Plant Sciences


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Student Profile: Justin Zahradka

Justin Zahradka will graduate in May with a B.S. in Crop and Weed Sciences and will enter the working world with a huge log of practical experience and good memories of many activities in the Department of Plant Sciences.

April 6, 2016

Justin Zahradka will graduate in May with a B.S. in Crop and Weed Sciences and will enter the working world with a huge log of practical experience. While a student at North Dakota State University, he participated in many student groups and National FFA, worked summers at Huso Crop Consulting in Lakota, ND, grew a cattle business from 20 to 173 steers at his home farmstead in Lawton, ND, and was selected to participate in United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service research projects on various cover crops used as cattle feed.

Zahradka chose to major in Crop and Weed Sciences because it fit well with his already established livestock and crop production operation. His favorite Department of Plant Sciences courses and instructors were Principles of Weed Science and Advanced Weed Science, taught by his major adviser Dr. Kirk Howatt and Principles of Forage Production, taught by Dr. Marisol Berti. He also especially enjoyed the Introduction to Soil Science class taught by Dr. Jay Goos, which led him to minor in soil science. Courses in the Department of Animal Sciences complimented his growing cattle business and his favorites were Growing/Finishing Cattle, taught by Dr. Marc Bauer, and Fundamentals of Meat Processing, taught by Mr. Spencer Wirt.

Howatt commented that "Justin has always been very involved in his education as well as his professional development and was active in several organizations, including the Agronomy Club.”  Zahradka says he is amazed at the opportunities he’s had participating in the Agronomy Club. He said, “I have been able to meet lifelong friends, travel, listen to guest speakers, and become aware of what is possible in the future of agriculture.” The team just won 3rd place in a meet at Kansas State University and will be competing in the National Competition in Crookston, MN in April. Howatt advises the Agronomy Club.

Zahradka also participated in Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources Ag Ambassadors, the Saddle and Sirloin Club, and Collegiate Farm Bureau. He currently serves as President of Ag Ambassadors, has served as a State FFA Officer and was named National FFA American Star in Agriscience in October 2015.

After graduation he plans to return to his hometown and work for Midwest Consulting in Park River, ND as a crop production consultant. He will continue to expand his farming operation producing wheat, canola and cover crops and continue background feeding cattle and add a custom grazing component to his operation.

He has been recognized as a Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives national honoree and his livestock production operation was used by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to promote livestock production in North Dakota. He also serves on the North Dakota Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Advisory Board and has presented his cover crop research at soil health, grazing and cover crop workshops all over North Dakota.

Last summer Zahradka was featured in the Producer Progress Report series, a regular feature of the Farm and Ranch Guide. He said the experience was very satisfying and appreciates the opportunity to share his cover crop research findings, which he hopes will help others improve their farming operations. “It is exciting that young farmers with innovative ideas can truly make a difference,” he said. The series was written by Dale Hildebrandt.

Zahradka’s advice to students entering NDSU and planning to study in the Department of Plant Sciences is, “Give everything a try; try lots of new activities and drop those you don’t like.”

He says he will miss the friendly instructors and students and the comradery of the down-to-earth people in the department. He enjoyed sharing common goals with friends in organizations and the challenge to learn to understand points of view different from his. He enjoyed being challenged and thinking on the “cutting edge” in the college environment. He says that the Department of Plant Sciences has a great atmosphere and created a sense of family that he will miss.

Author: Karen Hertsgaard, 701-231-5384,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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