Sometime this month, Dr. John Lamb, professor in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota will begin a new career — retirement. Although there was a function for department faculty and staff to recognize John’s accomplishments, I’m not aware of any public recognition of what he has contributed to agriculture in Minnesota. Perhaps, John wanted it this way. Nevertheless, I believe that it’s important to take a few minutes to recognize John’s contributions to the agricultural industry in Minnesota, students who have had the pleasure of having John for a teacher, ad the profession of Soil Science.
John was born and raised in South-Central Nebraska — the son of a highly respected County Extension Agent. There, working with irrigated agriculture he learned the value of and rewards from hard work. He carried those lessons with him throughout his entire career. John has always worked hard in whatever he has done. After earning the PhD degree, John applied for, was offered, and accepted the position of Soil Scientist at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center at Crookston.
While at Crookston, John developed an extensive and excellent research and Extension program focusing on the production of sugarbeets and small grains. Communication was not a problem. It was easy for John to talk with crop producers and his reputation for credibility traveled far and wide. His excellent Extension presentations added to his positive reputation as a researcher dedicated to solving production problems in northwest Minnesota.
Then, there was the opportunity to move to St. Paul to participate in the MSEA program as well as moving into a teaching/research/extension appointment when that program ended. His research program was outstanding. The current nitrogen fertilizer suggestions for the sugarbeet crop have increased the percentage of sugar in the beet while maintaining yield. The end result has been more profit for the grower. These suggestions are based on John’s solid research program. Because of John’s leadership in developing the research base, we now have a consistent size for grid cells to be used when the grid strategy is used for collection of soil samples in precision agriculture. Also, let’s not forget his leadership in describing management practices that can be used to overcome iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC).
As I watched John’s career it was obvious to me that teaching was his first love. It takes a special person and faculty member to get closely involved with students. John was one of those. He thoroughly enjoyed watching students, succeed at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I don’t know the actual number; but, there are many who have benefited from their participation in the classes taught by John. They learned much more than what was in the book. They learned the value of common sense in problem solving. They learned how to apply facts and logic to real world problems. They learned the value of communication in all aspects of agriculture. They observed the principles of the Land Grant University in action. These are concepts that are frequently forgotten/ignored in today’s teaching programs at some Land Grant Universities. I know of very few faculty who can excel at both teaching and research aat the same time. John did.
I don’t know what John has planned for retirement. I do know that he has a Harley and loves to ride. I suspect that there will be a considerable amount of time devoted to that activity. I don’t believe that he will be putting leaches on a hook in an attempt to catch fish. So, John, enjoy whatever you choose to do. Have a very enjoyable retirement — you’ve certainly earned it.