The View From Rural Route #8

Jim Shroyer, well known in farm and Kansas State University circles, has been named to the 2010 class (a rarified honor) of Crop Science of America Fellows by the Crop Science Society of America.

Shroyer often is called the “Wheat Guy.” We who’ve met and worked with him during his 30 years – starting No. 31 – at K-State where he is a professor and Extension crops specialist also sensed or knew that he is an outstanding human being, in addition to all the scientific and academic standing in wheat and alfalfa he has achieved.

A thanks here to Mary Lou Peter, a most able Research and Extension writer/analyst in the KSU system, whose original story about Shroyer’s honor caused me to ask her for more about the man, which she quickly obtained. Only 0.3 percent of the society’s active and emeritus members may be elected Fellow. That rare election is based on professional achievements and meritorious service. Jim’s character has always shone steadily.

Jim Shroyer without fail returned my calls, even though he sometimes had to dread doing so. For years for countless news stories about threatened crops, frozen wheat fields, blowing wheat fields, diseased wheat fields, harvest time crop conditions, or just agronomic explanations, Jim Shroyer answered the media, the farmers, county agents, the private companies involved in the food chain. He taught students. He was patient and warm and honest and could with ease put things in words laymen could understand.

Shroyer and his wife, Gail, who is now chairman of the new Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at KSU, have four grown boys. Josh has a bachelor of science in nursing; Kyle a BS and masters in agronomy from KSU; Aaron was in the Navy over four years and now is a junior in electrical engineering at KSU; and David is a junior but undecided on a major at KSU. Mikaela, 6, is Josh’s daughter, and Jim told Mary Lou that Mikaela is brilliant and beautiful. Jim’s a grandfather, you see.

Jim always liked children. Years ago he started Kids Field Day at the KSU agronomy farm, where each fall fourth graders come from area schools to learn more about crops and many other agricultural sciences. I went to one and it was a blast. Even grownups could learn things there. Jim also created a web site called Adopt-a-Wheat Field, where viewers can track a wheat field from planting through harvest to a final food product.

Jim once served on the USD 383 school board; he is active in the First United Methodist Church in Manhattan. His hobbies include traveling, birding, music, growing daylilies. He earned his first two degrees at Oklahoma State and his doctorate at Iowa State.

I asked Mary Lou to ask Jim about the future of wheat and the role of public input into wheat research and variety development, given the growing number of private companies investing significantly in wheat research.

“I think we’re on the cusp of seeing some major improvement in wheat yields,” he said. “If you track the crops that have had lots of money spent on them in recent years, they’ve made big improvement in yields.” Wheat research funding has always been much less than that for corn and soybeans, and he pointed out the recent surge in corn yields. Wheat yields have improved, too, but wheat farmers always need better yields.

KSU’s wheat research has mainly been funded by Kansas wheat growers’ checkoff money. Shroyer said such public university programs have two big reasons to continue. First, they train future researchers for both sectors; and two, KSU develops new varieties at a minimal cost specifically for Kansas and this region. Way to go, Wheat Guy.

Jim Suber is an award-winning farm, ranch, and rural life columnist residing on Rural Route No. 8, Topeka.

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Posted by on Sep 26 2010. Filed under Columns, Rural Route #8. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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