Water for Food

Kate Boone


University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student Kate Boone crunching data in her office.

“I’m really interested in how to communicate science to the public – to the people who need to know it – in a way that’s relatable and relevant to them.” 

Surrounded by fellow researchers from Brazil, India, France and Spain, Kate Boone zeroes in on a soybean field in Minden, Nebraska. Thanks to rich irrigation data recorded by Nebraska farmers and her own dogged number crunching, Boone is able to investigate the relationships between groundwater, irrigation, agronomy and hydrology. With direction from her adviser, Daugherty Water for Food Institute Faculty Fellow and University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomist Patricio Grassini, Boone is discovering how broad climate variables – rain, sun, and wind – and local features – topography, soils and aquifers – interact and influence irrigation and groundwater.

In August 2014, the Water for Food Institute awarded its inaugural round of student support grants to faculty fellows. The grants provide stipends to students like Boone who are working on projects that contribute to a more water and food secure world. To Boone, a first-year agronomy & horticulture graduate student, this means working on research in which findings can be exported. “As places like Africa and Southeast Asia establish irrigation infrastructure, it will be really important to know what their aquifer is like and what impact irrigation will have on it.” In Nebraska, irrigation infrastructure is ubiquitous. But, Boone says farmers recording irrigation data on individual fields is not as readily available, which is what distinguishes their research. “This kind of information from producers – how much they’re actually applying – isn’t really found anywhere else in the world.”

In addition to an abundance of data, Boone says Grassini’s wealth of knowledge is helpful. “He’s really good at meeting with me once a week. I didn’t have an agronomy background going into this. But he’s been helpful in teaching me agronomy 101 and bringing me up to speed.”

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