Dr. Leonard Ensminger, professor and department head emeritus of Auburn University’s Department of Agronomy and Soils, came to Alabama in 1944 as a young scientist who already had established a national reputation for his research on soil fertility issues. For the next 34 years, he expanded that academic reputation while also serving Auburn and Alabama’s agricultural communities.
Ensminger, a native of Stover, Missouri, grew up on a farm where he helped with the daily chores and was active in 4-H. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and the Ph.D. from the University of Illinois with a major in soils and a minor in chemistry. Before coming to Auburn, he served as an assistant professor at the University of Idaho and a soil chemist at the University of Florida.
At Auburn, Ensminger focused his research on improving knowledge about the sources and rates of phosphorus and sulfur needed for crops and other soil fertility issues. He also was deeply committed to nurturing the minds and careers of graduate students, serving as chair of agriculture’s graduate program for ten years.
Ensminger was promoted to full professor in 1953 and was named head of the agronomy and soils department in 1966. As department head, Ensminger expanded the size, scope, and resources of his department. But Ensminger’s work reached well beyond the boundaries of Auburn and Alabama. He was a member of the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society and served those organizations in many capacities throughout his career. He also was a member of Sigma Xi, Alpha Zeta, and Gamma Sigma Delta honor societies. In addition, he received an award for meritorious service to agriculture from the Alabama Soil Fertility Society in 1962 and was named as a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy in 1963.
Since his retirement in 1978, Ensminger has concentrated his energies on his own farm outside Auburn where he raises Polled Hereford cattle. He also serves as a board member for the Lee County Soil and Water Conservation District. He and his late wife, Isabel Smith Ensminger who died in 1998, have two sons and four grandchildren.