At A Glance

Agricultural research and technological advances can mean the difference between success and failure for farms, both new and established. Kendall Kirk’s research aids farmers by building tools to assist them in working smarter, not harder. This increased efficiency results in greater profitability for farmers with reduced environmental impacts, and higher productivity feeds a growing population and helps address world hunger. Kirk’s work in precision agriculture seeks to develop methods and technologies to increase farm efficiency and productivity utilizing a host of technology, including analytical software, remote sensing, software development, yield and harvest applications and more.


Kendall Kirk’s research informs more efficient farming practices for South Carolina’s farmers. Greater profitability for the farmer plus reduced environmental impacts creates higher farming productivity. This is good for farmers. But it’s also good for consumers: Today, because higher productivity equates to lower food costs and greater quality of life; tomorrow because it could be a solution to world hunger. Through a focus on precision agriculture, Kirk seeks to develop the methods and technologies that represent the future of farming worldwide.

Kirk is a three-time Clemson graduate in biosysteems enginneering, and he has worked for Clemson since January 2005, where he started out teaching. As an Eagle Scout Award winner, he arrived at the University as an undergrad and stayed through his Ph.D. and beyond because he discovered a passion in his field.

Today, Kirk’s research focuses on precision agriculture, and that work has been informed by his teaching background. Precision agriculture allows him to address crop needs in a similar way to how a teacher addresses a student’s needs. “Students in any given class have many different backgrounds and different learning styles, and this is the same for plants,” Kirk says. “Plants in a given field grow in different soil types, lending to different needs and growing conditions. Maximizing an individual’s learning achievement will require customizing delivery of teaching to that individual.”

Likewise, the site-specific soil in which a plant grows defines its yield potential for a given crop year. Maximizing this yield potential requires that researchers and farmers to customize cultivation methods. And that is what lies at the heart of Kirk’s work today.

The field data Kirk and his team collect, in partnership with South Carolina farmers, helps provide answers to everything from what sprinkler works the best for the soil to the optimal speed of harvesting and the distribution of water in the field. Things like, “This is how long your sprinkler package should last and here’s the flow rate of your groundwater,” helps farmers work smarter not harder today. By working with farmers to build a storehouse of agricultural data, they are laying the groundwork that will provide answers to the farmers of tomorrow.

Kirk serves as a precision agriculture engineer at Clemson’s Edisto Research and Education Center, where he is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences.

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I believe that there are some individuals who portray large, conventional ag producers in a negative light, suggesting that they waste water, over-fertilize, and overuse chemicals. On the contrary, farmers are among humanity’s greatest stewards of the land and its resources. When a farmer irrigates or applies fertilizer, it costs him money to do so. Over-applied irrigation, nutrients, and chemicals are wasted, and therefore sought to be avoided, since they will reduce the farmer’s bottom line. Even in the absence of precision agriculture, farmers seek to optimize all inputs (nutrient, irrigation, and chemicals) so that profits can be maximized. Precision agriculture practices help farmers to further optimize input use by helping them to apply inputs variably, with respect to space, amount, and time.

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    • Peanut digger efficiency and design improvements
    • Development of yield-monitoring technologies: hay and peanut
    • Software development for irrigation system efficiency assessment
    • Software development for zone management and variable rate fertilizer application
    • Research plot weighing/sampling systems
    • Sensors/controls

    Degrees, Institutions

    • Ph.D. in biosystems engineering with natural resources and agricultural engineering , Clemson University
    • M.S. in biosystems engineering with natural resources and agricultural engineering , Clemson University
    • B.S. in biosystems engineering with natural resources and agricultural engineering , Clemson University