Filmed on 22 February 2014 at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy.
Neal Eash is an Associate Professor in Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science at the University of Tennessee (45% teaching, 55% research). His research area is in soil fertility and carbon cycling in organic production systems. He has ongoing no-till research in Lesotho, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. He also continues to farm his home 160-acre farm in Ohio using only no-till methods.
Eash grew up on a farm in north central Ohio and farmed on his own for several years prior to going to Africa. In the early 1980's he worked in Botswana, Africa as an agricultural extensionist for over three years with Mennonite Central Committee. While in Botswana, Neal assisted local subsistence farmers to increase food production. In 1987 he received his B.S. degree in agronomy from Iowa State University. In July, 1986, Neal collected soil samples for his M.S. thesis which evaluated the effects of 1500 years of near-continuous agriculture in the Colca Valley, Peru, that was funded through the Lindbergh Foundation and the National Science Foundation. His Ph.D. research focused on the effects of the soil fungi on soil aggregation and quality.
After completing his Ph.D. in 1993 he accepted an Agricultural Extension Specialist position with the University of Tennessee. While working in Tennessee he presented information on biosolids marketing and utilization, municipal solid waste composting, and food waste composting in venues ranging from wastewater treatment plants in Memphis to several prisons throughout the state of Tennessee. Eash was successful in securing extramural research support to evaluate nitrate loading rates in constructed wetlands and utilization of co-composted biosolids on agronomic crops.
In 1997, Eash accepted a teaching\/research position with the University of Minnesota where he and a co-worker established a unique collaborative agronomy teaching program at Southwest State University (SSU). Students enrolled in this program could take all of their classes at SSU and graduate with a degree from the University of Minnesota. This program quickly grew from five students in the Fall of 1997 to more than eighty two years later requiring the hiring of additional faculty. While at the University of Minnesota he conducted extramurally funded research on soil carbon dioxide flux, using strip tillage to maintain erosion control while maximizing yields, and deep banded fertilization in medium- and high testing soils. In 2001, Eash and two co-workers received a USDA Challenge grant that provided students the opportunity to compare environmental and agricultural issues in the Florida Everglades, Brazil, and Costa Rica.
Eash returned to UT in September 2002. At UT Eash is teaching Introduction to Soil Science most every Fall and Spring semester (approximately 95 students); this course has ten laboratory sessions of wet chemistry, maps, soil surveys, etc.), teaches a relatively new Fall course entitled Soils and Civilization for first semester freshmen (250 students, Spring 2014) that fulfills one of the Cultures requirements in the UT General Education requirements. Until 2007 he also taught Soil Nutrient Management and Fertilizers (Fall, 25 students, ten wet chemistry labs). Eash was also the lead author on the fifth edition of Soil Science Simplified that was published in March 2008 and again for the sixth edition that will be released in Fall 2014. Eash is also the lead PI on a $1.382 million USAID grant on conservation agriculture (2009-2014) in Lesotho and Mozambique and a $278,000 USAID grant for Ethiopia.
Eash has led or co-led student groups to Hawaii (1998), Tennessee (2001), the Florida Everglades (2002), and Thailand (2005 and 2006) and Guatemala (May 2007 and 2009), and he and his coworkers were recently funded to lead student research groups to Jamaica (2008), Thailand (2009), Vietnam (2009), and Lesotho (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013). On these trips students always study soil science as well as other interesting topics; e.g., value-added agriculture, volcanism, manufactured soils, high-altitude arid gelisols, as well as investigating soils on coffee and pineapple plantations. Within the past five years he has provided technical assistance in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Chile, Thailand, Vietnam, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, and Lesotho. Throughout his career he has provided technical assistance to many companies including M&M Mars, Bedminster Bioconversion, Dow Chemical, Monsanto, B&H Manufacturing, U.S. Army, Willamette Paper, Tennessee Department of Corrections, Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, CH2M Hill, Farm Bureau, National Pork Producers, Christianson Farms, AgCert, Syngenta, and many others. Eash has more than 50 publications including two text books and more than 20 refereed publications and is an Associate Editor of Agronomy Journal and NACTA.