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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Meet Birl Lowery, MFAI’s new Board President

Dr. Lowery joined MFAI in 2013 as a Board Member, and became Board President as of January 1, 2016. His goal is to help MFAI become financially self-sufficient such that the Research, Education and Policy programs at MFAI are able to continue doing their good work in sustainable agriculture.

He graduated from Alcorn State University in 1973 with a BS in Agricultural Education. He then attended Mississippi State University, where he worked as a graduate research assistant and earned his MA in Agricultural Engineering Technology in 1975. His MA research was on methane gas generation from anaerobic animal waste lagoons. For his PhD, Lowery attended Oregon State University and pursued Soil Physics. During this time, he worked as a research assistant in the Agricultural Engineering Department and then as a graduate research assistant in the Soil Science Department. He completed his PhD work in 1980 in Corvallis, OR. His PhD research was on assessing runoff and soil erosion during winter rain storms in the Pacific Northwest.

Since completing his degrees, Dr. Lowery has built a solid career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Soil Science and is internationally recognized. He began in 1980 as an assistant professor, became an associate professor in 1986, and professor in 1992. From 1999 to 2004, Lowery served as Chair of the Department of Soil Science. From September of 2008 to August of 2009, he was Director of the Science and Medicine Graduate Research Scholars Program in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and School of Medicine and Family Health, and from 2010 to 2013 he served as Senior Associate Dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in CALS.

Dr. Lowery has worked in the Department of Soil Sciences at the University of Wisconsin in the area of applied soil physics, soil and water management and conservation for the past 34 years. He served as primary instructor for a three-credit course (physical principles of soil and water management) and co-instructor for a three-credit course (soils and land use) during summers the past 10 years.

Lowery’s research has been in applying basic soil physical principles to solve soil and water management and conservation problems. This has involved both field and laboratory work, focusing on the dynamics of soil water and temperature regimes, solute flux, soil compaction, and other physical properties. Lowery’s research focuses on soil as a nonrenewable resource. Fertile farmland is eroded each year by wind and water. While the chemistry of eroded land can be improved by adding fertilizer, it is difficult to improve the physical properties. Lowery’s research showed that losing rooting depth and water storage capacity is irreversible. He investigated the potential use of organic residues, such as animal manure, to improve the physical condition of eroded land and increase soil carbon content. In the past 20 years his research focused on movement of water and pollutants in soils; assessing the impact of farming on groundwater contamination in potato production; effects of soil erosion on crop production and soil quality; and effects of irrigation on groundwater levels. His research projects supported 12 PhD and 16 MS graduate students, plus an additional six postdoctoral researchers.

His publications include 12 book chapters and 85 refereed journal articles. In addition to these he has published 80 proceedings and related popular press articles. He has presented at numerous invited and voluntary presentations at national and international conferences.