Gary A. Peterson, head of the Soil and Crop Sciences department in Colorado State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named president-elect of the Soil Science Society of America, a prominent international educational society dedicated to the conservation and wise use of natural resources to produce food, feed, and fiber crops while maintaining and improving the environment.
Peterson is a 43-year member of SSSA and has been active on several committees and boards, including serving on the SSSA board of directors and serving as chair of the Soil & Water Management & Conservation Division. He will take office as president-elect at the 2006 Annual Meetings taking place Nov. 12-16 in Indianapolis.
At Colorado State, Peterson helped found the Dryland Agroecosystem Project in 1985, and he has focused some of his research on no-till farming, which helps farmland retain moisture, allowing for more intense planting as well as increasing organic matter in the soil.
Peterson was born in Holdrege, Neb., in 1940 to Walter and Evelyn Peterson, and grew up on a farm north of Funk. He graduated from Holdrege High School in 1958. He earned his bachelor’s in technical agronomy in 1963, master’s in soil fertility in1965 at the University of Nebraska and his doctorate in soil fertility at Iowa State University in 1967.
The first 17 years of Peterson’s career were spent at the University of Nebraska teaching courses on introductory soil science, soil management and soil chemistry methods. His research there examined soil fertility problems of wheat and sugar beets. His interest in no-till farming, water conservation and soil organic matter was sparked by interactions with C.A. Fenster of the Panhandle Research Center in Scottsbluff, Neb.
Peterson moved to Colorado State University in the summer of 1984, where he team-taught courses on crop and soil management for more than 12 years before he was named head of the department. His research focused on developing the Dryland Agroecosystem Project, which was initiated in fall 1985. The project was charged with the research goals to increase overall precipitation use efficiency in dryland systems, decrease soil erosion and reverse the long-term organic matter loss pattern that has accompanied conventional cropping practices in dryland areas. In addition, Peterson has served as major professor for 20 master’s degree students and 18 doctoral degree students.
Peterson married Jackie Flick in 1965. They have two daughters, Kerstin and Ingrid. Kerstin and her husband Russ Bruxvoort live in Fort Collins with three children. Ingrid and her husband David Bradley also live in Fort Collins with their have two children. Peterson also volunteers to teach adult Sunday school, as well as leading other groups, at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Fort Collins.