Thursday, July 9, 2009

UAF, WSU collaboration benefits agriculture

Seated, from left, Glen Franklin, Haly Ingle, Rich Koenig. Standing, from left, Charlie Knight (Division of Agriculture) and Mingchu Zhang

Recently in Fairbanks a donor got to see firsthand the research he had made possible, and one of the graduate students he funded got to thank her sponsor in person.

Glen Franklin of Delta Junction, retired from the Alaska Division of Agriculture, set up the endowment program with Washington State University Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. He specified that the Franklin Distinguished Graduate Fellow should fund agricultural research that is beneficial to both Alaska and Washington.

For the first time, a WSU agriculture student came to Alaska to do research. Haly Ingle conducted a study of nitrate levels in lettuce, under the direction of Professor Meriam Karlsson. A simultaneous study occurred at WSU in Pullman. On July 6 Franklin met with Ingle in Fairbanks, along with Mingchu Zhang, chair of SNRAS’s High Latitude Agriculture department, and Rich Koenig, chair of WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Koenig is a UAF alumnus.

Franklin explained his generosity. “I want to encourage academic study in agronomy, continuing what Gov. Hammond started in the late 70s.” He lamented that Alaska seems to have lost interest in agriculture and said he hopes Alaskans gain more interest in becoming self-sustaining. “Agriculture has been good for me,” the former European literature professor and farmer said.

Dr. Zhang praised Franklin’s passion for agriculture and the new collaborative effort between the two universities.

Dr. Koenig also lauded the project, Ingle’s work, and Franklin’s foresight. “I’m pleased and impressed,” he said. “We accomplished the goals we set out. It was a good opportunity to compare different environments in terms of latitude and day length.” He will keep in contact with SNRAS professors to select a UAF student who could study at WSU and then return to Alaska to contribute to agriculture here.

“This is really good for both departments,” Koenig said. “I look forward to strengthening the ties between us. We share an interest in horticulture and agronomic crops.”

After seven weeks in Alaska, Ingle packed up her dried samples and returned to Washington, where she will analyze the results and incorporate them into her thesis. She hopes to return to UAF and give a presentation about her work.

“I am so glad I got to meet Glen Franklin and personally thank him,” Ingle said.

Further reading:
“Lettuce gets a close look in Alaska and Washington,” SNRAS blog, by Nancy Tarnai, June 19, 2009

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