NASHVILLE, Ill. — August is the month when students, from kindergarten through college, typically head back to class.
For Nick Harre, who combines teaching and learning as a visiting scholar with Purdue University, the classroom is virtual, year-round and on the farm.
“It keeps me involved in the research and the research is what I enjoy,” he said.
Harre has been a visiting scholar in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue since he earned his doctorate degree there in 2017.
The duties of the position add to an already-busy schedule on the family dairy and grain farm.
As a visiting scholar, working with Bryan Young, professor of weed science at Purdue, Harre helps summarize research projects and also helps out graduate students. That help ranges from assisting with statistics and analysis to greenhouse work.
“The best part is being able to stay involved on the research side of things. Before I made the decision to come back to the farm, I was going to go into the research field. A position like this is a way to stay engaged and involved and up to date on new and evolving research,” Harre said.
The visiting scholar position pays a stipend and Harre is able to do most of the work from home — and the farm.
“The way I work with Dr. Young is I can work on these things whenever I have time and it can be done remotely. I am able to devote time to it when — there’s never free time on the farm, but there is less busy time. It still turns into a lot of late-night work,” he said.
Some of the research he works on is research that can be applied on the farm.
“One project was the relationship between soil residual herbicides and the effect that has, not only on waterhemp control, but also soybean injury,” he said.
“What was more unique about this project is it looked at both of those things together rather than just — yeah, we can control our waterhemp, but on the flip side, if you’re injuring your beans, what effect does that have?
“Work like that really demonstrated that you should not sacrifice waterhemp control in an attempt to lessen bean injury because the beans are really resilient. They can adapt to different stressors. So, knowledge like that certainly is practical and something I can implement on our own farm.”
Harre also works on research that looks into the future.
“One of the more recent ones was looking at a new resistance mechanism in waterhemp to the Group 14 herbicides, the PPO chemistry. There were some molecular techniques involved with that project and seeing how widespread this certain type of resistance is,” he said.
“So, a project like that is maybe not as directly relatable to something I can practice on our own farm, but it still is definitely worthwhile on the basic science side of things. It’s helpful to know precisely how these weeds are becoming resistant to the herbicides.”
Harre recently traveled to Purdue to participate in the weed science field day. He also travels to the annual meeting, usually conducted in December, of the North Central Weed Science Society.
“With technology anymore, I can do all of the work remotely,” he said.
The visiting scholar position came in 2017, just as Harre was finishing work on his doctorate degree and deciding on a career path. He chose to return to the family farm.
“Farming is what I always wanted to do. I just wasn’t sure if that was always going to be a possibility with the family size,” he said.
The position is renewed annually and Harre said while he enjoys the work and staying involved in research, while still being able to farm, finding enough hours for everything is a challenge. In a few months, it will become a bigger challenge.
Harre and his wife, Andrea, are expecting a baby in November. That child will join big brother Declan.
“I would certainly enjoy continuing it, but time is a hard thing to come by,” Harre said.