U of S : Communications : OCN : Oct 31, 1997
In her first year of teaching and with a joint appointment in Soil Science and in Extension, she attributes her career choice to inspiring teaching at the University of Manitoba:
"I initially took a first-year course in soil science as an elective in a pre-vet program. But from the beginning, I enjoyed the mix of theoretical science with its practical aspects in my agriculture classes. I could see that the application of the research had the potential to make a difference in the farming practices of prairie producers. And as someone who grew up on the prairies, albeit in metro Winnipeg, I've always believed in fostering the well-being of the farming community."
That's a credo Walley adheres to in her own teaching:
"Producers here have such a commitment to their way of life. Because of that, I think Saskatchewan farming has a great future."
Although she had some initial trepidation about walking into her class of 260 first-year students in Agric. 111, she tries to help them see that what they're studying has practical implications.
"When I bring my apparatus into class to demonstrate the practical side of my lectures, I sometimes feel like Mr. Science on TV. But demonstrations seem to make students more involved and cause them to be more questioning about research that's taking place right here at the University. Recently, I was pleased to respond to a student's question that what he was asking about was part of an actual research project here."
It's this commitment to sharing information between professors, students and producers that makes working in Agriculture exciting, says Walley.
She's currently involved in a number of major research projects that entail working closely with other professionals and graduate students at various research sites around the province.
One project is an on-going study of legume inoculants.
"My bottom line is that the research be utilized, and these inoculants are actually being used by producers to enhance yields. I've been involved with developing a chickpea inoculant since the petri-dish stage, so seeing it benefitting producers is really rewarding."
She's also heavily involved with a project on "precision" farming, headed by Dr. Dan Pennock, a colleague in Soil Science.
"The basic idea in precision farming is that farmers should be able to use inputs only where they'll make a difference so that, for example, they can apply fertilizer at variable rates rather than at one blanket rate.
"Our job is to work out how this all ought to be done and to make the technology practical and relatively inexpensive for producers. Obviously, the project demands a thorough understanding of the role of soils in crop production, which explains the involvement of Soil Science people. But this research involves a number of different groups including Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food, and the Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association, as well as the College of Agriculture."
The sponsorship of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool means that Walley's husband Garry Hnatowich, a research agronomist, is also involved in precision farming research, an example of the long-term professional collaboration the two have enjoyed.
"We met when I worked for the Soil Science Department at the University of Manitoba as a summer student and certainly we share a common interest in agriculture. However, with careers and two young children at home, we don't usually have time to discuss those interests at the dinner table. Then, our conversation is more likely to revolve around swimming lessons or the advantages of signing up for Beavers."
She stresses that she also wears an Extension-specialist hat for half her working time. With Extension, her focus is on planning and delivering short, agriculture-related courses for people across the province, in such subjects as agronomy and current crop production issues.
Along with people like Professor Rick Holm in Crop Science, Walley, who will chair a soils and crops workshop next winter, is developing a number of such courses that will bring practitioners onto the campus in the off-times - weekends and the mid-term break.
As well, she says, Extension will be offering a number of new training and refresher courses during the summer months for professionals, such as field agronomists, who must keep up with current practices.
"These seminars and work-shops enable everyone involved in agriculture - researchers, agro-business people, and farmers - to come together to talk shop."
And that's just what she likes to be involved with.
"It gives me a chance to talk about my research and to get feed-back from those I most respectthe people who put it to use in the day-to-day."