June 27, 2024

‘Giving back to the community’

At NDSU, researchers are taking strides to improve agriculture for farmers in North Dakota.

Cole Williams, a plant sciences graduate student and ag research technician in the plant sciences department, is currently researching how to breed North Dakota soybeans to survive in drought conditions in western North Dakota.

Because western North Dakota annually receives about half of the rainfall of eastern North Dakota, Williams said finding a way to create a soybean variety that can adapt to the area could have a significant economic impact on the state. 

The research started a year ago when the North Dakota Soybean Council reached out to Carrie Miranda, NDSU assistant professor in plant sciences, to work on this research. At the time Williams was an undergraduate working toward a bachelor’s in crop and weed sciences and wanted to pursue something that would elevate his academic experience after having stepped away from college for a few years. 

“It seemed like a good opportunity at the time. It seemed very interesting,” said Williams, who is from Jamestown, North Dakota. “I was looking for something to do when I came back to college academically to stand out and I really enjoy agriculture.”

The research is being funded by the North Dakota Soybean Council. The council serves more than 10,000 soybean farmers in the state and has the mission of expanding partnerships, markets and opportunities for the success of North Dakota soybean growers.

Ongoing field experiments supply the needed data for the research. Williams plants soybeans in dryland locations in Williston, Nesson Valley and Carrington, as well as irrigated locations in Nesson Valley and Carrington. 

Throughout his involvement in the research Williams has worked with a team consisting of Miranda, Barney Geddes, NDSU assistant professor and Richard and Linda Offerdahl Faculty Fellow in microbiology, as well as a variety of others across the U.S. and world. Collaborating with other researchers has been beneficial.

“You get a whole lot of different experiences and it’s cool to hear everyone’s stories. We all work together very well,” he said. 

In addition to working in a team setting, Williams has networked with industry leaders and presented at conferences. 

Overall, Williams said he has been a part of giving back to the state through his research and credits the plant breeding programs for centering on NDSU’s land grant mission, which focuses on teaching, research and extension. 

“The plant sciences breeding programs here in general are a great example of some of the pillars of NDSU. The land grant pillar is about giving back to the community,” he said. 

For those wanting to pursue a career in agriculture and plant sciences, Williams said they can expect to receive a high-quality, well-rounded education in NDSU’s crop and weed science program with plenty of hands-on experience to prepare them for the workforce.

His advice for fellow students wanting to pursue research is to connect with people in their program to find what opportunities they can pursue. 

“Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. The worst someone can say is no,” Williams said. “I think a lot of times we get wrapped up in our own heads about what the answer is going to be when really you’ve got nothing to lose by asking.”

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