A man in a blue shirt with a tan hat stands in front of a river and trees, with a partly cloudy sky overhead.
Photo Credit:
Sergio Cabello Leiva

New opportunities and challenges in soil sciences

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Sergio Cabello Leiva is the new Soil Scientist at the Carrington REC; he began work with us on September 1. We asked Sergio to introduce himself to us in this week’s Center Points. Welcome, Sergio!

I grew up in Central Chile in a small town called Nancagua, where I enjoyed cycling, fishing, and hiking in the beautiful mountains. My family taught me to appreciate the beauty of nature, crops, and agriculture. Later, I worked as a summer laborer in table grape production, where I got a taste of intensive and modern agriculture.

This experience led me to pursue a degree in agronomy at the Universidad de Talca. While there, I had the opportunity to dig into soil sciences and fertility. After graduating, I worked as a field agronomist in winter crop seed production. This exposed me to the challenges of plant nutrition in different crops and environments, motivating me to pursue a Master's program in soil sciences and precision agriculture at the Universidad de Concepcion. I learned how to use drone multispectral images and GIS software to analyze spatial differences and apply the correct fertilizer rate for each farm and crop.

Working as an agronomist for several years, I faced soil degradation, erosion, and all the production-related problems. These situations led me to NDSU, where I focused my research on sustainable agriculture, cover crops, and nutrient cycling. I realized the immense importance of crop diversity, tillage, and farming practices can impact soil conservation, productivity, and yield in the short and long term. I also met my wonderful wife in Fargo and am incredibly grateful. After completing my Ph. D., I actively advised farmers on crop nutrition, irrigation, and soil practices. Also, I worked for a season in Oats Breeding at the University of Minnesota, where I learned about new breeding techniques and the power of genetic tools in crop improvement.

I am excited to be the soil scientist of the Carrington REC, and I firmly believe in a bright future for agriculture in the Northern Great Plains. We can achieve better yields and higher quality while respecting the environment through innovation, applied sciences, and sustainable agricultural practices. I am particularly interested in applied soil research, crop nutrition, new cropping systems, no-tillage, and precision agriculture. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have an inquiry; I am open to new ideas or new points of view. I believe that by combining the experience and observations of farmers with scientific applied research, we can achieve remarkable things together.

Sergio Cabello Leiva, Ph. D.
Soil Scientist