New dean attends annual Spillman Field Day

Fifth District Rep. Cathy McMorris and Daniel J. Bernardo, the new dean of Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, were among those attending the July 7 Spillman Agronomy Farm Field Day, celebrating 100 years of wheat research at WSU. 

Two important milestones were marked at this year’s field day: the 100th anniversary of the university’s first wheat variety release and the 50th anniversary of the purchase of the farm. Experimental lines of grain and legume crops are tested at Spillman before they are released to Northwest farmers to grow.

During the event, Diana Roberts, WSU Extension area agronomist, was named the 15th recipient of the Kenneth J. Morrison Award in Agronomy and Soils at the Spillman Agronomy Farm Field Day on Thursday. The award recognizes WSU Extension faculty for significant contributions made to agronomic crop production and soil management.

“Largely through her efforts, WSU Extension is recognized as the lead organization in the promotion of sustainable cropping systems, direct seeding, on-farm testing, organic grain production, IPM and biocontrol of cereal leaf beetle,” said Robert E. Allan, retired USDA-ARS geneticist, who nominated her for the award.

Among other achievements, Roberts has led a multi-agency, on-farm direct seeding testing project in Spokane and Whitman counties that has generated a number of useful findings for farmers. She also has been at the center of what has become a multi-state effort to battle cereal leaf beetles, a new crop pest that invaded the Northwest in 2000.

Roberts joined Extension in 1991 as an area agronomist for Adams, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Stevens counties. For most of the past seven years, she has focused on producer-initiated, on-farm testing dealing with direct seeding systems.

She is the first woman to receive the Morrison award. The award honors the memory of Kenneth J. Morrison, who served as WSU Extension agronomist from 1950-1987.

During the Spillman field day, early wheat varieties dating back to the early 20th century were on display alongside breeding lines that are being tested.

Laurie Winn Carlson, author of the biography “William J. Spillman and the Birth of Agricultural Economics,” spoke briefly. Spillman was the university’s first wheat breeder (and first football coach). Spillman Farm was named for him.

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