Grad Students Ravelombola, Walton Top Three in Crop Science Society Poster Contests

Francia Ravelombola, left, is a doctoral student in crop, soil and environmental sciences, and Thomas Walton is a master's degree student in horticulture.
Fred Miller (Ravelombola) and submitted

Francia Ravelombola, left, is a doctoral student in crop, soil and environmental sciences, and Thomas Walton is a master's degree student in horticulture.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Two graduate students in U of A's Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences earned recognition for competing in the student poster contest during the virtual 2020 Crop Science Society of America Annual Meeting.

Francia Ravelombola placed third in the Crop Breeding and Genetics Division, and Thomas Walton placed second in the Golf Division.

Ravelombola is a doctoral student in crop, soil and environmental sciences and Walton is a master's degree student in horticulture.

Ravelombola's poster presentation was "Evaluation of Spatial Variability for Seed Yield in Furrow-Irrigated Soybean in Arkansas." Walton's poster was "Alternate Cover Approaches to Protect Ultradwarf Bermudagrass Putting Greens with Air Gaps."

According to Ravelombola's research, 85 percent of soybean acreage in Arkansas is irrigated using a furrow irrigation method, which is common in the mid-south part of the country. Field experiments are subjected to spatial variability - soil texture, fertility, pH, etc.

"Furrow irrigation could add an extra dimension of variation because of water gradients on the front and back of fields, and potentially unequal flows between rows," said Ravelombola. "Controlling spatial variability in field experiments is necessary to reduce error in the statistical model. My research aims at evaluating the model effectiveness when used to control for spatial variability in furrow-irrigated soybean research trials in Arkansas."

Ravelombola earned master's degrees in agricultural engineering at the University of Antananarivo in her native Madagascar and in horticultural sciences at Szent Istvan University in Budapest, Hungary. She is working under the guidance of Leandro Angel Mozzoni in his soybean breeding lab. Mozzini associate professor, and a researcher and scientist with the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the U of A System Division of Agriculture.

Ravelombola's work focuses on breeding soybeans under different irrigation regimes using genomic selection and high throughput drone imaging, and mapping for high protein genes.  

According to Walton's research, many golf courses in our region use warm-season grasses such as ultradwarf bermudagrass for putting greens, which can produce excellent putting surfaces. One pitfall of bermudagrass in the region is it can be prone to injury or death when exposed to cold temperatures, commonly referred to as winterkill. 

"One proven method to prevent winterkill is through the use of protective covers, but this is not effective during the coldest winters," said Walton. "This research found that creating an air gap underneath protective covers with materials like straw and batting fabric was effective at increasing the soil temperature when compared to using a cover alone. This gives golf courses in the surrounding region another tool to potentially prevent winterkill of bermudagrass putting greens during low temperatures."

His research is generally focused on the different types of warm-season grasses used for golf course putting greens in Arkansas and the surrounding region, and improving the management practices and recommendations relating to environmental stress such as cold-temperature and shade. Walton is advised by Mike Richardson, a professor in the Department of Horticulture, and a researcher and scientist with the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the U of A System Division of Agriculture.

The meeting was part of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of American International Annual Meeting. The theme of the meeting was Translating Visionary Science to Practice.

The CSSA is a progressive international scientific society that fosters the vision to improve the world through crop science. It is the professional home for more than 4,000 members dedicated to discovering and applying plant science solutions to improve the human condition and protect the planet. 

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website, and follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumpersCollege.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 3 percent of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
479-575-4625, robbye@uark.edu

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