Graduate Spotlight: Dylan Wann
Expected Graduation: Spring 2010
Degree Objective: M.S. in Crop and Soil Sciences
Other Degrees:B.S. in Environmental Science
Dylan Wann studies agricultural methods to improve world health – researching peanuts is only a step toward his end goal.
Wann, a master’s student in crop and soil sciences, attends the UGA Tifton campus where he researches how to maximize crop yields and grow organic foods effectively. All together, he hopes his research will one day be applied to the agricultural practices of Third World countries.
“I have always been interested in working in agricultural production in developing nations, especially centered on sustainable farming,” said Wann.
Wann became interested in peanut agronomics after meeting Dr. R. Scott Tubbs, now his adviser, at a conference in Dallas. After speaking with Dr. Tubbs about the potential of peanut research in Tifton, Wann, a Wyoming native, became convinced to attend UGA.
The climate drew Wann here as well.
“The climate in Tifton, where I am conducting all my field work, is about as close as you can come to that of a humid sub-tropical Third World country,” he said.
Since completing his campus work in Athens, Wann has concentrated on his peanut research in Tifton. A cash crop in Georgia and the Southeast, peanuts are a subsistence crop for many people in Third World nations. Most Third World countries keep their peanut production for domestic use as a cheap and valuable source of protein.
Despite the benefits of growing organic peanuts, the hot and humid climate of the Southeast introduces the risk of the plants contracting diseases. As a result, even though Georgia is one of the nation’s biggest suppliers of peanuts, it has few commercial organic peanut farms.
In order to grow peanuts organically in Georgia and other hot and humid places, researchers and agricultural scientists have created unique cultivars. A cultivar is a race or variety of plant that has been created and subsequently cultivated to emphasize a specific characteristic.
“Cultivars range from those designed specifically for low-input production to those that are typically grown in conventional systems,” said Wann.
Wann is studying nine distinct peanut cultivars, determining which cultivars produce the highest crop yield given the climate.
“There is almost no published research in the area of organic peanuts, so I am excited to be on the forefront of a newly burgeoning field of study,” he said.
Organic peanut production has other applications for developing nations as well.
“Organic peanut production techniques are beneficial in Third World scenarios, where production is functionally organic due to limited access to chemical inputs,” said Wann.
Alongside his cultivar study, Wann is undertaking a weed control study that uses a “flex tine” cultivator to vibrate and disturb the soil up to one-half inch deep. The “flex tine” cultivator mimics a giant rake, dragging dozens of metal tines through the ground, disrupting the soil just enough to kill germinating weed seedlings.
The weed control study measures the optimal frequency and duration of using the “flex tine” cultivator to maximize crop yield.
Wann’s second research interest concerns using cover crops to maximize crop yield for peanuts or cotton.
Cover crops are grown between cash crop cycles to protect against erosion during winter months. Cover crops have auxiliary benefits as well, such as releasing nutrients into the soil for the following crop cycle.
Wann is conducting experimental field trials with different cover crops, including rye, crimson clover and wheat.
“I love the idea of low-input production, because it forces us to think more creatively about approaching farm problems,” said Wann. “If there is a significant impact on yield, then farmers could look at potentially cutting back on fertilizer inputs by taking advantage of cover crops.”
Down the road, Wann sees himself completing an agricultural Ph.D. program and then working abroad to teach citizens in Third World countries how to practice viable agriculture.
Wann said, “Ten years from now, I hope to see my wife and me somewhere in Central or South America, teaching others how to take full advantage of their land resources for quality food production and act as strong, educated stewards of those resources for the nation’s long-term health.”