UNL dryland cropping specialist moves on
Drew Lyon, dryland cropping systems specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center, has seen--and played a part in--some major changes in farming practices in the Great Plains in the last two decades.
Lyon left at the end of July to take a position at Washington State University in Pullman as an endowed chair in small grains Extension, after working at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center since May 1990. He also worked in the area in the 1980s as a graduate student, studying for a master's degree and then a Ph.D. under Robert Wilson, longtime weed specialist at the Panhandle Center. Between receiving his doctorate and coming to the Panhandle Center, he worked for a year at American Cyanamid.
Lyon also is the faculty supervisor for UNL's High Plains Agricultural Laboratory north of Sidney, whose facilities include both crop research plots and pasture land where research is conducted into livestock grazing.
Lyon leaves some big shoes to fill, UNL officials say.
"Drew's work at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center, High Plains Ag Lab has been most exemplary and valuable to the growers in this region," said Linda Boeckner, director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. "He has been a key member of our faculty as well as providing service to our communities through his work on the Gering School Board and the Farm And Ranch Museum Board. There is no doubt that we will miss the expertise that he has brought to this unit."
In his two decades-plus in the Panhandle, Lyon has researched a number of key areas related to the production of dryland crops.
He studied winter annual grass control in winter wheat involving crop rotations and other management practices, and later Clearfield wheat systems. He also was involved in finding new weed control options for no-till sunflower and proso millet production, which resulted in several federal labels for pesticides used in those crops.
His research into dryland corn planting populations and row spacing filled a gap in knowledge about dryland corn for the High Plains region. Working with John Smith (retired machinery systems engineer at the Panhandle Center) he also explored the feasibility of raising sugarbeets as a dryland crop. Currently, beets are grown under irrigation in western Nebraska.
In recent years Lyon has worked with Karla Jenkins, range management and cow-calf specialist at the Panhandle Center, on integrated crop and livestock systems at the High Plains Ag Lab.
Lyon was the first recipient of the Fenster professorship, endowed by Charlie and Eunice Fenster for dryland studies in the Panhandle.
In his time at Scottsbluff and Sidney, Lyon has seen some sweeping changes in dryland agriculture.
"When I came it was almost entirely winter wheat-fallow, almost all tilled fallow," he observed. Today, traditional tillage methods are used less, and there are more alternative crops (especially proso millet and sunflowers) and longer-duration rotations. Changes in the federal farm bill allowed farmers to consider other crops, and UNL was able to share information with farmers about how these other crops could be incorporated into wheat systems.
Lyon says people have made his work in western Nebraska memorable.
"I was fortunate to have great colleagues and farmer cooperators to work with and learn from," he said. In addition to two terms on the Gering School Board, Lyon served on the Scotts Bluff County Health Board, Leadership Scottsbluff Board, and was active in First Presbyterian Church for years.
In his new position at Washington State, Lyon will focus on weed control in small grains. He also will work with some pulse crops, including peas, chickpeas and lentils. The position has been endowed by the Washington Grains Commission with $1.5 million. Seventy percent of his time will be devoted to extension work and 30 percent to research. He is based in Johnson Hall on the campus at Pullman.