Introducing New Crops Specialist Justin McMechan
Justin McMechan started work August 16 as the new crop protection and cropping systems specialist for eastern Nebraska. As part of the UNL Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center, his primary office is at the Agricultural Research and Development Center near Ithaca and his campus office is in 105B Entomology. As an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, McMechan has a split appointment between research (50%) and extension (50%).
Education and Training
McMechan grew up on a mixed cattle and grain farm in southwestern Manitoba, Canada. A farmer at heart, his parents encouraged him to obtain some post-secondary education before returning to the family farm. This led McMechan to do a two-year agricultural business degree from Assiniboine Community College. It was through this experience that he gained an appreciation for the value of education in agricultural systems. With questions still lingering, McMechan went on to the University of Minnesota Crookston where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in agriculture sciences and crop production in 2009. During this time, McMechan worked as a summer intern in the Plant Pathology and Entomology Departments where he was exposed to the value and opportunities in research and extension. In 2009, McMechan joined the Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska graduating with his M.S. degree in 2012. McMechan recently completed dual doctoral degrees in the Doctor of Plant Health Program and in Entomology, graduating in May and August of 2016.
As a graduate student, McMechan’s research has spanned various disciplines including plant pathology, entomology, weed science, and plant physiology. As a master’s student, his research focused on the transmission of Triticum mosaic virus, the impact of the virus on the wheat curl mite, and an evaluation of management combinations for the wheat-mite-virus complex. As a doctoral student, he evaluated the window of time for pre-harvest germination of volunteer wheat, the risk of alternative hosts for the wheat-mite-virus complex, and the impact of rainfall on mite populations under field conditions. His Doctor of Plant Health research focused on early season hail damage and disease interactions in corn and primary ear loss in corn.
McMechan has authored or co-authored nine peer-reviewed journal articles and several extension publications and scientific presentations. He was awarded the Entomological Society of America 2016 John Henry Comstock Award for outstanding graduate student. In addition, he received the outstanding poster award from the Agronomy Society of America in 2015 as well as nine President’s prize awards for posters and presentations during his graduate programs. McMechan has served as the president of the Entomology Department’s Lawrence Bruner Club and has been actively involved in several extension activities and programs.
Research and Extension Goals
McMechan’s research plans include evaluating the risk and beneficial potential of insects in cover crops on corn and soybeans. These fundamental questions will help mitigate risk and determine the added value of this growing area of interest. In addition, his research will focus on the evaluation and management of early and late season hail damage in corn and soybeans through the use of simulated hail machine. By replicating real world conditions, he hopes to provide recommendations and evaluation strategies that reflect and incorporate the complexity of the field environment.
McMechan has a strong passion for extension and encourages his clientele to contact him by phone, stop by his office, or talk with him at field days and field visits. He has a strong belief that collaboration and exchange of information with consultants and producers is critical to fostering a dialogue to determine, address, or develop solutions for key issues in the area.