Bruno Basso: Changing the face of science

Researcher Q&A: Bruno Basso works to solve agricultural problems with precision tools

Bruno Basso, MSU ecosystem scientist

Michigan State University scientist Bruno Basso is an ecosystem scientist with a special research interest in agriculture.

“My main research focuses on improving agriculture sustainability through

the integration of biophysics and mathematics, climatology and ecology,” said Basso, an associate professor in the MSU Department of Geology and a MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “I am a person who talks to farmers, learns about the issues and uses science to solve the problems.”

Like other scientists, Basso realizes that the challenges of feeding more people as the world population grows — while not polluting the environment — are daunting.

“We have to reduce the environmental impact of fertilizers caused by nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions, and produce more crops per drop of water,” he explained.

The most important research tools he uses are an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, equipped with advanced sensors, and an ecosystem simulation model combined with GPS technology.

It’s a process Basso refers to as “precision agriculture.”

Passionate about wanting to help manage the land for sustainable production, Basso is focused on making new discoveries.

“Agriculture is not just farming,” he said. “It’s being able to produce food for the world but, at the same time, leaving the land for the next generation to use.”

 Question-and-answer profile

NAME: Bruno Basso

TITLE: Associate professor, Department of Geological Sciences and MSU W. K. Kellogg Biological Station


HOMETOWN: Naples, Italy. I lived in Rome before moving to Michigan. I currently live in East Lansing with my wife, Valentina, my daughter, Gloria (10), and my son, Roberto (5).

MUSES: My mentor, Joe T. Ritchie [the former Homer Nowlin Chair in the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and a pioneer in crop modeling], under whom I studied for my Ph.D. He has had the biggest influence on me both scientifically and personally. In addition, Valentina, my wife (I always tell her that I want to be like her); my dad, Francesco, who guided me in the first phase of my life. As for a philosophical character, my muse is Epicurus — like him, I always look for good things and enjoy life.

FAVORITE FOOD: Authentic Italian (pasta, risotto, original Neapolitan pizza, fresh mozzarella) and authentic Japanese sushi.

BEST MUSICAL GROUP: Radiohead, U2 and Almamegretta. I also like to listen to R&B (Marvin Gaye) and some rap music.

BOOK I’D RECOMMEND: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.

COOLEST GADGET: iPhone and my drone.

BEST INVENTIONS: Electricity, airplane, computer, Internet, Skype and wine.

WORST INVENTION: Perhaps some social networks, because they may paradoxically pull people apart. The new generation does not seem to be able to talk directly with each other.

ON MY BUCKET LIST: More than a bucket list, the thing I love to do the most — besides being with my family and doing research — is swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, especially near Capri, the Aeolian Islands and Taormina.

PERSON I’D MOST LIKE TO MEET (LIVING OR DEAD): A dinner with Leonardo da Vinci, truly a unique genius; and Pope Francis, such a great and humble leader.

BEST TRIP/VACATION: We love to travel to Australia and see our many friends there.

ON A SATURDAY AFTERNOON, YOU’LL LIKELY FIND ME: Swimming at the pool, wandering in a bookstore or playing with my children.

MAJOR RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGH OF THE NEXT DECADE: Win the biggest challenge that humanity faces: to be able to produce food for all and still leave behind usable land for the next generation. We are borrowing the land from our grandchildren.

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