Stewart B. Wuest, Ph.D.
Research Soil Scientist
USDA Agricultural Research Service
Located at the Pendleton Station
I grew up in the foothills near Los Angeles and ended up graduating with a bachelors called Agrarian Studies from University of California, Davis. After four years in the woods of northern California, I returned to Davis and obtained a Masters in Agronomy and a PhD in Soil Science, along with children numbers 2 and 3. Then I took a job at Washington State University coordinating the On-Farm Testing project, part of the Solutions To Environmental and Economic Problems program. The great thing about that was meeting and learning from so many experienced farmers one-on-one as we worked together to perform tests of their choosing on their farms.
I worked in the McGregor Company’s research unit for a little over a year, then with a private contract researcher (Craig Walters) for a while before starting with the ARS at Pendleton in 1997. In the beginning I focused on the problems farmers seemed to have in getting good stands into residue. Better seeding equipment has solved that problem, and my focus became to understand the mechanics of water infiltration. Why exactly does notill infiltrate water so much faster than tilled soil? Turns out it was not cracks and root holes, but the capacity of the notill surface soil to resist slaking and forming a seal or crust. My next adventure was to figure out how to minimize tillage in tilled fallow and still have moisture to seed into. Every one of these topics has vanquished my pre-conceived ideas and forced me toward a new understanding, sometime supporting current farming practices and sometimes suggesting alternatives to take advantage of. I am currently working to compare farming practices for their ability to maximize water for yield and drought resistance.
Stewart ’s Research:
Monitor soil water profiles for crop and weed water use, response to rainfall, effect of caliche on rooting depth.
Determine whether a group of neighboring growers can delineate a “wind shed” and significantly reduce the chemical cost of controlling Russian thistles and other tumbleweeds.
Figure out why notill out-yields tilled winter wheat in replicated plots.
Make protein data available for creating nitrogen application maps.