension specialist at Washington State University and the University of Idaho, has resigned effective June 15 and despite tight budgets, the schools hope to replace him.
The position has been key for both schools for at least 25 years, said Rich Koenig, chairman of WSU's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Duties include delivering research information on conservation tillage practices throughout the Northwest.
Koenig and Kok declined to comment on the reason for the resignation.
About a year ago, Kok received approval from the universities to work with the public-private Indiana Conservation Partnership to promote conservation tillage throughout the Corn Belt.
While he did that in Indiana, Kok worked half-time for WSU and UI, Koenig said.
Koenig said the universities have made a verbal commitment to continue a shared position. The focus would be conservation tillage, but the job requirements may expand to cover basic agronomy and soil science, Koenig said.
"There's some budget uncertainty at both institutions," Koenig said. "But we hope to be able to move forward relatively soon."
The WSU and Idaho departments will begin discussions in the summer.
"We are committed to that area, but we are also under the gun right now," said University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Hammel.
The college must cut $2.4 million from its state funding during the next fiscal year, but Hammel said he worked in conservation tillage and knows its importance.
"We have had some positive discussions with WSU and we have both committed to trying to maintain expertise in that area," he said.
Russ Evans, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association, said his organization is willing to work with the universities to find a replacement.
There's a high rate of adoption of direct seed technology in the Northwest, he said, and it's good to have someone on hand to provide growers with knowledge and experience of the agronomies involved as they make the transfer.
"It certainly leaves a gap for the conservation tillage expertise Hans had," Evans said of Kok's departure.
"He was a great person to partner with."
"Hans was known throughout the region and we're going to miss him, not just as a colleague but as a friend," Koenig said.