New Papers on Cover Crops

Congratulations to Marta, Alison, Anne Elise, and Kent for three new papers on the ecosystem benefits of cover crops.

These explore:

1) how unique management legacies, and resulting soil fertility properties, influence the functions provided by a cover crop mixture within the Main Cropping Systems Experiment at Kellogg Biological Station (Plumhoff, M., Connell, R.K., Bressler, A., and J. Blesh. 2022. Management history and mixture evenness affect the ecosystem services from a crimson clover-rye cover crop. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 339.

2) whether increasing cover crop functional diversity with a legume-grass mixture can reduce pulse emissions of N2O in the weeks following tillage in two field sites with contrasting soil fertility properties (Bressler, A. and J. Blesh. 2022. Episodic N2O emissions following tillage of a legume-grass cover crop mixture. Biogeosciences 19, 3169–3184.

3) the effects of two diversification practices—vetch-oat cover cropping and cucumber-snow pea intercropping—on N cycling and productivity across a farm management gradient. The field experiment spanned 14 farms in southern Brazil with different long-term management histories, ranging from conventional tobacco to agroecological mixed crop-livestock systems. (Stratton, A.E., Comin, J.J., Siddique, I., Zak, D.R., Filipini, L., Lucas, R.R., and J. Blesh. 2022. Assessing cover crop and intercrop performance along a farm management gradient. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 332: 107925.

Alison Defends Dissertation

Alison takes a breather from all of her hard work on a bed of crimson clover

On March 11, Alison presented and successfully defended her dissertation, entitled “A Social-Ecological Analysis of Ecological Nutrient Management using Cover Crops in the U.S. Midwest.” Congratulations, Alison, on this major achievement!!

Etienne awarded USDA fellowship

Etienne was recently awarded a USDA NIFA Predoctoral Fellowship to support her dissertation research and career development. Her research project, titled “Understanding Variation in Cover Crop Performance Across Spatial Scales,” uses participatory approaches to reduce uncertainty surrounding cover crop growth across different environmental and management conditions on working farms in the Great Lakes region. Congratulations, Etienne!

New Papers on Cover Crops

Congratulations to Alison and Etienne! Alison’s paper in Society & Natural Resources reports findings from a case study showing how the National Wildlife Foundation’s Cover Crop Champions program leverages strategic communication methods and farmer networks to increase cover crop adoption.

Bressler, A., Plumhoff, M., Hoey, L., and J. Blesh. 2021. Cover Crop Champions: Linking strategic communication approaches with farmer networks to support cover crop adoption. Society and Natural Resources. DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2021.1980165

Etienne’s paper in Ecosphere, based on a literature review and a field experiment conducted at the UM Campus Farm, highlights the role of intraspecific trait variation in explaining ecosystem services from cover crops.

Herrick, E. and J. Blesh. 2021. The importance of intraspecific trait variation in cover crops. Ecosphere.

Etienne receives Rackham Public Scholarship Grant

Etienne is a 2021 recipient of the Rackham Public Scholarship Grant– a program that supports graduate student projects that are co-created and mutually beneficial for students and community partners. This funding enables Etienne to work collaboratively with farmers across the Great Lakes Region. Read more about the Rackham Program in Public Scholarship along with details on Etienne’s citizen science data collection project here.

Congratulations, Kent!

Kent and Jennifer’s proposal to the Graham Institute Carbon Neutrality Acceleration Program was funded! The experiment will test the capacity for legume-grass cover crop mixtures to simultaneously supply nutrients to crops and sequester carbon in soil. The project will use soil from working farms in Michigan that have a range of different properties, which will help our research account for the real-world variability in soils that farmers consider when making management decisions.

SEAS Press Release

New paper uses indicator framework to link ecological and nutritional functions of agroecosystems

Congratulations, Anne Elise! Anne Elise’s new paper in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems presents an indicator framework linking ecological and nutritional functions of agroecosystems. The paper applies the framework and indicator set to a case study of Q’eqchi’ Maya smallholders in eastern Guatemala, using farm management and crop quality data from 60 households to determine the status of agroecosystem functions and assess coping and adaptive capacities in response to shocks.

Stratton, A.E., L. Kuhl, and J. Blesh. 2020. Ecological and nutritional functions of agroecosystems as indicators of smallholder resilience. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 4:543914. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2020.543914

Recent Publications

A new forum paper in BioScience discusses critical research needs to better link changes in soil health on farms to watershed-scale reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus losses that cause water pollution.  The paper emerged from a workshop on improving models of nutrient loading and harmful algal blooms coordinated by the Michigan Environmental Council and by the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR).

Zimnicki, T., Boring, T., Evenson, G., Kalcic, M., Karlen, D., Zhang, Y. and J. Blesh. 2020. On quantifying water quality benefits of healthy soils. BioScience.

Two new articles from our cover crop research on vegetable farms in southeastern Michigan focus on understanding variation in root functional traits, and ecological controls on legume nitrogen fixation, across a soil organic matter gradient:

Bukovsky-Reyes, S., Isaac, M., and J. Blesh. 2019. Effects of intercropping and soil properties on root functional traits of cover crops. Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Environment.

Blesh, J. 2019. Feedbacks between nitrogen fixation and soil organic matter increase ecosystem functions in diversified agroecosystems. Ecological Applications.