Leading Washington State University’s efforts to improve understanding of the agricultural crops and soil that feed the world and fuel our economy, Professor Rich Koenig has been named permanent chair of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

One of the largest departments at WSU, Crop and Soil Sciences is the biggest unit in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), with more than 30 faculty members and more than 50 adjunct or affiliate faculty.

A WSU alumnus and an expert in soil fertility, Koenig has led the department on an interim basis since November 2015, when he replaced prior chair James Harsh. Koenig also led the department as chair from 2008 to 2012.

He begins his tenure as permanent chair on Sept. 1, 2019.

“Under Rich’s leadership, WSU Crop and Soil scientists have made a huge difference for growers and industries across Washington state,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of CAHNRS. “His team has released multiple new crop varieties and shared knowledge through hundreds of farm visits and field tours and thousands of guides and tools, while helping the university place among top global schools in agriculture.

“Rich is one of the college’s most experienced leaders, and it is my pleasure to see him continue his important work as permanent chair of Crop and Soil Sciences,” added Wright.

“Crop and soil scientists at WSU are delivering great things for Washington and agriculture at large, and I am excited by the opportunity to lead them,” Koenig said. “The future of this department is looking very bright. New discoveries, new facilities like the Plant Sciences Building, new hires, and new partnerships are coming soon that will help our scientists and Northwest growers accomplish more together.”

Faculty in Crop and Soil Sciences serve the university’s land grant mission through practical and fundamental plant and soil research, as well as undergraduate and advanced graduate education and training. They improve valuable crops, from grains and legumes to grasses and hay, and work to improve our understanding of organic agriculture and the health and inner workings of our soils and landscapes.

Department scientists also work in close partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. During Koenig’s tenure as interim chair, Washington State University has ranked No. 1 for two years running in USDA’s university research and development investment.

Thanks to the department’s efforts, US News and World Report ranks WSU at number 36 for Best Global Universities for Agriculture Sciences, while QS World University Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry places WSU at number 45, worldwide.

Koenig, a member of the WSU faculty since 2003, 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.

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

Learn more about the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

Media contact:

  • Richard Koenig, chair, WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, (509) 335-3475, richk@wsu.edu