ARS Honors Scientist for Soil Nitrogen
Research By Don
Comis February 9, 2005
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist
P. Russelle has been named the 2004 "ARS Midwest Area Senior Research
Scientist" for his soil nitrogen research.
Russelle received a plaque and cash award at
U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters
here today, and will receive additional research funding. The ARS Midwest Area
comprises Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota and
Wisconsin. ARS is the USDA's principal scientific research agency.
Ten years after the
1989 spill of 45,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer when a train
derailed, Russelle (background) and geneticist JoAnn Lamb monitor biological
cleanup by a unique type of alfalfa.
Read 1999 news story.
A soil scientist at the ARS
Science Research Unit in St. Paul, Minn., Russelle is being honored for
research to understand the soil nitrogen cycle as it pertains to legume crops
such as soybean and alfalfa. "Dr. Russelle has made seminal contributions to
science and technology," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS administrator.
These contributions include many firsts. For example, Russelle devised
a way to use temperature--rather than time--to compare crop yields under
different conditions, making it possible to identify differences masked by
In addition, he conducted studies to assess the regional impact of
nitrogen fixation by alfalfa and soybeans, including mapping varying fixation
rates across the entire Mississippi River Basin. These maps can help water
quality experts and watershed managers determine candidate areas for
application of manure to legume fields that would pose the least risk of
nitrogen runoff. In related work, Russelle devised a test to help breeders
select new legume varieties, to avoid fertilizer burn and damage.
His research also showed that alfalfa absorbs large amounts of
nitrate, enabling its use in preventing, or cleaning up, nitrate-contaminated
areas. For example, Russelle once used alfalfa to clean up a spill of carloads
of ammonia from a train wreck in North Dakota. He also helped Minnesotans use
alfalfa to keep nitrate out of well water.
Russelle earned a B.S. in agronomy in 1976 and an M.S. in crops
science in 1978 from Oregon State
University-Corvallis. In 1982, he completed a Ph.D. in agronomy, with a
soils specialty, from the University of
In recognition of his contributions to improving the sustainablility
of agriculture, Russelle was elected a Fellow of the
American Society of Agronomy in 1997 and
a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of
America in 2004. In 2000, he received an ARS certificate of merit for
"Outstanding Technology Transfer." He earned three other certificates of merit
between 1999 and 2003, one for "Superior Research Performance" and two for
"Outstanding Research Performance."