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Soil science: A world of opportunity

Richard T. Koenig  
Soil science: A world of opportunity

Richard Koenig at Lind field day

Soil impacts many aspects of everyday life. Early in his college education, a mentor advised Dr. Koenig that a degree in soil science could open doors in such diverse fields as environmental science, outdoor recreation management, forestry, waste management, agriculture production, and ornamental horticulture. He took this advice seriously and now applies knowledge gained from broad-based degrees in natural resource management, soil science, and soil fertility to solve a diversity of agricultural and urban horticulture problems.

As an extension specialist and soil scientist at Utah State University, Dr. Koenig used his fundamental background in natural resource management and soil science to develop nutrient management guidelines for irrigated crops, practical methods to improve urban soil quality, and novel solutions to agricultural waste management problems. His research included developing a new way of composting poultry waste inside structures housing laying hens. In-house composting reduced waste volume and odor, enhanced fly control over pesticide-based methods, and produced a more saleable product than raw poultry manure.

At Washington State University, Dr. Koenig’s primary focus is soil and nutrient management in eastern Washington’s dryland agriculture systems. Nutrients are important determinants of crop yield and quality, but also represent significant costs to farmers with the potential to cause air and water quality problems. His research seeks to understand basic soil processes influencing nutrient transformations, losses, and plant availability. His extension programs and publications balance the needs of production, economics, and the environment in developing nutrient management guidelines and methods to assess nutrient performance in dryland agriculture. Dr. Koenig also maintains an active interest in issues related to urban soil management.

Though he does not have a formal teaching appointment, Dr. Koenig has made a commitment to Washington State University’s Strategic Plan to strengthen the undergraduate students’ experience by involving students in research.  He has been a mentor for several students on undergraduate research projects and has helped them publish the results of this research in peer-reviewed journals.

From agriculture to urban landscapes, soil management represents a world of opportunity for students trained in soil science.


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Richard KoenigRichard T. Koenig, Ph.D.,
Dr. Koenig’s interest in soils originated from his research involvement as an undergraduate attending the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. He earned his B.S. degree in natural resource management with an emphasis in forestry and then continued on for an M.S. degree with an emphasis in soil science.  He received his Ph.D. degree in 1993 from Washington State University in soil fertility and plant nutrition. After a year-long post-doctorate position teaching introductory soil science and soil chemistry at Colorado State University, and nine years at Utah State University in a teaching-research-extension position, he returned to Washington State University in 2003 as an associate soil scientist and extension soil fertility specialist. His research and extension programs focus on applied soil fertility management in dryland crops in eastern Washington. He maintains an interest in undergraduate involvement in research, and has had several students receive grants and publish the results of their work in refereed journals.  His research and extension activities have resulted in 32 extension and 27 peer-reviewed research publications and three book chapters.

Contact Information
Richard T. Koenig, Ph.D.
Professor and Interim Dean of the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
Pullman WA 99164-6248