CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has selected Jay Noller as the new department head of crop and soil science in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
Noller, a longtime landscape soils professor in the department, starts his new position on Oct. 1. He succeeds Russ Karow, who is retiring and served as department head since 2001.
“Our research into soil and crops will continue to have a common theme: food. Improving food, creating sustainable conditions to produce food and supporting stakeholders in agriculture and natural resources,” said Noller, who previously served as associate department head under Karow.
“We’re also all about terroir—how food carries its place of origin with it through taste, nutrition and other qualities. We want people to say, ‘This came from Oregon,’” he added.
As department head, Noller has set his sights on increasing the number of undergraduate students, noting the department could double its current enrollment. Students with crop and soil expertise are enjoying increased employment opportunities in farming, conservation, forestry and agricultural support, he said.
“There are jobs in these areas. We can prepare students to immediately launch into the positions and be effective.” Noller said. “There is a crying need for the knowledge and training we provide, especially in agronomic circles.”
Noller will also continue an effort to combine the department’s faculty and labs into a single cohesive unit under the same roof—an ongoing effort since the separate departments of crop and soil science merged in 1990.
Before becoming department head, Noller studied the co-evolution of landscapes and culture, such as soil erosion in relationship with ancient land use in Cyprus and Greece. Digging deep into the soils under Rome recently, Noller concluded the ancient city began as a grain terminal for exporting food around the Mediterranean, Middle East and beyond.
“Jay truly thinks across the broad spectrum in academia – from the liberal arts to the depths of science,” said Karow. “He uses new technologies and knowledge of the environment and plant communities to predict what soil will be—and see what could have been."
Noller is also an accomplished artist, painting the often hidden beauty of underground landscapes. He incorporates soils from around the world into his paintings to add texture and unique colors. To see his artwork, visit http://soilscapestudio.com.