Three questions with Greg Klinger
1. How did you first become interested in agriculture and water quality?
I’ve been interested in water since my parents first took me out in their canoe. Ironically, the lake we were on was (and is) heavily degraded by sediment washing in. But to a small child, even a muddy, shallow lake holds plenty of snapping turtles, herons and muskrats to keep him entertained.
The interest in agriculture came later. It mostly, I think, came from a love of living in rural places and in working with my hands. I also gravitate toward work I find challenging—and the need to balance increasing demands for food with the environmental concerns from intensive food production strikes me as a great challenge for our time.
2. What is something you’re working on that you’re particularly excited about?
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last several years going around to farmers’ tile lines and taking water samples in order to monitor nitrate levels. The work lets me walk a lot of ditches, and it’s been interesting to see how these places change over time—I’ve seen flooding change the course of a stream overnight, and at least one stream I take tile outlet samples from is in a constant tug-of-war between landowners and beavers. But the most interesting thing to see has been how much variability there is in nitrate levels between fields. It has me wondering: what is this farmer doing that creates such low nitrate tile water? And, can we replicate this success across the landscape?
3. What is most rewarding about your job?
It’s those small flashes of insight that come out of a conversation with a farmer, agronomist or colleague—either on my end or theirs. I always love chatting with farmers about the experiments they are running on their farms—oftentimes, those discussions let me see how they think about their farming operations, their data and how their on-farm experiments and university research can complement each other.