Meet Nick Baert
Nick Baert joined the MU Drought Team in January 2018, specializing in plant stress biology with a focus on studying root systems at the genetic level. This year, he’s spent most of his time identifying specific gene mutations among different strains of corn and analyzing which mutations play a role in maintaining root growth, even in drought conditions.
Although he’s the newest member of the grant, he has a long history with plant science, starting with basic germination experiments in elementary school.
“I did vegetable gardening and plant science projects in 4-H since I was in elementary school, and in high school I was in FFA where I did soil judging and other plant related projects.” Baert said. “I’m not exactly sure what drew me to plants at such a young age. I just think it’s fascinating that a tiny seed can contain all the genetic information it needs to turn itself into a fully functional plant. I guess what’s held my interest after all this time is that there is still a lot of unknowns about how plants do what they do.”
By the time he was in college at Illinois State University, Baert had taken his hobby and moved in to a profession by working as a corn production research intern for a seed company and as a crop scout.
However, after graduating from college with a BS in crop and soil science, Baert shifted from agriculture to horticulture, working as a plant breeder assistant. Baert managed breeding programs for petunias, echinacea and scaevola.
After a year and a half working in plant breeding, Baert returned to field crops, which led him to the University of Missouri where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Plant Science with a focus on agronomic crops. The goal after graduation would be to work in field crop research.
“As an agronomist or crop manager, I would basically be helping farmers make decisions throughout the cropping season to help them be as productive as possible, determining things like what hybrids to plant, when to plant, and when to fertilize,” Baert said. “I think there’s a lot of room to continue improving crops and that’s why I want to make a career out of it. I think it would be so cool to have made a difference in crop productivity and adaptability.”