Emily Heaton sees herself as a bit of a throwback. The biomass crop specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach works with perennial grasses, developing energy crop portfolios and management strategies that look at the best way to use these new crops going forward.
“I work a lot with this new crop, Miscanthus. When people ask what I do, I like to tell them I’m a soybean agronomist from the 1930s,” Heaton said. “In 1930 soybean was just a crazy plant from Asia. Now I work with a different crazy plant from Asia. My job is to help farmers grow this new crop, find the pitfalls of the plant and discover the preferred practices for using it.”
How long have you worked for ISU Extension and Outreach?
Since August 2008.
What is the best part of your job?
Interaction in the field with Iowans. I genuinely love Iowans and working with them.
What drew you to Iowa State?
There is a better integration of science with practice here than in other places. I saw more science being put into practice here.
What are you working on right now?
I currently work with the University of Iowa’s Biomass Fuel Project. They commercialized a project based in part on my research and I run the agronomy experiment arm of the project. We are working to mix coal with Miscanthus to run their power plant. The goal is for their power plant to be coal free by 2025.
Name one fun thing about yourself that not many people know.
My first love is trees. I try to have as many of my meetings as possible outside on the trail in Brookside Park.
What do you do in your free time?
The usual. Hiking, playing outside, spending time with my family.
What is one thing you would like to accomplish in this position?
I’d like to see 10 percent of Iowa’s cropland planted in perennials. Go for the gold right? All of our research suggests that thoughtfully incorporating perennials into 10 percent of Iowa crop land solves almost all of our problems with agriculture in the state.
How do you create a #StrongIowa?
My driving question is, how can I make the world a better place? What I’m doing to help is bolstering the economic and environmental resiliency of our state through the strategic incorporation and use of perennials.