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ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #373075

Research Project: Precipitation and Irrigation Management to Optimize Profits from Crop Production

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Shifting the odds of dryland agriculture: The career of B.A. Stewart

item Evett, Steven - Steve
item STEINER, JEAN - Kansas State University

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/14/2020
Publication Date: 4/20/2020
Citation: Evett, S.R. and Steiner, J.L. 2020. Shifting the odds of dryland agriculture: The career of B.A. Stewart. Agronomy Journal. 112:3254-3264.

Interpretive Summary: Dryland regions occupying >40% of the earth’s land surface, and much of the U.S. Great Plains, are facing great challenges, including climate change and desertification. Management of soil and water resources is critical to success in these regions where approximately 1/3 of the world population lives. As aquifers decline and water scarcity increases with climate change, irrigated agriculture in the Great Plains is increasingly limited and producers are mixing irrigated and dryland production systems for best use of the scarce resources. Dr. B.A. Stewart led a team of researchers at the USDA ARS Conservation & Production Research Laboratory to address the problems of dryland and irrigated agriculture. New nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization guidelines, improved tillage methods, advanced irrigation application and management methods, and improved cropping systems and rotations with drought tolerant crops addressed major concerns of Great Plains producers. As producers seek to limit risk and stretch finite water resources, the results of Stewart’s teams are increasingly crucial to a path forward for a sustainable and profitable Great Plains agriculture.

Technical Abstract: Raised on a small dairy farm in semi-arid western Oklahoma, Dr. B.A. Stewart was involved in agricultural challenges at an early age. Attending university in Stillwater, he became enthralled by the power of chemistry and biology to address agricultural problems. He began a soil science career, first in Stillwater and later with the then new USDA Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins, CO. Working on nitrogen pollution from feedlots he developed new nitrogen assay methods, became involved in environmental work, and assisted in focusing the early work of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1963, Stewart became Director of the USDA ARS Laboratory at Bushland, TX, where he developed programs in nitrogen and phosphorus management in dryland and irrigated agriculture, became a recognized proponent of soil and water conservation, worked with the beef cattle industry, and developed programs in dryland and irrigated cropping systems, including evapotranspiration measurement and modeling. Stewart became involved internationally through his work with USAID and ICARDA, service as Editor-in-Chief for the SSSA Journal, and editing of the book series, Advances in Soil Science, from 1985 to 2018. This led to the 1988 International Conference on Dryland Farming at Bushland. The 460 participants from 52 countries and 36 states defined the challenges in research and policy to develop future successful dryland farming. In 1993, Stewart retired from USDA ARS and became the first director of the Dryland Agriculture Institute at West Texas A&M University, teaching and researching with 74 successful M.S. and Ph.D. students over 24 years.