Marcus M. Alley of Blacksburg, Va., and David R. Notter of Blacksburg, Va., received Andy Swiger Land-Grant Awards for their contributions to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.
Established to reward creative achievement and commitment to the college, the award recognizes faculty members whose accomplishments in teaching, research, or Extension greatly benefit the agriculture industry and improve the quality of life for Virginians.
Alley, the W.G. Wysor Professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, has been at Virginia Tech for most of his career, earning a master’s degree in 1971 and doctorate in 1975 after completing his bachelor’s degree at Berea College in 1969. His graduate research on the role of micronutrients in plant nutrition led to a soil test for zinc still used at the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Lab. After a brief stint in the private sector, Alley returned to Virginia Tech’s Department of Agronomy, now known as the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, in 1977.
Since then, Alley has been responsible for a number of significant research accomplishments that have enhanced production and profit for agricultural producers, especially in Virginia and its neighboring states. Alley has supported his research program with more than $3 million in grant funding, and his career accomplishments include 61 refereed journal articles, four book chapters, 28 peer-reviewed Extension publications, 77 published abstracts, and more than 200 presentations at scientific and professional meetings.
“Mark Alley’s research and Extension work have done more to improve the profitability of small grain and corn production in eastern Virginia than anyone I can think of,” said Keith Balderson, unit coordinator and agriculture and natural resources agent at Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Essex County Office. “Mark is the best soil fertility agronomist I know.”
Notter, professor of animal and poultry sciences, has had a significant impact on American and global animal production systems because of his willingness to engage the livestock industry and his ability to interpret and apply basic research to problems in livestock production. Since joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1977, he has focused his research and outreach activities on sheep, beef cattle, meat goats, and alpaca. Notter’s impact on the sheep industry has been particularly significant, and he is considered by many to be the best quantitative geneticist working with sheep in the United States.
Notter has spent much of his time mentoring graduate students. In 2007, he was chosen to present a keynote lecture, “Choosing a Graduate Program,” for the graduate student program at the joint annual meeting of the American Dairy Science Association, the Poultry Association, the Asociatión Mexicana de Producción Animal, and the American Society of Animal Science.
A native of southern Ohio, Notter received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1972 and a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Nebraska in 1974 and 1977, respectively. Andy Swiger, the award’s namesake, was Notter’s advisor during his time at Ohio State.
Generous contributions to the Andy Swiger Land-Grant Award Endowment make the annual recognition possible. “With others in the industry and university, we created these awards to keep the land-grant spirit alive by honoring the college’s outstanding faculty and staff member each year who most personify this spirit by serving the industry through making a real difference in the areas of food, agriculture, and biological sciences,” said Dean Emeritus Swiger.
In addition to recognizing college personnel each year, the endowment honors Swiger’s leadership and service in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Swiger, who began his Virginia Tech career in 1980 as head of the Department of Animal Science, was associate dean from 1986 to 1992 and dean from 1992 to 2003.
Written by Ashley Estes of Chesterfield, Va., a 2010 graduate who majored in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.