‘I get to try and solve a lot of puzzles’

November 16, 2023

NDSU students can get hands-on experience working on crop diseases and current efforts to control outbreaks. Their work in the field can help North Dakota farmers remain profitable and enhance their profile for potential employers.   

Students at NDSU’s Carrington Research Extension Center help evaluate the impact of fungicide droplet size and spray volume on management of foliar diseases of dry beans, soybeans, chickpeas, field peas and other field crops. The research aims to maximize a farmer’s ability to control the disease in their field.

Michael Wunsch, a plant pathologist in Carrington, said there’s no other place in the world that’s conducting this type of research. The fungicide droplet size and spray volume research started in 2017. 

“This is about helping the farmers maintain their profitability when conditions favor disease,” Wunsch said. 

Jesse Hafner, a plant pathology research specialist who has led the execution of the spray technology studies, has been working at the Carrington REC since he was 14. Hafner graduated from NDSU in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in crop and weed science. 

“I had a strong passion for agriculture in high school and NDSU has probably the best crop and weed science program available in North Dakota,” said Hafner, who is originally from Sykeston, North Dakota.  

Since returning to Carrington to work, Hafner said he uses his degree in agronomics and research to create solutions for farmers.  

“I get to try and solve a lot of puzzles. I’ve had the ability to build and create a lot of things and test a lot of really cool ideas,” Hafner said. “Most of the research I’m involved in is very down to earth. It’s stuff that farmers can turn and use the same year and not spend a lot of money to do it.” 

Hafner heavily relies on undergraduate students to help conduct the research. Students take detailed canopy notes on the field they are studying and ensure equipment is functioning properly. 

“Our research undergrads from NDSU have been very vital to getting our job done and getting it done well,” Hafner said. “The notes, the detail-oriented stuff that we have to get done, we really couldn’t trust anybody younger to do that. It has to be someone qualified and someone with a good education.” 

Hafner’s advice for perspective students is to not get overwhelmed or discouraged when wanting to get involved in ongoing research. 

“It’s a big pool to jump in, but there are a lot of opportunities both at the REC’s around the state and on campus to get involved,” Hafner said. “There are tons and tons of program leaders that are always looking for help.”

Apply now to begin your NDSU experience or schedule a campus visit to see what we have to offer.