Jose Fernandez Chairs - Outstanding in their fields
Dr. Michael K. O'Neill 2010 - present
Dr. Michael (Mick) K. O'Neill is based at New Mexico State University's Agricultural Science Center at Farmington. He is a professor, in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), with split appointment in the Departments of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Extension Plant Sciences.
Dr. O'Neill has spent the majority of his professional career overseas. He started in Africa with Peace Corps working in Ghana and Burkina Faso, returned to the US for graduate school at the University of Arizona, later returning for work in Africa (Mali, Niger, and Kenya). He has collaborated with consulting companies, the University of Missouri, and two international agricultural research institutes, ICRISAT and ICRAF. Upon receiving an appointment with NMSU ASC Farmington in 1999, Mick and his family returned to the US where he works closely with local producers of the Four Corners Region.
Mick's main research interests are the adaptation of hybrid poplar for agroforesty systems in the arid/semi-arid regions, for the production of woody biomass and the production of oilseed crops for biofuels. During a 6-month sabbatic in 2009, he collaborated with ICRAF's Water Management Unit on an Irrigation Master Plan for Rwanda. In 2010, Dr. O'Neill was awarded the Jose Fernandez Memorial Chair in Crop Production by NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Dr. Theodore Sammis 2006 - 2009
Ted Sammis has been a professor at NMSU for 32 years and has been the State Climatologist for the last 18 years. He created the New Mexico Climate Center where climate form 180 automated climate station is updated daily. He has conducted research in the areas of waste & wastewater handling, pecans water use and growth modeling, evapotranspiration, drip irrigation, hydrology, and plant Physiology. He has taught course on irrigation management, instrumentation, agricultural engineering, and environmental science, and in collaboration with John Mexal, assistant department head for Plant and Environmental Sciences, Sammis is using three low-cost, low-tech hoop houses to create opportunities for hands-on learning outside the classroom.
Dr. Joseph Corgan 1994 - 2006
Joe Corgan Valuable, versatile and humble. Those words describe horticulturist Joe Corgan and the onions his research revolved around for 30 years. Corgan's highly successful onion breeding program had modest beginnings. In 1976, after working with a variety of crops, he took on the challenge of developing varieties that could be planted earlier in the fall without bolting - producing seed stalks that reduce yields. Growers ate up the NuMex BR 1 variety he released just a few years later. "I was surprised at how quickly we were able to develop bolting resistance," Corgan says. "It takes twice as long to breed onions because they're a biennial crop." Next, he patiently incorporated resistance to pink root, a disease that stunts bulbs and causes major losses. Corgan's vision of a continuous onion harvest from May to September has come to life in the field. In June and July, New Mexico produces more than half the nation's fresh market onions. The industry's success is rooted in his work, which contributed to a doubling of onion acreage, 50 percent increase in yields per acre and growing respect for a $50 million crop. Many growers plant 20 to 30 different varieties, including some developed or tested at NMSU. They also have sweet onions and single centered bulbs for onion rings, thanks to Corgan's dedication. "Joe spent plenty of time in the onion fields at the horticulture farm," says grower Joe Nelson of Anthony. "If I wanted to visit with him, I usually knew where to find him." The two men took annual trips to look at onion variety trials in the Mesilla Valley. "I never finished a trip without learning something new and helpful about growing onions," Nelson says. Corgan played a pivotal role in organizing the Dry Onion Commission, the state's first commodity group to assess fees to support marketing and research. He also gained support as the first recipient of the Jose Fernandez Chair in Crop Production, established in a local grower's honor. In addition to funding his research, the onion commission gave $10,000 to endow a scholarship, now named for Corgan and his wife, Daisy. Though he's best known for onions, Corgan helped initiate a plant tissue culture program and a master's degree in horticulture. He coached NMSU's floral team, served as a faculty senator and was elected a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science. And he's still in the field after retirement, maintaining the genetic purity of NMSU's onion varieties and providing foundation seed for the New Mexico Crop Improvement Association.