Agriculture News

December 13, 2016

Purdue's 'Corn Guy' Bob Nielsen receives Hovde Award for service to rural Indiana

Nielsen Hovde For more than 30 years, Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist, has shared his expertise with farmers throughout the state. To honor his contributions, Nielsen was presented with the Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to Rural Indiana. (Photo provided by Bob Nielsen) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Thousands of Indiana corn farmers rely on Bob Nielsen's expert guidance for a successful crop, just as they rely on spring rains and summer sun.

But Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist and professor of agronomy, has proven to be more dependable than the state's often erratic weather.

Over the past 30 years Nielsen has delivered timely, significant, research-based crop management information on his Chat 'n Chew Café and KingCorn websites, in educational programs and through one-on-one conversations with producers and crop advisers in fields, tractor cabs and farmhouse kitchens throughout the Midwest and across the globe. Known simply as the "Corn Guy," Nielsen is widely recognized as the foremost expert on Indiana corn production, a key driver in the state's $25-billion-a-year agricultural industry.

To honor his ongoing commitment to the state's grain producers, Nielsen was presented the Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence in Educational Service to the Rural People of Indiana on Dec. 9, at the annual convention of Indiana Farm Bureau, sponsor of the award, in Fort Wayne.  This award is presented annually to a faculty or staff member who has provided exceptional service to the improvement of rural Indiana.

 "By sharing his vital research and expertise with farmers throughout the state, Dr. Nielsen has helped Indiana's agricultural community remain in the forefront of the effort to feed a growing global population. His work represents the highest standards of the land-grant mission," said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture.

 "No one could be more deserving of this prestigious accolade," said Jason Henderson, associate dean and director of Purdue Extension. "Through his innovative Extension programs and ongoing search for excellence, Bob has enhanced the lives of all Hoosiers."

Nielsen's profession is education but farming is his passion. Originally from Nebraska, he joined Purdue in 1982 and was instrumental in the development of the College of Agriculture's nationally recognized Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center. He has conducted more than 350 field-scale research trials to determine economically optimal nitrogen application and seeding rates for different types of soils and has helped promote the use of site-specific crop management tools.

An energetic and entertaining speaker, Nielsen makes about 60 presentations each year, reaching a total audience of about 5,000 agribusiness professionals and consumers. He delivers his message in a plain spoken, direct style punctuated by colorful figures of speech such as "goose-drownder," his term for a heavy rainstorm.

"Bob's number of speaking opportunities are limited only by the number of free days in his calendar, never by the lack of demand," said Jim Camberato, Extension soil fertility and plant nutrition specialist and co-author with Nielsen of the annual report Nitrogen Management Guidelines for Corn in Indiana. "During the growing season Bob answers numerous phone calls and emails and makes several farm visits to help farmers and crop advisers identify the causes of crop production problems. These one-on-one encounters not only help the individual farmers but are also spread to neighbors via the crop adviser and word-of-mouth."

Hoosier farmers often find that working with Nielsen is a learning experience.

"My first experience working with Bob was in 1996," said Eric Aulbach, a Purdue graduate and grain producer in Blackford County. "I was two years out of college, still knowing everything, and I was asked to scout a field of poorly emerging corn. Quickly finding out that I knew much less than I thought, I called Bob and he came over to help determine what the problem was. His patience and thoroughness started a trust that led to future troubleshooting calls that always resulted in an increased trust of Bob's ability and an educational outcome for me."

Colleagues say Nielsen's top priority is making sure producers have the information they need to make smart crop management decisions. When the internet was in its infancy, he quickly recognized its potential as a communication tool.

Nielsen launched the KingCorn and Chat 'n Chew websites in 1995 and continues to update them regularly with new research, articles, photos, videos and other resources useful to all row crop producers. The sites generate more than 250,000 page views per year.

"Bob is a great teacher of adults, whatever mode of communication is employed," Camberato said. "Bob's professional drive is to help people better themselves through knowledge so that he can make a difference in people's lives."

The Hovde Award, sponsored by Indiana Farm Bureau Inc., was established in honor of Purdue's seventh president, who served from 1946 to 1971. The award has been given annually since 1972.

Winners receive a monetary prize and a plaque. A permanent display of award winners' names is in the Agricultural Administration Building on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. 

Writer: Darrin Pack, 765-494-8415,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Darrin Pack, 
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