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North Dakota student's soil research gets rare national accolades

A typical combine ride spurred Emma Kratcha's agricultural based research.

Emma Kratcha wears an orange shirt and stands in front of the Hankinson Public School sign on a snowy day.
Emma Kratcha is a senior at Hankinson Public Schools. Photo taken Jan. 18, 2022, in Hankinson, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek
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HANKINSON, N.D. — As Emma Kratcha rode along with her father while he combined a soybean field, she found inspiration in the patches of ground that simply were not growing and yielding as well as the rest of the field.

That inspiration helped Kratcha become a Regeneron scholar, an accolade that only 300 students in the nation were awarded this year.

“A couple of years ago I was riding with my dad in this field that just doesn’t produce soybeans as well,” Kratcha said. “It got me thinking, I had done some research with soil microorganisms in the past. So I thought, ‘What if you could turn it into a plot for microorganisms to develop and harvest those microorganisms off?’ So you’re still getting the benefit from that piece of land, as opposed to some years when it’s unprofitable.”

Kratcha has grown up immersed in the agriculture industry, her family farming a variety of row crops. Using her knowledge and research, she put together the presentation that would be honored, titled, "Soil Farms: A New Approach to Cropland Restoration."

Kratcha said her father had thought about enrolling the field into the Conservation Reserve Program. The time commitment that decision would involve was a driving force behind her research.


In her research, Kratcha tested how prairie soil impacts the microbiological health in a variety of soils, such as sandy, silty soil and a clay type soil.

Kratcha’s father was excited with his daughter’s research and her diligence to the problem she saw on the farm. Kratcha was excited with her findings, but receiving the news that she was an official Regeneron scholar was icing on the cake.

“I was absolutely shocked and super excited,” she said. “I’m so proud, I didn’t think I would get this far. I am just so grateful. It’s super awesome.”

Her research was ag-based.
Emma Kratcha's agricultural research was what led her to become a Regeneron scholar.
Contributed / Emma Kratcha

The Society for Science puts on the Regeneron Science Talent Search, which it calls the nation's oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.

"The Regeneron Science Talent Search provides students a national stage to present original research and celebrates the hard work and novel discoveries of young scientists who are bringing a fresh perspective to significant global challenges," the Society for Science website says .

The 300 winners this year were selected out of 1,805 applications from 603 high schools across 46 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and eight other countries. The scholars and their schools will be awarded $2,000 each.

While Kratcha dedicates a good amount of time to scientific research, she is also involved in a plethora of activities and clubs within Hankinson Public Schools. She participates on the drama team, student council, science fair program, speech, music and other activities. Kratcha is a senior and will graduate this spring, with the intention of studying environmental science and continuing her research.

Kratcha was not the only one of the 300 winners with ag-based projects. Other crop and farming projects came from other regions in the country.


“Agricultural research just like mine being recognized by Regeneron Science Search is a huge step for agricultural research being more focused on. Agriculture is where our food comes from and there is a lot of science that goes into it,” Kratcha said.

Kratcha is thankful for all the help she had along the way with her research and of course is thankful for that one combine ride that planted the seed for her research.

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