Indiana scientist named 2012 Star in Agriscience finalist by National FFA Organization

INDIANAPOLIS (September, 2012/National FFA Organization) - The FFA motto is a simple set of instructions for FFA members – Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve – and one that Kayliegh Warner took to heart when her community faced questions about the safety of a compost ingredient. For her efforts, Warner is one of four FFA members selected as national finalists for the National FFA Organization’s American Star in Agriscience award.

The American Star in Agriscience is one of the four awards that represent the highest honor FFA can bestow upon its members. Warner, from the DeKalb Central FFA Chapter in Waterloo, Ind., will join the other three finalists during the final day of October’s 85th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis in hopes of being named the organization’s top member in the area of agriscience.

But before that moment, Warner will detail her projects and accomplishments to a panel of judges representing many areas of agriculture. Her story is sure to impress.

Warner didn’t grow up in a traditional production agriculture sense like her parents did. Still, she saw the opportunities in agricultural education and joined as a seventh grader – soon winning a district speaking contest and placing second in a state agriscience competition. Her first supervised agricultural experience – a requirement for all FFA members – involved working on her grandfather’s farm in a variety of ways that included management of fence lines, ditch banks and a stand of walnut trees. Warner soon began collecting unused harvested wood and providing it to elderly neighbors as a way to heat their homes. Her second SAE, in the field of biotechnology and field research, paved her way to becoming a Star finalist.

Warner pursued a key question concerning her local community after her father’s suggestion. The local board of health had received complaints that foundry sand – a by-product of metal casting – used as a compost additive was carcinogenic and dangerous to the community’s health. Warner sought the truth and teamed with Trine University and the foundry, Metal Technologies, Inc., in her pursuit. The foundry sand was tied with moderately clayey soil during a three-year test to understand its safety, its benefits and its feasibility as a compost additive. By the end of year three, Warner’s project showed that a 15-20 percent mix of foundry sand with soil produced an eight percent increase in crop yield of sunflowers, soybeans and tomatoes. Perhaps most importantly, a chemical analysis showed no contaminates present in the crops. The result meant the foundry sand could be re-used as a compost additive – something Warner even obtained permits for to be marketed as a mulch additive. Ten percent of the foundry’s sand output now goes into mulch mixture instead of a landfill.

Warner attends Purdue University with a major in pre-pharmacy and a minor in food science. Her chapter advisors are Matt Dice and Khara Kimmel.

The American Star Awards represent the best of the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients. Finalists for the awards have mastered skills in production, finance, management and/or research in one of four areas: Star Farmer, Star in Agribusiness, Star in Agricultural Placement and Star in Agriscience. Each state FFA association recommends a finalist in each area, and the National FFA Organization selects the four national finalists in each area. The 16 total finalists receive a $2,000 award for their efforts in the national program.

The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc.; Case IH; Elanco; Farm Credit; Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business; and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.