Krall follows father’s advice, gains international success
James (Jim) Krall is all smiles as he contemplates retirement. He will vacate his office at the University of Wyoming James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center this month, concluding 34 years with the state’s only four-year university.
By SANDRA HANSEN
LINGLE, Wyo. -- There are no flashing lights to draw attention to the University of Wyoming James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center southwest of Lingle, but the research that goes on there is worthy of some special attention. Dr. James M. Krall and his fellow scientists take advantage of the nearly 1,000 acres of dryland, irrigated, rangeland and organic research fields to improve the lives of animals and humans.
Krall, who has been with UW for 34 years, will be leaving in April, retiring after a rewarding career as a professor of plant science in the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
A native of Montana, and graduate of Montana State University, Krall earned his master's degree at Kansas State University, and did his graduate work at the University of Wyoming in 1976-79. He worked at the University of Nevada- Reno until 1984, when he returned to do research at UW, and stayed with a program that afforded him opportunities to expand his interests
“I was inspired by my dad, ----- , who was a professor at MSU, an agronomist on the research center,” Krall said, sitting at his desk in the UW SAREC administration building. "I believe that everybody, to some degree, out of respect for their father, will follow in his foot steps. It was an easy decision to follow his path.
"He told me early on that it's easy to be a jack of all trades and master of none," Krall said of his father's advice.
"Over my career l've pretty well done that. But I’ve learned a little about a lot, and a lot about a little. I don’t know about master."
Krall said he is especially proud of the fact that he has had articles published in 19 scientific journals, on subjects such as agronomy, weed science, nematode control, ag economics, and even animal science. "I'm lucky to have worked in such a group of people who have included professionals, producers and university scientists," Krall said, leaning back in his office chair, looking back in time.
Krall said that one reason he wanted to work at UW was the quality of people already there, and it has worked out to his benefit. He cites Dr. Ron Delaney, his advisor, and Steve Miller, weed scientist and retired director of ag extension stations, and other scientists Dave Koch and Fred Gray at UW, as well as David Baltensperger, formerly of the University of Nebraska UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, now with Texas A&M, and other UNL scientists, Drew Lyon, Gary Hergert and Dipak Santra, among many, many other collaborators,
Krall is also enthused about the new crop of scientists emerging in the field of research. Among them are Anwar Islam and Andrew Kniss, both at UW.
He expects the university will be as supportive of the up and coming generation as it was of him.
"One really neat thing was that the University of Wyoming afforded me with opportunities to travel internationally," Krall said. Connections he made in Australia in the 1990s have developed into not only good research collaborators, but also good friends. He notes that Roy Latta, an agronomist he met in Australia in 1993, has become a close friend, forming a relationship that now includes families and personal visits. "It's a good outgrowth of our collaboration," Krall said.
Their collaboration has lead to success in Krall's professional life, as well, resulting in two variety releases that will benefit forage and livestock producers in the future. A field pea, released in 2003 (along with the University of Nebraska) as "Forager" pea, is gaining popularity as a livestock feed, while the "Laramie" medic, an annual clover, is sure to secure a place in crop rotations and livestock feed sources.
"I'm proud of what we've accomplished," Krall said. "Now there's a greater need than before for winter annuals."
Krall bases his beliefs on the cropping system and development that will be needed in order to deal with issues created by climate change. Noting 81-degree temperatures in March, Krall said it seems apparent that the climate is changing. "There is a real opportunity in this region to grow more winter annual crops," he predicted.
So far, UNL and UW have been on the leading edge of researching crops that will become more valuable and suited to this region. According to Krall, seven wheat varieties have been developed with the collaboration of UNL's Steve Baenziger, and one winter canola, after collaborating with Kansas State University.
Medics, such as "Laramie," can be planted and left to their own devices. Their spiky seed pods resemble round sand burrs/goat heads. They contain 5-6 seeds that after being released by the opening pod, come to life at different times, and will reseed themselves over a span of about five years. In Australia, where the crop is very popular, sheep graze it, and in the process, their hooves work the seed into the soil.
Krall said the crop is promising as a part of a wheat rotation. Wheat helps control weeds in the medic and the ground cover crop enriches the soil by fixing nitrogen. Some varieties could be developed to produce some hay, Krall believes.
The winter wheat ground benefits from the ground coverage that holds moisture, and also for the nitrogen fixing capabilities.
The potential for forage peas is also gaining support, according to Krall. "Robin Gross at the University of Wyoming has done a lot of work on the peas," Krall said. "We hope to have a couple more varieties ready for release in a couple of years. That's exciting."
Krall said he hopes to continue in an emeritus status to work around SAREC. "I hope the University continues to work on these varieties, and I'd like to see them finished," he said.
According to Krall, he has been debating retirement for some time, partly due to health issues, but he asks himself, "When am I going to to stop this? It‘s been a great ride, and if I get emeritus status, maybe I can continue to work out here, but it's going to depend on their resources."
"Maybe I can keep this seat warm for my replacement," he mused with a big smile. His eventual move into retirement included removing himself as director of research at SAREC last fall.
One of the big changes in Krall's career was the move from the Torrington Extension and Research Center on the west edge of town to SAREC in nearly 10 years ago. Krall said it was a good move, though disruptive at the time. The new properties made it possible to consolidate research going on at Archer and Torrington, Wyo. It includes dryland, rangeland, and irrigated land.
It also increased the opportunities to do additional research. One of those is organic farming and integrated livestock production. Krall said the new location, in addition to the cropping locations, includes administration facilities, machine and equipment storage, and state of the art livestock pens for research, as well as a family style dorm residence so students and research personnel can stay longer than one day when they come from Laramie.
"That is what we hoped would happen," Krall said. ’We wanted to attract more faculty to come here. It’s been a good value in that respect."
In addition to continued work on improving crops and cropping systems, Krall expects the future will hold more work on livestock research, including sheep. He said agronomy will also expand, as efforts are made to improve and increase forage and feed options.
Thinking back over his career, Krall laughed quietly and said, "One thing I can say is, half the trials I've worked on in my career have failed." But then he explained that that is what research is all about. Find out what works and what doesn't.
"Even so, we’re doing ok out here. It's a big study, and in 06-07-08, we didn’t have any moisture. It was a disaster."
His advice for young scientists coming on board, is to get recognized with published articles and get a graduate student to work with you, but not on a dryland project, he added with a laugh.
"But it's real life experience. There's no perfect crop or system."
Although real life doesn’t always serve up the desired results, it takes a special person to deal with the many people and circumstances that touch our lives.
According to Jim Freeburn, director of operations at SAREC, Krall is one of those people.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with that guy,” Freeburn said. “He’s a genuinely nice and caring person, and very good to get along with. He’s worked on a lot of fronts, and has a breadth of experience as a general agronomist. It’s possible we won’t see anyone like him again.”
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