A new forum paper in BioScience discusses critical research needs to betterlink 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. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa011
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. https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1986
Congratulations to Anne Elise and Jennifer, Co-PIs on a new grant funded by the Conservation, Food, and Health Foundation, and led by a Brazilian NGO collaborator, CEPAGRO (Center for the Study and Promotion of Community Agriculture). The project, “Next Generation Cover Crops: Driving Innovation in Soil Management with Participatory Certification,” will support on-farm cover crop research and capacity-building with farmers transitioning to agroecological production in southern Brazil.
We are excited to tackle a new research project funded by the USDA-AFRI Foundational Program on cover crops and ecosystem services from field to landscape scales. The project links a field experiment, remote sensing, on-farm research, and stakeholder engagement. We will determine how ecosystem services from cover crop mixtures vary with different management legacies and soil conditions, understand the current adoption and outcomes of different cover crops across diverse regions of Michigan, and identify relationships between cover crops and nutrient mass balances on working farms.
Riley measures buckwheat height in experimental plots
Greenhills School Advanced Research student Riley Noble joined the Blesh Lab for the summer and quickly found himself up to his ears– or at least his knees– in buckwheat! Riley collected data on plant growth rates, leaf nitrogen, and biomass production of buckwheat planted after a winter cover crop trial. Now that he’s done the dirty work, he will take his data back to Greenhills and analyze the numbers in his Advanced Research class this fall. We look forward to hearing about what he finds!
Last week Samara Almonte wrapped up her time in the Blesh Lab by presenting a poster titled: “Do cover crop traits vary across monocultures and mixtures? An assessment of belowground biomass and specific leaf area.” Samara is an undergraduate at Western Washington University, and joined the Blesh Lab as a first-year Doris Duke Conservation Scholar. Though she was only with us for 8 short weeks, she jumped right in and learned all about cover crops while helping to collect, process, and analyze samples from an ongoing research trial conducted at the UM Campus Farm. We enjoyed having her as part of the team this summer!
Congratulations to PhD student, Alison Bressler! Alison was recently awarded a NCR-SARE Graduate Student Grant for her project titled “Cover crop mixtures for nitrogen use efficiency on grain farms in Southern Michigan.” The project will integrate on-farm experimentation, including assessment of biological nitrogen fixation and nitrogen mineralization rates, with applied, outreach activities focused on management of legume-grass cover crop mixtures.
Congratulations to Etienne Herrick, one of a select group of 19 undergraduates to win an award for her Honors Thesis. Etienne received the Virginia Voss Memorial Scholarship for excellence in writing for her thesis titled “Summer Cover Crops: Functional Traits and Ecosystem Services.”