MAY 16, 2007

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WOSC instructor named state's "Innovator of the Year"

Photo of Elizabeth Wallace accepting an award from Richard Rush.
Elizabeth Wallace accepts the "Innovator of the Year" award from Richard Rush, President and CEO of the State Chamber.

Western Oklahoma State College chemistry instructor Elizabeth Wallace recently was named "Innovator of the Year" by The Journal Record. Wallace, along with 30 innovators from several organizations throughout Oklahoma, were honored at a banquet on April 5 at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center.

In reviewing Innovator of the Year nominations, The Journal Record and its judges looked for unique people, products and services. Many organizations throughout Oklahoma were nominated, but only 30 were distinguished.

What made Wallace stand out was her extended work with Western’s agriculture program. Western has offered an associate degree in agriculture for decades but Wallace saw this as a way to expand the program and at the same time assist the local agricultural industry. Although Wallace teaches chemistry, in the past few years she has felt that Western’s students and faculty could benefit from participating in research with OSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center of Altus.

She submitted the school’s first internship partnership proposal to the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). The internship program was launched in 1999 following a project that established an alliance between the center and Western and began its association with OCAST.

Matching funding for the program came from grant-in-aid dollars from agricultural companies, and the research continues to benefit area cotton producers. Western’s internship program offers students a chance to gain research and development experience, apply principles learned in agriculture classes and explore these principles using high-tech biotechnology. The interns, working with mentors at OSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center and utilizing crop land from members of the Altus based Cotton Growers Coop, have worked on three ongoing projects. Through the years, the interns have presented their research at local, regional, and national conferences.

The first project evaluated the effects of in-furrow application of Temik insecticide on fruit retention of irrigated upland cotton. The results indicated Temik increased fruit retention, an estimated impact of $858,000 to cotton producers in southwest Oklahoma where agriculture is the largest single industry.

The second project evaluated the overall fruit retention from irrigated cotton plots receiving reduced applications of pre-plant nitrogen. The initial results indicate the amount of applied pre-plant nitrogen could be reduced by one-third, a potential savings of $600,000 for area growers.

This year's interns are Julian Lowell and Justin Chavez. They are investigating several factors that impact the quality of cotton, including the affects of mid-fruiting stress on fiber development of individual cotton bolls. The preliminary data indicates cotton producers must coordinate watering schedules so that water stress does not occur during the critical blooming stage. Failure to do so could cost producers 42 to 50 percent of their profits.

According to Wallace, Western Oklahoma State College was the only two-year college in the nation presenting research at the latest national cotton conference and received recognition on a state level for its active involvement in promoting undergraduate research and internship.

“Presentation at the national conference demonstrates Oklahoma’s contribution to the national cotton economy and emphasizes Oklahoma’s prominent research serving that industry,” Wallace said.

Contact: Alice Newman, WOSC, (580) 477-7931