Dr. Ajay Nair

Extension Vegetable Specialist
Ajay Nair

My lab focuses on developing strategies that enhance crop production, soil health, and cropping system profitability in vegetable cropping systems in Iowa. We work on a number of topics including cover crops, compost, biochar, and conservation tillage to build soil organic matter, enhance soil quality, and improve produce quality and yield. In addition the lab focuses on high tunnel crop production, cultivar trials, niche crops, and vegetable transplant production. My lab also engages growers and extension personnel through on-farm research and demonstration trials to enhance sustainability and profitability of our vegetable cropping systems.


Project Leader - Ajay Nair


  • Ph.D. Horticulture, Michigan State University - 2011
  • M.S. Horticultural Science, University of Maine - 2006
  • B.S. Agricultural Science, Kerala Agricultural - 2002.


  • Associate Chair, Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University. July 2019 - current
  • Associate Professor and Extension Vegetable Specialist, Department of Horticulture. 60% Extension / 20% Teaching / 15% Research / 5% Service. 2017 - current.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Horticulture. 60% Extension / 20% Teaching / 20% Research. 2011 - 2017.
  • Graduate Research Assistant, Michigan State University. 2006 - 2011
  • Graduate Research Assistant, University of Maine. 2004 - 2006


  • 2021 American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Extension Division Award (outreach video)
  • 2019 ASHS Extension Division Award (outreach video)
  • 2018 ASHS Extension Division Award (website)
  • 2017 ASHS Extension Division Award (extension publication)
  • 2017 ASHS Extension Division Award (extension publication; with Kathleen Delate), 2017
  • 2016 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Team Award (Adams, Cochran, DeBlieck, Haynes, Iles, Jauron, Nair, Nonnecke, Orgler, Schrock, VanDerZanden)
  • 2015 Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice Award, Iowa State University
  • 2015 Early Achievement in Extension & Outreach Award, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences 2015.

Current graduate students:

  • Anne Carey (MS)
  • Taylor Mauch (MS)
  • Rachel Perry (MS)
  • Erin Huckins (MS; Co-advised with Jan Thompson)

Former graduate students:

  • Moriah Bilenky (PhD, Summer 2021), Postdoctorate Fellow, Penn State University.
  • Kristine Lang (PhD, Spring 2019), Assistant Professor, South Dakota State University.
  • John Krzton-Presson (MS, Spring 2017), Ag Diversification and Market Development Bureau, Iowa Dept of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
  • Raymond Kruse (MS, Spring 2016), Agricultural Specialist III, Iowa State University.
  • Dana Jokela (MS, Spring 2016), Owner and operator, Sogn Valley Farm, Cannon Falls, MN (http://sognvalleyfarm.com)
  • Jennifer Tillman (MS, Spring 2015), Organic Certification Specialist, Washington State Department of Agriculture.
  • Brandon Carpenter (MS, Summer 2015), Agricultural Specialist III, Iowa State University.
Area of Expertise: 
Sustainable Vegetable Production
PhD, Michigan State University, 2011
M.S., University of Maine, 2006
B.S., Kerala Agricultural University, India, 2002