Specht awarded with first-ever Larry Tonniges Research Achievement Award

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

by Tom Hoxmeier | Nebraska Soybean Board

Jim Specht, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor emeritus and Scottsbluff native, was recently awarded the first-ever Larry Tonniges Research Achievement award. The award, which was made possible by the family of the late Larry Tonniges, a longtime Nebraska farmer who was dedicated to production research as part of the Nebraska Soybean Board, honors researchers who have made significant contributions to soybean research for NSB.

Specht, who began at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1976, is internationally recognized for his work in modern plant biology and genetics for soybean improvement. Research by his “walking soybean encyclopedia” includes soybean response to drought and irrigation, planting times, planting depth and tillage. His research has helped with specific growing conditions for the various regions of the state.

In addition to his research, Specht has also been an active member of the soybean industry in Nebraska. Specht was part of a national research team that developed the first soybean genetic map of 20 linkage groups. He was also a member of a research team that sequenced the soybean genome. He also discovered the differences in soybean genotypes, delineating them into slow and high water users. Recent accomplishments involved using genomics to search for genes that govern soybean seed protein and oil content and Specht was the principal investigator in developing the national Nested Associated Mapping Populations that will serve as a resource for the soybean genetics and physiology research community for years to come. In addition, Specht has served as a scientific expert and liaison for Nebraska soybean producers, through his research and generous research advisory work with NSB for over 45 years.

“I am both humbled and honored to be selected by NSB to be the first recipient of the Larry Tonniges Research Achievement Award,” Specht said. “It has been my great pleasure to provide the Board and their constituent Nebraska soybean producers with scientific research advice and genetic and physiological technical assistance over the course of the last decade. Larry was a friend and colleague with whom I spent time each year reviewing and evaluating research proposals submitted to the North Central Research Program for which Larry was the NSB representative. Larry’s passing was unexpected and he is still sorely missed by all who knew and worked with him.”

The Larry Tonniges Research Achievement award, which will run for five years, will be handed out each March at NSB’s traditional production and crop research meeting. Each year, a researcher, staff or individual from the industry who shows the same level of passion Larry brought to NSB, will be chosen to receive the award.

NSB is proud of Specht’s achievements in soybean genetics and physiology, which have made him a leader in the industry and a deserving recipient of the 2023 Larry Tonniges Research Achievement Award.

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Jim Specht
Jim Specht