Nebraska teen hopes to take ag research to International Science Fair |

Nebraska teen hopes to take ag research to International Science Fair

Gina Welsh
Franklin, Neb.
Courtesy of Kearney Hub
Matt Gerdes

After getting a taste of the International Science Fair last year; Matt Gerdes, age 15, of Franklin, Neb., has one goal in mind, and that is to go to Los Angeles this year.

He is ready to go to Los Angeles for his second International Science Fair this spring.

Gerdes now a sophomore, has been participating in the science fair since he was in seventh grade.

His first project was studying whether radiation from cell phones would affect the off spring of fruit flies. “It mutates the offspring. It causes all different mutations; one less leg or a smaller wing,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes is employed by Valley View Farms near Bloomington, where he found the subject for his science fair project for the last three years: soybeans.

“I worked with soybeans all the time and didn’t know that they helped the farmers with their other crops, and Mr. Lienemann influenced me to look into it and gave me a lot of information on the soybean,” Gerdes said, referring to Franklin High science teacher Randy Lienemann.

Gerdes’ project for his eighth and ninth grades tested whether soybean yields affected the amount of nitrogen the plant returned to the soil.

“My boss, Doug (Kahrs), helped me get the soil samples. He also told me a lot of information on how the beans mature,” Gerdes said. “Then I went up to Ward Laboratories (in Kearney) and tested all the samples myself, with the help of one of the lab techs.

“The yield did affect it. It boosted it by 20 pounds per acre or so. There was a field in particular that the nitrogen jumped by 30 pounds per acre,” Gerdes said.

Gerdes said his science fair projects take a lot of time and work.

“I have been working on this year’s project all summer. I took ground probes all summer from germination up to two weeks after the beans were harvested.”

This year’s project is testing if one stage of soybean maturity puts more nitrogen back into the soil than the other stages.

Gerdes sent in five different stages of the bean, he has gotten the results back and has now started creating the graph to determine at what stage the nitrogen starts going into the field.

Gerdes said the next experiment he would like to do would be testing the effects of baling soybean stubble, which takes the soybean debris off of the field.

“He is interested in farming and he works hard at it (science fair),” Lienemann said.

Gerdes won first place in his division and second place overall at the Central Nebraska Science Fair in Franklin last school year.

“It is one of the two fairs to be held in Nebraska to qualify the kids for the International, which is going to be held in L.A.,” Lienemann said. Last year’s international fair was in San Jose, Calif.

Gerdes also participated in the International Sustainable World Project Olympiad in Houston in May, where he received a bronze medal and also the Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Award presented by Crocker & Reynolds Construction LP.

“I’ve also had the experience of meeting a lot of new people from different countries from going to the International Science Fair,” Gerdes said.

Because going on these trips is costly, Gerdes was sponsored by the Central Nebraska Science Fair, Franklin Public Schools and the Franklin Public Schools Science Club.

Looking to the future, Gerdes said he is undecided whether he wants to go into agronomy or animal management.

“While I was at San Jose, I was asked to come tour SDSU (South Dakota State University) in the agronomy department, so we’ll see,” he said.

Gerdes also is active in FFA, basketball and track. He is the son of Brian and Kerrie Gerdes of Franklin, Neb.

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