Grassini appointed to endowed professorship

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Lana Koepke Johnson | Agronomy and Horticulture

University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Patricio Grassini, associate professor of agronomy and horticulture, has been named the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl Distinguished Professor in Agronomy.

The professorship is a gift from the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl of Tempe, Arizona, to the University of Nebraska Foundation to recognize a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, extension and/or research in agronomy related to sustainability, resource efficiency or environmental quality. The professorship includes a $15,000 professorial stipend.

Grassini earned a Bachelor of Science in agricultural engineering from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a doctorate in agronomy from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

His professional career at Nebraska began in 2010 as a postdoctoral research associate. In 2011 he was promoted to assistant research professor, then to assistant professor in 2014, and in 2017 to his current position of associate professor.

Grassini’s research and extension programs focus on working to meet the demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel without negative environmental impact in a world with a population of 9.8 billion people by 2050. His research interests center on yield potential, productivity gaps and resource-use efficiency in agricultural systems. Promoting sustainable crop intensification on existing cropland area is crucial to meet increasing global food demand and relieve the pressure on cropland expansion at the expense of rain forests, grasslands, and wetlands.

Grassini’s work leverages his expertise on crop modeling, spatial analysis, big data and hypothesis-driven field experiments to benchmark productivity and the environmental footprint of crop systems and to identify opportunities for improving both. It involves narrowing the existing yield gap between potential yields and current farm yields, while improving resource-use efficiency and producer profit and avoiding negative environmental impact.

He co-leads a major on-going project to develop a Global Yield Gap Atlas that provides estimates of gaps between actual and potential yield for major cropping systems as well as crop water productivity and nutrient requirements. This research goes beyond Nebraska and the United States and includes cropping systems in South America, sub-saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, including a four-year project on smallholder oil palm farmers in Indonesia.

“At a relatively early stage of his career, Dr. Patricio Grassini has achieved international recognition for his leadership and groundbreaking research about current and future crop production potential and how to close gaps between yield levels achieved by farmers and yield potential – called the yield gap, said Ken Cassman, Nebraska emeritus Robert B. Daugherty professor of agronomy.

“In doing so, he has sustained a prolific record of publication and funding support that has helped elevate UNL as a global research center on staple food crop production potential at spatial scales from fields to globe, which in turn provides a foundation for future growth into quantitative environmental benchmarking to evaluate progress towards reducing agriculture’s negative impact on natural resources and environmental quality.”

Grassini has authored over 100 articles in peer-review journals such as Nature Communications, Field Crops Research, Global Change Biology, BioScience, Nature Sustainability, Nature Food, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

He currently manages more than $6 million in external research grants, the most notable being a $4.2 million grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for oil palm intensification research.

Grassini has received numerous awards and honors including the Gamma Sigma Delta Research Award – Nebraska Chapter, Omtvedt Innovation Award, Agronomy Society of America W.L. Nelson Award for Diagnosing Yield-Limiting Factor, ASA Early Career Award, Water for Food Institute Fellow, Center for Great Plains Studies Fellow, UNL Junior Faculty Excellence in Research Award and a Fulbright Scholarship. He has also been named to the Web of Science List of Highly Cited Researchers – top 1% in the discipline in the world – for the past three years.

Grassini serves as a member of the Science Advisory Council for Field to Market, C2 Division representative for the Crop Science Society of America Rapid Response Team Committee, member of the editorial board of Field Crops Research and Global Food Security journals, and associate editor of the Crop & Environment journal. He was also chair of the CSSA Crop Ecology Division during the 2019 term.

“Dr. Grassini is an emerging superstar with a research and extension program that provides international leadership supporting global food security and sustainable crop production in Nebraska, the Corn Belt, and the world,” Cassman said.

Grassini is the fourth named Sunkist Fiesta Bowl Distinguished Professor in Agronomy. The late Lowell E. Moser, professor emeritus and agronomy and horticulture department head was the first to hold the position beginning in 1994. Agronomy and horticulture professor emeritus Robert (Bob) Shearman and Walter H. Schacht also held the position.

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