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CASNR officials announce strategic hire of noted agronomist Charles West

CASNR officials announce strategic hire of noted agronomist Charles West

Texas Tech continues its pursuit of Association of American University (AAU)-like research university status with the strategic hiring of a respected forage researcher. The newly added faculty member is Charles “Chuck” West, who will serve as the Thornton Distinguished Professor of Forages with the university’s Department of Plant and Soil Science.

“The hiring of Dr. West will help grow the university’s research capabilities, especially in the areas of forages and adapting forage-crop management systems in a semiarid region,” said Richard Zartman, chair of Tech’s Plant and Soil Science Department.

West, who joined the Texas Tech faculty on Sept. 1, was formerly a professor of forage & biomass physiology and ecology with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He is internationally recognized for his comprehensive research on tall fescue and a symbiotic fungal organism, an endophyte that improves drought tolerance of the grass.

Endophyte-infected tall fescue is widely grown as a forage and hay crop for its drought tolerance, but it also causes varying levels of toxicity in livestock. West also has taught and conducted research in environmental restoration and bioenergy crops. He’s documenting requirements for growing switchgrass as a possible bioenergy crop.

Results of West’s research have been published in many refereed journal articles. He’s written 15 book chapters, and has co-edited two books. He has served as associate editor of “Crop Science” and the “Journal of Production Agriculture,” co-organized two international conferences, and served on the board of directors of the Arkansas Forage and Grassland Council.

West received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agronomy from the University of Minnesota. His doctorate in agronomy is from Iowa State University. Awards for West include the John W. White Team Award-University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture (2012); Fellow of American Society of Agronomy (2011); Fellow of Crop Science Society of America (2010); and Fulbright Research Scholarship (2005).

Early in his career West served two years in the Peace Corps in Morocco working on forage production for dairy herds, as well as two years on a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre in Hamilton, New Zealand. He spent six months in 2005 in Montpellier, France, with the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique doing research on drought tolerance of tall fescue.

Hiring of strategic researchers like West is one of the key elements in becoming an AAU-like research institute, Texas Tech officials stressed. “To reach Tier One status, we cannot take small steps forward,” said Texas Tech President Guy Bailey. “We must make a quantum leap.” Attracting new, high-profile faculty members is one way to increase not only the caliber of research that Texas Tech can do in the future, but also the quality of education students can receive, he said.

Achieving National Research University designation, or Tier One, would put Texas Tech into an elite category of universities. National research universities have annual research expenditures of at least $100 million. They offer more than 50 doctoral degree programs and have more than 1,000 tenure track faculty. They also usually have large undergraduate populations and offer a wide-range of undergraduate degrees.

Written by Norman Martin

CONTACT: Richard Zartman, Department Chair and Leidigh Professor of Soil Physics, Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2838 or richard.zartman@ttu.edu

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