Ken Pecinovsky receives Professional and Scientific Excellence Award

By Megan Lutz, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Managing a research farm requires attention to detail.

And that's exactly how Ken Pecinovsky approaches his position as the superintendent of the Iowa State University Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm. It's also why Pecinovsky received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Professional and Scientific Excellence Award.

Pecinovsky has worked at Iowa State for 26 years and at the research farm for 24. As superintendent, he's in charge of a 260-acre research farm and manages more than 70 research studies for Iowa State researchers.
One of those researchers is Antonio Mallarino, a professor in agronomy. Mallarino works with Pecinovsky on soil fertility research and describes him as a good agronomist.

"The most noteworthy aspect of working with Ken is his exceptional dedication to do the best work possible," Mallarino said. "He really likes his job and often works many extra hours to assure good quality work."

Pecinovsky took the job because of his interest in agronomic research.

"I grew up on a crop and livestock farm and was always involved," Pecinovsky said. "In college, I decided to pursue a summer internship in industry related to seed production and pesticide research for chemical companies. The most interesting internship was doing pesticide research, testing new herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in replicated test plots and in farmers' fields."

That interest led to a graduate degree at Iowa State researching problematic weeds and their biology and tolerance to herbicides. As a research associate in agronomy he was involved in planting, spraying and evaluating research plots on most of the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms while finishing his master's degree. He received his bachelor's degree in agronomy in 1988 and his master's degree in crop production and physiology in 1994.

Pecinovsky said his biggest accomplishment is getting things done in a timely manner. He said farming involves deadlines, whether it's planting, harvesting or pest management.

"Since you are always at the mercy of the weather, you try to get field activities done in a timely manner, because you want the best possible outcome for each research study," Pecinovsky said.

Pecinovsky is motivated to provide unbiased research no matter how hard or long it takes because he wants farmers to have the best data possible.

"Changing seed in planters for variety plots, changing fertilizer treatments, changing population treatments, planting and harvesting studies with multiple treatments and replications takes time," Pecinovsky said. "So, you don't get the amount of work done each day like normal farmers do."

The Northeast Research Farm is owned by the Northeast Iowa Agricultural Experimental Association (NEIAEA) in partnership with Iowa State. The NEIAEA has more than 2,000 members from 20 counties and provides leadership for the farm's operations. Iowa State researchers conduct research on a variety of agronomic crops, fruits, vegetables, soil management, water quality, pest management and soil fertility at the farm.

In 2009, Pecinovsky and members of NEAIEA worked together to build the Borlaug Learning Center. The center, which is located just west of Nashua, provides meeting rooms, offices and a small-business incubator.

Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will present awards to faculty and staff on March 8 at its Spring-Semester Convocation and Awards Program in the Memorial Union.

March 1, 2018