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USDA's Agricultural Research Service Honors Scientists of the Year

Contact: Jessica Ryan

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2021—For her outstanding contributions to research on crop responses to global climate change, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Lisa A. Ainsworth is the agency's Distinguished Senior Research Scientist of the Year for 2021. Ainsworth, research leader for the ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in Urbana, Illinois (Midwest Area), is one of many ARS researchers being honored for their scientific achievements.

Ainsworth joined the Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit in 2004 as a plant molecular biologist and has served as research leader since 2019. Her research aimed to find solutions for challenges affecting food production and security. Her work influenced the direction of climate change impact assessment and adaptation for federal, non-governmental organization and philanthropic efforts.

Lisa A. Ainsworth
Distinguished Senior Research Scientist Lisa A. Ainsworth

Ainsworth notably served as a lead investigator for the joint ARS and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment (SoyFACE) Global Change Research Facility. SoyFACE is one of the largest and most comprehensive Free Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) facilities in the world for studying crop responses to atmospheric change.

ARS also named four 2021 Area Senior Research Scientists of the Year. They are—

ARS is also honoring scientists who are in the early phases of their careers. The early-career awards recognize the achievements of ARS researchers with the agency for seven years or less.

This year, the top award in this category, the Herbert L. Rothbart Outstanding Early Career Research Scientist of 2021, goes to Amanda M. Hulse-Kemp, a computational biologist at ARS’s Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi (Southeast Area). Hulse-Kemp is being recognized for her contributions to ARS, national and international research teams. Her work resulted in high-quality, impactful research and technology transfer.

Hulse-Kemp worked on national and international collaborative efforts to develop high-quality genome sequences for a large range of crops. Her accomplishments include researching cotton genomes which was critical for the advancement of cotton research and breeding. She also worked on developing genome sequences for coffea arabica, spinach and pepper.

ARS is honoring four other Area Early Career Research Scientists. They are—

The agency also announced its 2021 ARS Technology Transfer Award winner. This Award recognizes individuals or groups who have done outstanding work in transferring technology to the marketplace.

This year’s winner is the Sensor Based Automatic Variable Rate Irrigation Control Team. The team included researchers from ARS’s Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas; ARS’s Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland; ARS’s Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research Unit in Florence, South Carolina; ARS’s Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit in Columbia, Missouri; and ARS’s Sustainable Water Management Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi.

To address the increasing national and global need to irrigate crops with an increasingly limited water supply, ARS researchers, along with academia, developed the Irrigation Scheduling Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (ISSCADA) system. Their multi-pronged technology development and transfer effort resulted in the patenting of the ISSCADA system.

The system automatically produced a daily prescription for variable rate irrigation (VRI) that can guide an irrigation system without human intervention. The system optimized crop yields per unit of water used. Tests for the ISSCADA system consistently showed increased yield per unit of irrigation water used for major crops including corn, cotton, potato, sorghum and soybean.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $17 of economic impact.