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Everald McLennon’s studies and travels have taken him all over the world, but his love for agriculture has securely rooted him in the soil sciences.
And currently, the Jamaican-born scientist is tending the soil in the Klamath Basin.
McLennon started as a post-doctoral scholar at Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center (KBREC) in August 2020. He brought 15 years of combined experience and an interest in increasing the use of precision agriculture methods in the Klamath Basin. He specializes in forage production, soil health and nutrient cycling, and agricultural sustainability and environment contamination.
McLennon knew from a young age, visiting tobacco fields where his father worked in in his home country of Jamaica, that he wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. Watching a seed blossom into a plant and then onto the plate was a phenomenon to him.
“That’s where my interest first piqued,” McLennon said. “The matter of nurturing something, taking care of something, planting something … you would not believe where it started from a tiny seed.”
Excelling in agriculture classes in high school, he initially earned his associates degree from the College of Agriculture in Portland, Jamaica. He then earned higher education degrees in the United States, including a master’s in agricultural economics from Louisiana State University.
For a time, he worked abroad for the Ministry of Justice in London. But he kept getting called back to his roots.
“Agriculture found me,” McLennon said.
He is currently working on creating a survey of Basin landowners to identify how irrigators are practicing precision agriculture in the Klamath Basin.
McLennon said KBREC wants to encourage landowners to use soil moisture censors, which measure the water level in the soil in particular locations of a field. The technology would give farmers precise readings of the soil water level content in a particular spot, which McLennon believes could lead to more efficient use of water.
“We want to develop solutions … to see how we can best assist those farmers,” McLennon said.
McLennon works under Dari Biswanath, agronomist at KBREC, and started field work last summer on a regional project to identify the best ways to grow industrial hemp, a new crop for McLennon. KBREC is working to find ways to incorporate industrial hemp as a rotational, cover crop in the Klamath Basin.
“If you have rotational crops, in terms of soil health and the environment, it’s a lot better,” McLennon said.
McLennon and Dari represent an increase in diversity among KBREC staff, according to Brian Charlton, interim director of KBREC, which has been primarily white since Charlton started at KBREC.
“All the viewpoints and experiences that are outside of the college or this area, is a fresh perspective and benefit,” Charlton said. “In my opinion, I’ve noticed that the university in general has been more cognizant of (diversity).”
For McLennon, being a person of color in agriculture has meant often being the sole Black person in attendance at agriculture conferences, for instance.
“It’s not daunting to me at all because I’m from Jamaica,” he said.
McLennon hopes that serving as a post-doctorate scholar at KBREC serves as a motivation and inspiration for others who sees his background and realize they, too, can be successful.
“The nation is trying to embrace diversity but it starts in areas like these … it just takes one person from that diverse background to add to that melting pot,” McLennon said.
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