Prof. Dr. Walter J. Horst
Grant of the Hugo Neubauer award to Prof. Dr. Walter Horst by the Association of German Agricultural Analytic and Research Institutes (VDLUFA) on 17th September 2013, Berlin.
For exceptional and outstanding scientific achievements the VDLUFA grants the 1952 donated Hugo Neubauer award. Previous recipients have been the agronomist Mitscherlich, Kick, Kirchgeßner, Schachtschabel, Nehring, Scheffer, Wöhlbier and Wehrmann. Hugo Neubauer, he lived from 1868 until 1945, after studying chemistry worked at various agricultural experiment stations. From 1905-1924 he was Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station Bonn and then until 1934 Director of the Agricultural Research Institute Dresden. He first dealt with issues of the assessment of animal feedstuff. Intrinsically tied to his name is the development of the seedling method by which the plant availability of soil phosphorus and potassium was assessed. In 1936 this method has been recognized as a VDLUFA method which became one of the most common soil-testing methods in Germany for many years.
I myself have heard about the seedlings method for the first time during my laboratory practical course for Plant Nutrition at the University of Hohenheim in the winter semester 1981/82. Responsible for the practical course was Professor Walter Horst.
Professor Horst was born in Datteln in Westphalia (Germany). After high school and military service he studied Agricultural Sciences at the Technical University Berlin where he received his doctorate in 1976 with a thesis on “The influence of silicon on the manganese tolerance of bush beans” under his doctor father Professor Marschner. Subsequently, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow for two years at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria. As far as I can judge, the experience gained there under living conditions which were much more difficult in in comparison to here, has marked Mr. Horst’s further academic career and has been a driving force for many research projects he has carried out.
In 1978 he returned to Germany to the Institute of Plant Nutrition, University of Hohenheim, where his doctor father Professor Marschner had been appointed to a professorship in the meantime.
There, Mr. Horst habilitated in 1980 with a thesis on "Genotypic differences in aluminum and manganese tolerance in cowpea and soybean". This was followed by an appointment to the C3 professorship for Plant Nutrition at the University of Hohenheim, which he held from 1981 to 1987. From 1987 to 2011, Mr. Horst finally took over the Chair of Plant Nutrition at the Leibniz University Hannover as successor of Prof. Wehrmann.
During this period, Mr. Horst has significantly influenced the Plant Nutrition in Germany and promoted its international orientation. He worked on a wide range of research topics which may be characterized by the term “Increasing nutrient efficiency and resistance against toxic mineral elements”. As wide as the selection of topics were also the methodological approaches which ranged from field trials to techniques of molecular biology.
His main research area to which he remained true since his time as a graduate student, was the damage to plants by aluminium and manganese in acid soils. He has studied the importance of other minerals for manganese and aluminum tolerance, as well as the impact of plant characteristics and mechanisms to adapt to manganese and aluminum stress. Understanding these mechanisms is the basis for the screening of genotypes with high toxic mineral element tolerance or resistance. Some examples of major findings from his work in this area are: the impact of silicon on manganese tolerance, the importance of mucilage for aluminum resistance, extent of formation of callose in aluminum stress, or the release of organic anions under aluminum stress and the role of the root and leaf apoplast, respectively, for the damage of plants by aluminum or manganese.
Other important and extensive research areas by Mr. Horst have been studies aiming at understanding and influencing the phosphate efficiency and nitrogen efficiency of plants. They ranged from studies on the nutrient uptake to the development of models for nutrient utilization by plants. The practical implications of this work were both the objective to increase yields under Low Input Conditions and to minimize adverse environmental effects under High Input Conditions. In his research in recent years Mr. Horst also approached issues on the relationship between Plant Nutrition and drought stress and Plant Nutrition and plant health.
Characteristic of the research approach of Mr. Horst is the attempt to relate the results of the predominantly basic research to practical applications. Examples include the development of strategies for improving the external quality of hydrangeas at high aluminum supply or the cooperation with research institutions in the tropics and subtropics with the aim to improve crop productivity under the prevailing unfavorable site conditions. Thus the results of many years of research on nitrogen efficiency of maize and rapeseed under Northern European conditions were integrated into projects with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. With his research approach Mr. Horst is probably one of the last Plant Nutrition scientists meeting the claim of covering the whole breadth of this scientific discipline.
In this laudation it is necessary to mention that Mr. Horst was not only an outstanding Plant Nutrition scientist but also an outstanding University Teacher. He has trained numerous graduate students; many of them were from developing countries. He exemplified untiring commitment to his work and unbiased scientific judgment to them and their German colleges; the same he has demanded from them.
Mr. Horst has hold numerous national and international honorary positions whose enumeration is beyond the scope of this laudation. I just want to mention the presidency of the "German Society for Plant Nutrition" from 1993 to 1997 and the presidency of the "International Plant Nutrition Council" from 1997 - 2001. In this role, he hosted the prestigious "International Plant Nutrition Colloquium" at the Leibniz University of Hannover in 2001. He is a member of the Advisory Council for Fertilization Issues of the BMELV since 2003 and it’s Chairman since 2008. Under his aegis, numerous statements for efficient, environmentally friendly and resource-efficient use of fertilizers have been developed, most recently a joint statement of the Scientific Advisory Councils for Agricultural Policy and for Fertilization issues of the BMELV and the German Advisory Council on Environmental Issues of the Federal Government to amend the fertilizer ordinance.
In the VDLUFA Mr. Horst has been a member since 1982. In the early 1980s, when Prof. Marschner was vice president of the VDLUFA, he intensively participated in the discussions about the definition of target available soil nutrient contents in content class C and the then necessary replacement or maintenance fertilization. A P fertilization long-term field experiment established by him at that time unfortunately had to be sacrificed because the field was transformed to construction land. In my time as a researcher at Hohenheim and Hannover, he has supported engagement in the VDLUFA. We attended a range of VDLUFA Congresses together, such as in Oldenburg, Ulm and Göttingen. Unforgotten for me is the Congress in 1994 in Jena, a hotel far out of town, and an adventurous drive home on farm tracks of Thüringen on Friday night. After my departure from Hannover I have experienced in various meetings and committees that you left no doubt on your appreciation of the work of the VDLUFA.
Dear Mr. Horst, in recognition of your exceptional and outstanding achievements in the scientific field the steering committee of the VDLUFA has unanimously decided to honor you with the Hugo-Neubauer-Award. I cordially congratulate you.
I wish you and your wife for the future all the best, especially health. I am convinced that you will maintain your academic interest beyond the "real" retirement and hope we stay in touch.
Berlin, September 2013
Prof. Dr. Franz Wiesler
(President of the VDLUFA)