Our soils and
are where we must start
in Kentucky agriculture,
but it is what we do
with those resources
where we end up.
More than 30 years ago, I came to Kentucky to teach and do research on soils. I had the good fortune to learn from world-renowned soil scientists and agronomists of that era: Ron Phillips, Grant Thomas, Shirley Phillips, Bob Blevins, Wilbur Frye, and several others. So, I am particularly proud that the College has “re-loaded” in this field. Stories about several members of an excellent new generation of UK soils faculty are included in this issue.
As people I meet around the country learn I am a soils guy from Kentucky, they will ask, more often than not, if our high-phosphate limestone soils truly deserve the credit for the great horses and cattle of the Bluegrass State. I usually try to respond without slighting either the importance of soils or the truth.
In the era when our worldwide reputation for exceptional breeding stock was being built, naturally fertile, productive soils and the pastures they produced were certainly the essential foundation for success.
But now that liming and fertilization are common practice, infrastructure is just as important as resources in making Kentucky unique. Markets, suppliers, business expertise, and leadership networks all tend to congregate around globally successful economic clusters, whether the cluster enterprise is computers, biotech, or horse breeding. This infrastructure is what sustains a region’s competitive advantage.
Almost everywhere, University research and education are other key ingredients of such competitive distinction. Institutions such as ours make two critical contributions. First, we can help attract and retain the required creative, skilled, expert human talent. Second, great research universities can spark the invention and innovation needed to remain ahead of competitors.
Our soils and natural resources are where we must start in Kentucky agriculture, but it is what we do with those resources that determines where we end up. Whether it is new technologies to fight animal disease, improved pasture management, or new methods for soil and water conservation, our scientists continue to support the fame and distinction of Kentucky horses and cattle.
M. Scott Smith