Corn Background

Our Team

David Bullock
Principal Investigator, David Bullock

Phone: (217) 333-5510

Dr. Bullock leads the Data-Intensive Farm Management (DIFM) research team that generates and analyzes "Big" agronomic data to improve the way the world fertilizes crops. DIFM works with participating farmers, using GPS-reliant precision agriculture technology to conduct large-scale agronomic field trials on farmers' own fields, to generate yield, input management, and field characteristics data in quantities and of quality only recently imaginable. DIFM's research also looks at the effects of fertilizer management practices on water quality, with the aim of discovering efficient means of reducing the loss of nitrogen fertilizer into the Mississippi River basin.

Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1989
M.A., University of Chicago, 1985

Academic Positions:


Link to CV:

Carli J. Jones (Miller)
Project Coordinator, Carli J. Jones (Miller)

Phone: (217) 300-9335

Carli joined the DIFM team in November 2018. Coming from a strong agricultural background, she is the fifth generation of her family farm in West Central Illinois- primarily raising corn, soybeans, and beef cattle.

B.S., University of Illinois, 2017

Bob Dunker
Field Trial Supervisor, Bob Dunker

Phone: (217) 369-3012

Robert Dunker is an Agronomist and Field Trials Coordinator for the Data Intensive Farm Management Program.  He has over 40 years of experience conducting large and small plot research on cropping systems for the Departments of Agronomy and Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. 

 His activities have included management oversight of the Morrow plots, which is the oldest continuous experimental plots in the US and second only to the Rothamsted Plots in England.  He was the Superintendent of the Crop Sciences Research and Education Center on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. He has been a Certified Professional Agronomist and Certified Crop Advisor consulting on numerous soil and crop issues.

Jessica Bruner
Assistant Project Coordinator, Jessica Bruner


Phone: 217-663-5718

Jessica joined DIFM in August of 2023. 

Education: B.S., Business Management, University of Findlay, 2020

Susan VanderPlas
Team Member, Susan VanderPlas


Susan Vanderplas is an assistant professor in the Statistics Department at University of Nebraska, Lincoln, researching the perception of statistical charts and graphs, and applying computer vision and machine learning techniques to image data. She also works with the Center for Statistical Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) at Iowa State University, developing statistical methods for examination of bullets, cartridges, and footwear.

2015  • Ph.D., Statistics, Iowa State University
2011  • MS, Statistics, Iowa State University
2009 • BS, Psychology & Applied Mathematical Sciences, Texas A&M University

Professional Experience
2020 Assistant Professor, Statistics, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
2018 - 2019 Research Assistant Professor, Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence, Iowa
State University
2015 - 2018 Statistical Analyst, Nebraska Public Power District
2015 • Postdoc, Office of the Vice President for Research, Iowa State University

Link to CV:

John Sheppard
Team Member, John Sheppard


Dr. John Sheppard is a Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Montana State University and previously was the RightNow Technologies Distinguished Professor in Computer Science at MSU. Recently, he was named Interim Director of MSU's Center for Science, Technology, Etchics, and Society (C-STES). He holds a BS in computer science from Southern Methodist University and an MS and PhD in computer science from Johns Hopkins University. In 2007, he was elected as an IEEE Fellow "for contributions to system-level diagnosis and prognosis." Prior to entering academia, he was a Fellow at ARINC Incorporated, a defense aerospace company in Annapolis, MD where he worked for almost 20 years. Dr. Sheppard performs research in probabilistic graphical models, deep learning, evolutionary and swarm-based algorithms, distributed optimization, and applications to system-level test, diagnosis, and predictive health. Recently, his research has expanded into the areas of prostate cancer diagnosis, precision agriculture, and wildfire management. He has published over 200 papers in peer-reviewed conference proceedings and journals as well as two books on the subject of system-level diagnosis. In addition, Dr. Sheppard is active in IEEE Standards activities where, currently, he serves as the chair of the IEEE P2848 Prognostics and Health Management for Automatic Test Systems standards development working group under SCC20. He is also a member of the IEEE P2976 eXplainable AI standards working group.


  • BS, Computer Science (magna cum laude), Southern Methodist University, 1983
  • MS, Computer Science, The Johns Hopkins University, 1990
  • PhD, Computer Science, The Johns Hopkins University, 1997

Link to CV:



Taro Mieno
Team Member, Taro Mieno

Assistant Professor University of Nebraska Lincoln 

Research Interests

Precision agriculture, water resource management

Selected Recent Publications

Mieno, T. & Brozović, N. “Price Elasticity of Groundwater Demand: Attenuation and Amplification Bias due to Incomplete Information” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, In Press.

Mieno, T., & Shoji, Y., Aikoh, T., Arnberger, A., & Eder, R. 2016. “Heterogeneous preferences for social trail use in the urban forest: A latent class model.” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 19(1), 20-28.



Haiying Tao
Team Member, Haiying Tao



Assistant Professor of Soil Nutrient Management and Soil Health

Professional Credentials

  • University of Connecticut Soil Science PhD, 2007
  • China Agricultural University Agronomy MS, 2002
  • China Agricultural University Crop Physiology BS, 1998
  • China Agricultural University Agricultural Economics BS, 1998

Areas of Interest

  • Soil fertility
  • Soil health
  • Nutrient and carbon cycling in soil-plant-atmosphere system
  • Best management practices for fertilizer and amendment applications to optimize yield and economic return, while minimizing environmental impacts.
  • Precision agriculture, big data
  • Crop residue management and manure management for soil health, crop yield, and value-added products such as feedstock for energy production

Research Projects/Interests

The goal of my research programs is to study soil management strategies that lead to improved soil fertility and soil health, soil and water conservation, crop yield and quality, and economic returns. My current research focuses on three major areas: (1) soil fertility and digital agriculture, (2) soil health and crop residue management, and (3) nutrient management for dairy farms. My current active projects include optimizing fertilizer applications for improved yield, increased economic returns to investment, and reduced climate footprint; developing strategies for variable rate nutrient applications; soil test phosphorus methods and phosphorus index evaluations; soil health evaluations and management strategies to improve soil and plant health. I am also interested in studying fertility management strategies for horticultural and ornamental crops.  teaches Soil Fertility, Environmental Soil Science, and Design and Analysis of Agricultural Experiments.

Scott Wahl
IT Director, Scott Wahl



Dr. Scott Wahl is the IT Directory for the Data Intensive Farm Management program, developing the cloud infrastructure and
programming to help analyze farm data. He has a background in machine learning and network analysis, as well as many years of
experience working in full-stack development. Before working at DIFM, he worked many years at a non-profit to support campaign
finance transparency. Later he worked on technical language processing, and a procurement recommendation system.

Brittani Edge
Director of Cyber-Infrastructure Development and Application , Brittani Edge



Brittani uses on-farm crop trials to efficiently manage nitrogen and seeding rates for maize and soybean crops. Her research focuses on increasing accessibility to precision management and estimating how climate change will impact agricultural productivity. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, she was a Jonathan Baldwin Turner fellow at the University of Illinois and enjoys cooking, running, and reading in her free time.

Sarah Sellars
Team Member, Sarah Sellars



Dr. Sarah Sellars is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Sustainable Farm and Food Systems in the Ness School of Management and Economics at South Dakota State University. Her research interests include conservation practice adoption, farmer input rate decisions, farm management, precision agriculture, and agricultural ecosystems markets. Sarah holds a B.S. in Agricultural and Consumer Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her interest in agricultural economics began while growing up on a family grain and livestock farm outside of Winchester, IL.  

Link to Dr. Sellars CV

Logan Stechschulte
Assistant Field Trial Supervisor, Logan Stechschulte



Logan Stechschulte joined the DIFM team in April of 2024. He is a fourth generation farmer growing corn, soybean, and wheat on their family farm in Northwest Ohio.

 He will soon graduate from Rhodes state college with an associates degree in agriculture technology.