Competing against students from schools like Purdue University, Texas A & M, Tarleton State University, Western Kentucky University and Mississippi Valley State University, Murray State University senior agronomy major and McNair Scholar, Hannah Robbins, won first place in the undergraduate research poster competition at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Southern Branch of the American Society of Agronomy in Dallas, Texas.
Robbins’ project entitled, “Soil Carbon, Nitrogen and Aggregate Stability Associated with Common Agroecosystems in Western Kentucky,” was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Iin Handayani, Associate Professor of Agronomy in the Hutson School of Agriculture. Winning recognition for her research is not new to Robbins. She has previously won awards for her research posters and oral presentations at the Kentucky Academy of Sciences, Murray State University Sigma Xi Poster Competition, and the Southern Branch of the American Society of Agronomy conference in Orlando, Florida.
Results from Robbins’ project show that various agroecosystems in western Kentucky have different effects on the total carbon and nitrogen content and aggregation. The carbon results for wooded areas was only slightly higher than that found for pasture and crop fields. The highest total nitrogen was found in pasture and wooded areas (1.7 to 2.1 g kg-1). Crop fields had the lowest amount of total nitrogen (1.13 g kg-1). Wooded and pasture areas had the best aggregation as indicated by the highest macro-aggregate percentage and the ratio of macro-aggregates to micro-aggregates. The results support the hypothesis that the least disruptive management system will have the highest total nitrogen, total carbon and more desirable aggregation.
The annual meeting of the Southern Branch of the American Society of Agronomy, held in conjunction with the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists, provides a venue for collaboration and networking among agronomy professionals and students in the Southern region and an opportunity for both graduate and undergraduate students to present their research findings.
MSU’s McNair program, which is intended to help prepare undergraduates for doctoral studies in their chosen fields, provided support for Robbins’ research project, travel support to the Southern Branch conference and other conferences and travel support to enable her to visit a number of graduate programs in her field. Robbins has been in the McNair program since August 2012 and will graduate from Murray State in May, 2014. She has applied to the agronomy graduate program at the University of Kentucky and is considering agronomy programs in North Carolina and Texas. MSU’s McNair program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and through matching support from Murray State University.