Lana Koepke Johnson | Agronomy and Horticulture
Fernanda Krupek, doctoral student studying cropping systems and soil health management in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, earned a 2021 Heuermann Plant Science Fellowship. The award recognizes doctoral program students for excellence in plant science research and for potential for accomplishments in the field.
Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Krupek grew up in her uncle’s corn and soybean farming operation which sparked her interest in agricultural sciences, particularly soil and crop production. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Sao Paulo and worked on projects focused on soil chemistry, fertility and analysis of trace levels of soil contaminants.
“I have been interested in soil fertility and nutrient management due to their importance not only in crop management and growers’ profitability, but also in environmental quality, since my first year as an undergrad student,” Krupek said.
Krupek received her master’s degree from the University of Florida where she had the opportunity to collaborate in different research projects such as variety trials for potato, determination of soil water dynamics of shallow water table soils, irrigation methods and fertilizer strategies to minimize nitrogen losses, nitrogen application timing impact on potato fertilizer uptake efficiency, and growth and yield response of potato to irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer management.
“One of the greatest opportunities during my master’s degree program was to interact with growers and present the findings of my research to them on field days, especially since the particular project I was working on had an Extension component and was designed to address one of the major Florida potato grower’s challenges,” Krupek said. “Farmers' perspectives were incorporated into my research, so it could assist farmers in making the practice relevant.”
While attending the Agronomy-Crop Science-Soil Science Societies of America’s annual meeting in 2018, Krupek met her future advisor Andrea Basche, assistant professor of agronomy, and Daren Redfearn, professor of agronomy, both from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She learned that the Resilient Cropping Systems Lab at Nebraska had a position to work on a soil health-related project involving farmers, Nebraska Extension educators, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and other partners across the state.
This was exactly what Krupek was looking for in a doctoral program.
Krupek’s research centers on the Soil Health Initiative, a collaborative project partnering Nebraska’s On-Farm Research Network, USDA-NRCS and producers. On-farm research experiments are testing the use of cover crops, diversified crop rotations and other practices known to support both agricultural production and environmental improvements. She is looking at how integrative measures can define the current status of land quality and its change over time.
“Understanding the agronomic benefits and trade-offs of diversified cropping systems is critical to improve the agricultural production capacity of the land and promote reverse trends in soil degradation,” Krupek said.
Krupek’s future includes continuing her engagement in research, teaching and Extension at a land-grant university after she completes her doctorate degree. She plans to incorporate expertise on big data and integrated digital agriculture technologies to investigate the potential of existing farming systems to undergo sustainable intensification at various scales.
“As a researcher, I will practice the philosophy of ‘diversity stimulates global solutions locally’ through university-industry partnerships that will place different voices, ideas and perspectives on the table,” Krupek said.
Krupek also received the Gerald O. Mott Award for outstanding graduate students in Crop Science related fields, the UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Milton E. Mohr Fellowship and the Student Leadership Award by UNL Student Leadership, Involvement & Community Engagement.
As an international student in the United States, Krupek has prioritized a deep and lasting commitment to the Nebraska community by becoming involved in university activities and leadership opportunities, traveling and attending Husker games.
She has served as a judge for the Southeast Nebraska Junior Science Academy Science Fair to make an impact on the lives of some very talented young girls, be a positive influence on student’s career choices and act as an ambassador for her profession.