Taking Over the Variety Testing Program with Dr. Clark Neely

Palouse wheat fields.

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Show Notes & Resources Mentioned:

Contact Information:

Contact Clark Neely via email at clark.neely@wsu.edu or via phone at 509-335-1205.

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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. Clark Neely. Clark is an extension agronomist that was hired on in August by the Crop and Soil Sciences Department. He is based in Pullman and will lead the serial variety testing program. He’s originally from south central Pennsylvania where he grew up on a small family farm. He received degrees from Penn State, University of Idaho, and Texas A&M University. He was hired on at Texas A&M after completing his Ph.D. and worked there for six years as the statewide small grains and Cool Season Oil extension specialist before coming to WSU. Hello, Clark.

Dr. Clark Neely: Hi, Drew.

Drew Lyon: So, what made you to decide to come to Pullman from Texas?

Dr. Clark Neely: Well, there were several reasons really. Number one, I had a family pull here, both on my side and my wife’s side, so having family nearby was one reason. I spent three years here getting my masters at the University of Idaho where I kind of fell in love with the area, just thought it was really neat. And also, based on my previous experience with wheat, I like working with wheat. There’s really no better place to work with wheat than the Palouse.

Drew Lyon: Yeah, this is wheat country. Yeah. So, I mentioned you worked with wheat at Texas, but also cool season oil seeds. What other crops have you worked with?

Dr. Clark Neely: Wheat’s a big one. At Texas, I also did work with oats and a little bit with barley. On the cool-season oil seed side, canola’s the big one.

Drew Lyon: Okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: And, I actually got started with that on my master’s project. It was canola focus.

Drew Lyon: With Jack Brown over at —

Dr. Clark Neely:  With Jack Brown, yes.

Drew Lyon: Okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: And then, I also had the opportunity to work doing variety testing and some agronomic trials with it in Texas.

Drew Lyon: Okay. What research topics are you most – I know at one time, Ryan Higginbotham was in this position. He was just variety testing. You have kind of a wider job description. You’re running the serial variety testing program, but you’re also expected to do some research in some various agronomic areas. What areas are at least at this early stage are you most interested in?

Dr. Clark Neely: Well, as an agronomist, I think by definition I kind of like a little bit of everything. I’ve always been interested in cropping systems type work and how different crops fit into rotations. I also acknowledge the importance soils plays in cropping systems. So, anything that has to do with how our management impacts soil health, soil quality, productivity. Definitely interested in that and that’s – I know soil health, soil quality is a big topic button right now.

Drew Lyon: It is.

Dr. Clark Neely: I’m interested in exploring that, working with – collaborating with colleagues to explore that and microbiome and that sort of thing.

Dr. Clark Neely: Okay. So, as a weed scientist, I’ve always thought and a lot of my work in Nebraska was looking at crop rotations, cropping systems to help control weeds, so in this part of the world because we’ve been very focused on wheat, we’ve used the same herbicides over and over and we’re developing some resistant variety, so I think, you know, looking at how these different crops can help with weed control could also be important. Just getting my plug in there for you.

Dr. Clark Neely: Right.

Drew Lyon: So, there’s lots of things you can do.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yes.

Drew Lyon: I think wheat is central to all of them. So, I think that variety testing will be an important part. So, you ran a variety testing program in Texas, you’re going to be running the serial variety testing program here, what aspects of a variety testing program do you enjoy the most?

Dr. Clark Neely: I think what I probably enjoy the most about are the field days that go along with it.

Drew Lyon: Okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: That always opens up opportunities to go to field days, visit with cooperators and producers and get to know them, get to know the issues when you go to those field days. So, it’s really – I not only enjoy the interaction, but also that’s usually an opportunity for me to come up with more ideas. Usually visiting with producers is when you get ideas on – yeah, research ideas.

Drew Lyon: Oh, okay.

Dr. Clark Neely: So, I enjoy that and just variety testing is incredibly important to producers in this part of the world. And so, just getting to deliver information that they find very useful.

Drew Lyon: Okay. I know one thing coming from the Great Plains and Texas would be the Southern Great Plains, Nebraska was the Central Great Plains, but there was the Public Breeding Program and there were a few small, little players in wheat with varieties, but you come to this part of the world, there’s a lot of players. Are you testing all their varieties and how do you negotiate that train of, you know, you work for WSU, we have wheat breeders releasing varieties, but we also have private companies and you need to be a fair broker on all that, how do you go about doing all that? How’s a variety testing program deal with all these different entities in one marketplace?

Dr. Clark Neely: That’s a very good question. And, I’m still learning. The important thing to me is to keep an open line of communication as I’m building relationships and building trust. I think that’s probably the most important thing. Yeah, I’m still working through – like, you mentioned, it’s a much more competitive market up here than it was in Texas. So, a lot more people vying for entries or spots in the variety trial. And so, yeah, it’s going to be a little bit of a process before I feel real comfortable with it, but I’m leaning on Aaron Esser and others who have had previous experience with the trial to kind of navigate my way through that right now.

Drew Lyon: Okay. I know it’s early in your career here at WSU, did you see any big differences between how the program was run in Texas and how it’s run here?

Dr. Clark Neely: One of the big differences at Texas A&M, where I was working, I was overseeing the statewide trial and kind of organizing it, but my program was not responsible for conducting all of the trials. I oversaw four or five locations that were close by, but then, I was coordinating seed and getting it to regional grammas around the state. Texas is a very big state.

Drew Lyon: It is a very big state [laughter].

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah, so everybody kind of pitched in. There’s probably five or six programs involved and everybody pitched in at a few locations. So, that’s probably one of the biggest —

Drew Lyon: And, here it’s pretty much you for all the locations or do you have —

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah, I mean, the breeders do pickup a few of the locations, so, there’s some collaboration there, but the vast majority of them my program is doing. Other differences, I would say on average we have more entries per location up here than in Texas and the experimental design is different here than in Texas with the alpha lattice versus the randomized complete block.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, if somebody wants to contact you or learn more about the variety testing program, what you’re doing, what’s a good way for them to get ahold of you or see what your program is doing?

Dr. Clark Neely: Probably the best way to look at the information that we’re generating is on the smallgrains.wsu.edu website. That’s where all the information is posted, along with my contact info. My email is clark.neely@wsu.edu.

Drew Lyon: Okay. And, we’ll be sure to get that in the show notes.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yeah.

Drew Lyon: As well as the Small Grains website, which I hope most of my listeners or most of the listeners out there already know, but if they don’t smallgrains.wsu.edu. Well, I know we’re excited to have you here. The variety testing program’s a big program, very important to the growers. You’ll get a lot of attention. It’ll be fun to see how you take the program, not just the cereal variety testing program, but the agronomic research that ties into that. Thanks for taking some time to visit with us today, Clark.

Dr. Clark Neely: Yep, thank you, Drew.

[ 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.