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Haly’s Homecoming Podcast with Dr. Haly Neely

Posted by Blythe Howell | December 9, 2019

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Show Notes & Resources Mentioned:

Contact Information:

Contact Haly via email at h.neely@wsu.edu or via phone at 509-335-0947.


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Episode Transcription:

Drew Lyon: Hello. Welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. In each episode, I speak with researchers WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production. If you enjoy the WSU Wheat Beat podcast do us a favor and subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review while you’re there so others can find the show too.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: My guest today is Dr. Haly Neely. Haly is a new faculty member in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at WSU in Spacial Soil and Water Management. She earned her Ph.D. in Soil Physics from Texas A&M University in 2014 and was a Soil Science Faculty Member there before moving to Pullman. Haly received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WSU and grew up in Waitsburg, Washington. Past and ongoing research projects include using drones to measure crop water use, the effect of soil compaction on soil water recharge, and looking at conservation tillage and cover crops for soil health. Hello, Haly.

Dr. Haly Neely: Hi, Drew, thanks for having me.

Drew Lyon: It’s good to have you onboard here. Coming home in a way from Waitsburg, leaving A&M. This is kind of your homecoming podcast, I guess we’ll call it.

Dr. Haly Neely: Yes, it is.

Drew Lyon: Haly’s Homecoming Podcast. So, there’s a lot of work and talk out there about soil health lately. It’s a big topic. We get a lot of questions about it. How do you plan to contribute to the overall effort of understanding soil health?

Dr. Haly Neely: Well, you’re right that soil health is a big topic. And, my background, you know, is mostly soil physics, pedology, which is the study of soil formation and spatial variability. And, there’s a lot going on in soil health with carbon storage and the soil microbiome, but I mostly focus on soil physical properties, so how much water the soil can hold, where is that water on the landscapes, how deep is it, how the plants are using it and compaction as well. So, you know, the more compacted your soil is, the less water your soil can hold. So, most of those projects are obviously very synergistic with the rest of the soil health efforts, but I hope to contribute those sorts of topics.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, the physics, the one course I really hated [laughter]. You enjoyed it.

Dr. Haly Neely: I enjoyed it. It’s sad to hear you say that [laughter].

Drew Lyon: I don’t know that I hated it, but I didn’t understand it all the time [Haly laughs]. So, very important process though, because I did for many years before coming here work as a dryland cropping system specialist in Western Nebraska and water drives the system.

Dr. Haly Neely: Water, water, water. Yes, sir.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, and I can understand where you had it and how it gets there and how you get it out.

Dr. Haly Neely: Yes, absolutely.

Drew Lyon: It’s a very important topic. But yeah, I really haven’t it presented from a soil health perspective like you just did, you know. You hear about the organic matter and you hear about the microorganisms, but water’s in that big mix and it’s very important in the whole thing.

Dr. Haly Neely: Well, coming from Texas, that was obviously a huge issue about, you know, when it rains, how much water goes into your soil versus what runs off from your soil and looking around at these beautiful Palouse hills, I think that research would translate very well to here as well.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, I agree. And, a lot more – I don’t know if there’s a lot more, but there’s quite a bit of variability with that rolling landscape and —

Dr. Haly Neely: Yes, yes.

Drew Lyon: — then sub, I think, Dr. Haiying Tao was on a while back and talked about the subsurface clay layers that kind of divert the water.

Dr. Haly Neely: Highly variable, yes. Very much so.

Drew Lyon: So, where do you think the biggest gains can be made in soil health in the next five years?

Dr. Haly Neely: So, there’s a huge number of almost national scale studies that are going on right now that are very exciting. So, for a long time we’ve all been doing soil health studies kind of on our own. So, you know, someone has a long-term study in this part of the world and then someone else has one somewhere else and there’s hundreds of these things all over. And now, we’re starting to take similar measurements on all of these studies, more of a coordinated effort to really understand, so I think we’re going to learn a ton more about the interactions of cropping systems, environments, different kinds of soils in the next couple of years. And also, the soil microbiome, how the roots and the water and the microorganisms all fit together. And, I would love to kind of contribute to that, because where the microorganisms are is really controlled by how much water there is in the soil, where the water is, and the temperature of the soil. So, I think there’s a lot that we’re going to find out about soil health and how to improve it in the next five years.

Drew Lyon: Okay. That’s very interesting. I hear a lot of people talk about how this practice or that practice is improving soil health —

Dr. Haly Neely:Right.

Drew Lyon: — but they don’t really know how it’s improving —

Dr. Haly Neely: Or, know why.

Drew Lyon: Or, why it’s improving.

Dr. Haly Neely: Right. And, I think we’re moving to that more of a, you know, you might call that more of a mechanistic way of understanding where you get at the why, not just observing the change, but what’s causing the change.

Drew Lyon: Yeah. And, there’s so many things interacting in there. It’s pretty amazing how you tease that out. So, who do you think your research program is going to benefit the most?

Dr. Haly Neely: Well, I hope everyone. So, soil really is the foundation for life. There’s never been more of an exciting time to be a soil scientist. So many opportunities to collaborate. So, obviously, farmers, land managers, irrigation specialists, again, with that amount of water in the soil and how you manage your crops for that, but I’ve done work in the past with climate researchers, putting in more accurate soil information into climate models for better climate predictions, working with plant breeders on how they’re specific varieties might be adapted to certain kinds of soils or not, how strong is the root system, where’s it getting its water, what’s its water-use strategy. So, there’s a lot of really interesting ways for soil scientists to collaborate with all sorts of folks and I hope that everyone can benefit from good soil science.

Drew Lyon: I sense a lot of excitement and passion about what you do [Haly laughs]. What do you like most about your job, the job you had at Texas A&M and what you think you’re going to be doing here at Washington State University?

Dr. Haly Neely: Oh, I love everything about my job. It’s my dream job. I took a soil science class here as a sophomore at Washington State University from Dr. John Reganold and I knew nothing about soils before that. I was going to be an agricultural journalist and I was going to write for the Capital Press.

Drew Lyon: There you go.

Dr. Haly Neely: That was my dream.

Drew Lyon: Okay. You were going to compete with Matthew Weaver for that job.

Dr. Haly Neely: Yes. Yes, I was. It was my dream and then I took this class from Dr. Reganold and it changed my life. I fell in love with soil science. I went to grad school for it. I love teaching undergraduates. I love working with grad students. I love interacting with farmers and land managers and informing people about what soils can do for them and to protect the soil and to conserve their soil and it’s really my dream job. I’m excited to join the department.

Drew Lyon: Wow. I’m going to have to have a talk with John about that [laughter]. I didn’t know he had such capacity. Very good. So, I sense that from you and I think that’s really exciting. I think that tends to spread. And, the people I’ve interacted with, growers and the like who are passionate about soil are passionate about soil.

Dr. Haly Neely: Yes, they are [laughter].

Drew Lyon: So, you’re going to be working with a lot of passionate people. So, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Dr. Haly Neely: They can email me. My email address is h.neely@wsu.edu or feel free to look me up online, call my office. I’d love to hear from you.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And, we’ll make sure we get your phone number and your email address in our show notes. Well, Haly, thank you very much. I’m looking forward to seeing where you take your program with all that excitement and the excitement in the grower community. I think there’ll be some fine times ahead.

Dr. Haly Neely:  Well, thank you so much.

[ Music ]

Drew Lyon: Thanks for joining us and listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you like what you hear don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. If you have questions or topics, you’d like to hear on future episodes please email me at drew.lyon — that’s lyon@wsu.edu –(drew.lyon@wsu.edu). You can find us online at smallgrains.wsu.edu and on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon, we’ll see you next time.

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