Farms serve breeding programs, conservation, precision ag


Capital Press

Washington State University is searching for a new manager for its roughly 650 acres of farmland.

Ryan Davis, the current farm manager of WSU's Spillman Agronomy Farm in Pullman, Wash., is leaving to take another job.

Davis has been managing the university's Cook Farm for 11 years, taking on duties at Spillman seven or eight years ago. Davis' last day was May 31.

Rich Koenig, chair of WSU's Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, said the department assumes management of the Palouse Conservation Field Station from the USDA Agricultural Research Service beginning July 1.

The new manager will oversee all three farms.

Koenig said the new person must be able to handle farm management, understand the complexities of research and maintain the budget.

"We don't farm to make money, but we try not to go too far into the red," he said. "These are critical farms, so we want to make sure we do a good job in the hiring process."

The Spillman farm is the center of the wheat, barley, pea and lentil breeding programs, while Cook is the center for precision agriculture. The conservation farm focuses on conservation tillage.

The manager must interact with more than 40 researchers from WSU and ARS, Koenig noted.

"It's a pretty challenging position," he said.

Koenig said the department has formed a committee to begin the search and seek approval to fill the position.

"We've been fortunate to have the support of the dean and the university in filling the position," Koenig said. "We're still under a situation where we have to request to fill each and every position."

Koenig hopes to begin the search in June, and fill it by harvest, around Sept. 1. Davis is leaving all three farms in good shape until harvest approaches, he noted.

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