Southeast student, football player tackles soil health research

Thursday, September 13, 2018
Bud Hilburn

Redhawks senior tight end and scholar athlete Bud Hilburn is taking advantage of all the opportunities – both academic and athletic – Southeast Missouri State University has to offer.

With football season in full swing, his schedule is jam-packed with games, practices, conditioning and other team responsibilities. But off the gridiron, he’s making the most of his experience as a student-athlete, tackling academic agricultural research at the David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center.

He’s part of a student research team working to determine how cover crops can help manage soil health. Keeping and replenishing nutrients in the soil is vital for farmers across the nation. One way to address this challenge is to make good use of cover crops.

The Kennett native majoring in agribusiness, plant and soil science option, is participating in cover crop research as part of a USDA grant-funded four-year project in collaboration with Southeast’s Department of Agriculture, Arkansas State University and the University of Tennessee-Martin.

The student research team helps to establish experimental plots, collect plant and soil samples, and record data.  In order to provide quality control, samples are sent to an approved third-party lab for analysis. Hilburn spent the summer in Cape Girardeau engaged in the research, which he is continuing this fall.

“To me, Bud represents what this initiative is all about. He is a local student that came to Southeast Missouri State University to be a part of the agribusiness and football programs,” said Southeast football Coach Tom Matukewicz. “He loves this institution and will be super successful with this special opportunity. Bud is a great representative of our University and football program, and I’m thankful for the opportunities Southeast affords our student-athletes to be students first and athletes second.”

Hilburn is working under the guidance of Dr. Indi Braden, Southeast professor of agriculture. The samples Hilburn collects are important in determining which species of cover crops are best adapted to the region for use in enhancing sustainability in crop production systems.

“Having cover crops in between your primary, cash crops can help build organic matter and nutrients in the soil,” Hilburn said. “The research looks at different cover crops and how they’re affecting and promoting soil health in this region.”

The overall goal is to help provide producers with recommendations of the cover crop species that are best adapted to this area, Braden said.

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