Improving Crop Production
CALS alumnus works to improve potato production
A 10-year journey came to a close last August when Trent Taysom received his master’s degree from the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Taysom began working on the degree in 2005 after graduating from BYU-Idaho with a bachelor’s in agricultural sciences.
One thing that was constant during the past 10 years was Taysom’s interest in and research on potatoes. Taysom grew up on a dryland wheat farm in Rockland and first became interested in studying potatoes when he completed an agronomy internship with a potato grower while working on his bachelor’s degree. That experience led to a full-time position as an agronomist, a position he held for six years before joining Miller Research in 2010.
Miller Research is a private research company in Rupert that provides scientific research for the improvement of crop production — in particular, potatoes, sugar beets, beans, corn and alfalfa. Taysom is a research trial manager and agronomist. He reviews field trial requests from major agricultural chemical companies and is involved in the planning and preparation to make those trials happen. He also oversees fertilizer and irrigation recommendations for the crops.
“Say a company has a fungicide they want to look at,” Taysom said. “We’ll look at it from a performance standpoint, so they’ll bring us numbered compounds that aren’t labeled yet and we’ll test them in the field and give them our results. We also do trials where we look at the actual labeled products, showing the performance that they present to growers.”
Miller Research also collaborates with UI Extension on occasion, for example, conducting field testing on a product before sending the potatoes to the Kimberly Research and Extension Center for storage testing.
Journey to a Master’s Degree
When Taysom graduated from BYU-Idaho in 2005 he immediately began looking for opportunities to further his education. He knew he needed something available close to home since his wife was still completing her education and he had secured full-time employment.
“I knew about the UI center in Idaho Falls, so I went and visited with Jeff Stark to see what my options were,” Taysom said. “He introduced me to a few professors and it went from there. I was aware of the university’s reputation for agricultural research and thought it would be a good fit.”
Taysom was able to complete all of the requirements for his master’s from southern Idaho through compressed video, self-study and classes with professors at Idaho Falls and Twin Falls. He completed his thesis in the spring of 2015 and graduated with his master’s in August.
“By doing a thesis and in-field research, that was really the basis for me getting the job that I have now,” Taysom said. “It got my feet wet doing in-field agricultural research. Having that experience and educational background helps me when designing trials.”
Taysom’s thesis was on polymer coated urea in Russet Burbank potato production. Polymer coated urea is a nitrogen source that is a controlled release fertilizer product. His research looked at the effects on yield and quality of using that product versus standard nitrogen programs. He is currently in the process of getting his results published.
“I enjoy being out in the potato crops,” Taysom said. “Potatoes are my life. I think my favorite part is putting in a crop, taking care of it, watching it grow and seeing the research we do helping growers grow a better crop.”
Appreciation for Agriculture
Growing up on a farm in a rural community gave Taysom an appreciation for agriculture at a young age. He always knew he would have a career in agriculture, but wasn’t sure exactly what that would be. Chemistry and soil classes opened his eyes to the science involved with agriculture and he found he had a real interest in it.
“If you would have asked me in high school if I’d be doing scientific research on crops, I would have said no way,” Taysom said. “My education has taught me how to study, how to learn and how to better myself and contribute to society. My education has already paid for itself 100 times over.
“I would encourage anyone with a background or interest in agriculture to get involved and pursue a degree because there are so many opportunities and there is a demand. Agriculture is still the basis of life.”