Two College of Agricultural Sciences faculty at Colorado State University have been named 2021 Nutrien Distinguished Scholars of Agricultural Sciences.
Thomas Borch from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and Dawn Thilmany from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics have been recognized for their excellence in teaching, research, and engagement, and for demonstrating a significant impact on their respective fields. Borch and Thilmany are the college’s second class of Nutrien Distinguished Scholars, an honorific title that includes one-time discretionary funding.
The announcement of the 2021 scholars marks the start of the second year of Nutrien’s transformational investment in the college. Last year, Nutrien, the world’s largest provider of crop inputs, made a 10-year, $1 million-a-year commitment to advancing the College of Agricultural Sciences’ mission. The gift supports the college’s mission to collaboratively identify critical needs and co-create knowledge to address key agricultural challenges.
“Outstanding faculty like Thomas and Dawn are crucial to accomplishing the college’s mission and to elevating CSU’s profile around the world,” said Jan Leach, associate dean for research. “We are proud to honor their ingenuity in addressing global challenges and their dedication to preparing the next generation of change makers and problem solvers.”
Established in 2020, the Nutrien Distinguished Scholars Program honors the work of rising mid-level faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and to support them in furthering their teaching and research. Francesca Cotrufo from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and Henry Thompson from the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture were the inaugural awardees.
“We are thankful for the trust and support that Nutrien has put in our faculty as they conduct research that has long-term impacts on society,” said James Pritchett, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Together, we are seeking a better future for agriculture.”
Thomas Borch, a professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, joined CSU in 2006. He holds joint positions in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Chemistry and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering. Borch actively collaborates with faculty members across six CSU colleges and multiple scientific disciplines and has established a world-renowned interdisciplinary research group funded by highly competitive national and international grants. He is internationally recognized as an authority on soil and water processes that affect the fate and transport of emerging contaminants, pesticides, nutrients, fertilizer, metals, and natural organic matter.
Since 1997, Dawn Thilmany has served as a professor of agribusiness and extension economist, and jointly serves as associate director for engaged research for the Office of Engagement and Extension and co-director of CSU’s Regional Economic Development Institute. She specializes in regional economic development related to local, organic and other value-added food market supply chains, as well as food market analysis and consumer behavior. Thilmany chaired the Colorado Food Systems Advisory Council and established and co-led the CSU Food Systems team through 2017. Extending previous work with the USDA on the Economics of Local and Regional Food systems, Thilmany is part of a team exploring how 16 unique supply chain organizations are innovating in the age of COVID. More broadly, as president of the Ag and Applied Economics Association, she has guided and been a part of a number of publications, policy briefs, Webinars and discussions related to how agribusiness, food, rural development and natural resource economic disruptions.
Francesca Cotrufo joined CSU in 2008, after earning the rank of full professor at the University of Naples, Italy, along with a reputation for advancing understanding of controls on litter decomposition. At CSU, she has led collaborative research to identify the mechanisms of formation and protection of soil organic matter across different terrestrial ecosystems. In recent years, Cotrufo has published a series of high-profile papers that collectively have articulated a new paradigm of how soil organic matter is formed and stabilized, called the “Microbial Efficiency-Matrix Stabilization” framework. She led an effort to incorporate this current mechanistic understanding into a new ecosystem model that enables quantitative predictions of management practices on soil carbon storage.
In 2003, Henry Thompson joined CSU and established the Cancer Prevention Laboratory in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. With a Ph.D. in nutrition, Thompson straddles disciplinary boundaries to achieve real impact. He has played a leadership role in defining the field of biomedical agriculture, a transdisciplinary program that fosters contemporary approaches to crop improvement for biomedically important traits and the recognition of agriculture as an essential instrument of public health. Thompson teaches four graduate level courses for an Online Graduate Certificate in Horticulture and Human Health and leads an internationally recognized translational research program whose impact in the fields of diet and physical activity on cancer prevention continues to grow.
Nutrien — a global company with offices not far from CSU in Loveland, Colorado — has been providing crop inputs and expert agronomic services for more than 50 years. The company has operations and investments in 14 countries and 20,000 employees, including more than 600 CSU alumni. Nutrien’s gift – the largest in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ history – will impact the college in numerous areas to elevate CSU as a leader in developing a diverse, highly skilled agricultural workforce and boosting Nutrien’s ability to deliver industry-leading products. In its first year, the gift has supported the Nutrien Distinguished Scholars program, student scholarships, undergraduate research fellowships, events like Nutrien Ag Day and the college’s inaugural Inclusive Excellence Day, and a 41,000-square-foot expansion of the renamed Nutrien Agricultural Sciences Building to house impactful programs and people supported by the gift.