Rich Koenig

Rich Koenig, pictured June 13 during the Lind Field Day at the Washington State University's dryland research station in Lind, was recently named permanent chair of Washington State University's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Koenig said the reduced workload will allow him to focus on the department's research priorities, such as expanding the Spillman Farm and a state soil health initiative.

In recent years, Rich Koenig has worn multiple hats at Washington State University.

Now he's down to one.

Koenig was recently named the permanent chair of WSU's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. He previously held the position from 2008 to 2012, and has been interim chairman since November 2015.

He also was associate dean for extension for the university's College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences and interim chairman of the Department of Horticultures.

Those other roles will drop off Sept. 1.

This is a positive move for Koenig.

"I'm looking forward to being able to focus on one thing and doing that one thing well," he said. "I don't feel like I've been doing that for some time."

Several WSU leadership changes and candidate searches led to 15 administrative roles filled by fewer than half that many people for a while, Koenig said.

CAHNRS Dean André-Denis Wright came on on board in 2018 with the plan of restructuring and filling key positions.

Koenig looks forward to focusing on department leadership.

"Certainly we've been continuing to function, but I wouldn't say that we've been strategically moving forward," he said.

Koenig is pleased with the hiring of several soil scientists in Mount Vernon; barley breeder Robert Brueggeman and his wife Leah; new extension agronomist Clark Neely and his wife Haly.

Other new positions are on the horizon, including an endowed chair for potato research into soil health.

Koenig points to WSU's strong relationship with USDA, including plans for a new USDA Agricultural Research Services building on the WSU campus.

The department will figure "prominently" in occupying the new building, Koenig said. 

Koenig will now have time to devote to expanding WSU's Spillman Agronomy Farm in Pullman.

"I'm really excited about that opportunity, it's long overdue," he said.

WSU has state funding to develop a soil health initiative. Many commodity groups, including tree fruit, wheat and potatoes, have expressed interest in further pursuing research, Koenig said.

Koenig joined the WSU faculty in 2003. According to the university, he holds a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management and master’s degree in soil science from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He earned a doctorate in soil fertility and plant nutrition at WSU in 1993.

At WSU, the main focus of Koenig’s work has been on soil and nutrient management in Eastern Washington’s dryland agriculture systems.

He is a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy.

Recommended for you