Agronomy researchers receive awards

The K-State Crops Production team members pose for a group photo in front of their milo crop on Sept. 25, 2016. (Meg Shearer | The Collegian)

An award for outstanding contributions to agronomy through education, national and international service and research was presented to a Kansas State graduate student. Guillermo Balboa, graduate student in agronomy, received the $5,000 Gerald O. Mott Scholarship from the Crop Science Society of America.

Santiago Tamagno, an agronomy visiting scholar, received another award of $50,000 to pursue his doctorate in soybeans at K-State. The Monstanto STEM Fellowship is awarded to high-achieving minority students who are pursuing either a master’s or doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or other agriculture-related fields.

The money granted to Tamagno will cover his tuition and fees and also will be used to purchase new equipment for the lab.

Tamagno and Balboa came to K-State from Argentina and have been a part of the K-State Crops Production team, a group of six students advised by Ignacio Ciampitti, assistant professor of crop production and cropping systems in the agronomy department.

Other group members are graduate students Damaris Hansel and Ana Julia Azevedo, from Brazil; Sebastian Varela, from Uruguay; and Osler Ortez, from Nicaragua.

The team conducts critical research to evaluate the effect of the best management practices to close yield gaps in summer row crops (corn, soybean and sorghum) and winter canola.

Every growing season, two visiting scholars, international undergraduate students and many others help in daily field and lab activities. Dustin Hodgins, assistant scientist in agronomy, performs critical field activities related to the operations of field equipment.

Tamagno’s background

Tamagno said he was delighted to receive such an important distinction from one of the largest seed companies in the world. The application considered not only ongoing work, but also is an award that recognizes the prolific scientific career at an early stage of professional development.

Tamagno completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the National University of Rosario in Argentina. He said that when he finished in March 2015, he wanted to have an experience abroad.

“The opportunity to explore and learn from different research groups attracted me in the first place,” Tamagno said. “I firmly believe that the combination of experiences in different universities and research groups can provide a skill set to be prepared to face new challenges and to approach different subjects with a broad perspective.”

Ciampitti invited him to come to K-State as a research scholar. Since September 2015, Tamagno has been conducting research with soybeans.

“I’m interested in soybeans because my master’s degree in Argentina studied corn, and I decided that it was the right time for me to explore and learn about a different crop,” Tamagno said. “In the end, you can be a more complete professional when you know not only about one crop and a small area of research, but when you can learn about a broad spectrum of crops, understand their physiological mechanisms and provide insights gained in other research areas to make an impact on a new research topic.”

As a part of his first year working at K-State with Ciampitti, Tamagno led a synthesis-analysis, collecting and summarizing data from Indiana and Kansas together with Argentina. He looked at the effect of nutrient stoichiometry on soybean yield and nutrient partitioning. This effort led to a recently accepted publication on the topic in the Field Crops Research Journal.

Ciampitti complimented Tamagno’s contributions as well as the K-State Crops Production team.

“This demonstrates the capability not only of the KSU Crops Production Team but also Tamagno’s ability to pursue, elaborate and publish a critical, scientific summary for a well-recognized and international journal within the crop science discipline,” Ciampitti said.

Tamagno’s expertise is in crop physiology and plant nutrition. He studies how plants grow and develop. Once his research is complete, he will give recommendations to farmers so they can increase the yield and make more efficient use of their resources.

“The goal of a scientist is to create information that is useful to the community, in this case the farmers,” Tamagno said. “You are always trying to improve the yields of the crops, which can be translated as food for the rest of the world.”

Balboa’s background

Balboa, recipient of the Crop Science Society of America’s Gerald O. Mott Scholarship, has been a part of the K-State Crops Production team since August 2014. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the National University of Rio Cuarto in Argentina.

Balboa said his study has mainly pertained to researching crops and understanding the main mechanisms related to yield formation.

“My objective is to try to close the difference between the maximum amount of grain and the actual yield that farmers currently are having,” he said. “We want to know what is the best combination of management practices that increase the yields in corn and soybean.”

Balboa is currently finishing a publication for an extension magazine and working toward submission of another scientific publication related to his doctoral program.

Ciampitti complimented Balboa on his accomplishments and involvement at K-State.

“Balboa is highly motivated and not only enjoys researching about crops, but also he provides leadership to the agronomy grad students via his role as vice president of this organization,” Ciampitti said. “In the past two years, Balboa has received multiple awards from the university and also international organizations such as the International Plant Nutrition Institute and Fulbright, which supported part of his stipend in the first two years of his doctorate program.”

Ciampitti said that the K-State Crops Production team is a quality group of students who help to motivate each other.

“You want to make sure you get the best from your students,” Ciampitti said. “For me, having a group doesn’t necessarily mean you have a team. For me, a group is a combination of individuals working in different topics. A team is a group of individuals working together towards a common goal, and that makes a substantial difference.”

Tamagno will begin as a doctoral student in January 2017 and said after his studies at K-State, he would like to go back to Argentina to work in a faculty position with research responsibilities.

Balboa will complete his doctorate in about a year and said that his plan is to go back to Argentina to obtain a professor position in crop production at the National University of Rio Cuarto.

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