Summer Research Minigrant Program

2016 - Chavez, Dundore, Geiger, Hanson, Imhoff, Kniffin, Krishnan, Nardi, Nolden, Richards, Santiago-Avila, Wilson

Maribeth Kniffin’s research on high capacity groundwater pumping for irrigated agriculture in Wisconsin’s Central Sands region may inform best management practices for agricultural and water resources.

Jeannine Richards wants to better understand the potential for agriculture land in the tropics to support both conservation and farmers. 

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Kavya Krishnan received a CIAS mini-grant to study the seasonal dynamics of carbon and nitrogen cycling in the long-term Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST). 

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With support from a CIAS mini-grant, Anne Nardi interviewed household shoppers around Madison to better understand their local food preferences, how they identify local produce at the supermarket, and the effectiveness of grocery store local produce labels.


Food Systems Racial Equity Assessment in Action 
Student Researcher:
Lexa Dundore
Faculty Advisor: Alfonso Morales, URPL

Through the creation and implementation of a Food Systems Racial Equity Assessment tool, this research aimed to identify and understand the complex ways in which systematic racism seeps into food systems. Specifically, the community of South Park Street Madison, WI was where observations were taken and meetings with stakeholders were hosted. These groups included nonprofit staff, community organizers, and farmers of color who were able to use the tool and collaborate with community members to address whether the tool was effective.

Demonstrating Hop Production in WI
Student Researcher:
Mike Geiger
Faculty Advisor: Sara Paterson, Horticulture

Hops, a perennial crop, are in increasing demand in Wisconsin due to the upsurge of microbreweries. In addition to its key role in beer production, hops are also a possible crop to use as a natural insecticide for mite disease in poultry. Therefore, this project focused on creating literature and seminars for hop growers, through a demonstration plot at West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Surveys and observations were also gathered at various hop-growing sites across the state. A final report and brochure highlighting the history, management practices, and unique morphology of the crop are available.

Consumer-Engaged Participatory Plant Breeding Model Comparison & Beet Flavor Breeding  
Student Researcher:
Solveig Hanson
Faculty Advisor: Irwin Goldman, Horticulture

Hanson assessed beet flavor at two separate growing plots, using participatory plant breeding (PPB), so that organic vegetable farmers could select marketable cultivars at reasonable costs. With PPB, farmers can select for flavor, yield, and / or climate adaption. For this project, beets were grown at Tippi Produce in Evansville, WI, and at West Madison Agricultural Research Station. There, soil conditions, geosmin levels, and other characteristics affecting beet desirability were measured. Local farmers, chefs, and consumers participating in the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative were surveyed in partnership with Dr. Julie Dawson.

Impact of Conservation Projects on Indigenous Communities
Student Researcher:
Malorie Imhoff
Faculty Advisor: Steve Ventura, Nelson Institute

Imhoff assessed the impact of conservation efforts on indigenous communities of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) approach, developed by the Conservation International of Arlington, VA. Research methods included assessment of past project documents, interviews of project leaders, and site visits. Successfully implemented programs were observed, key advantages were identified, and evaluated by CI guidelines. The focus was put on landscapes where there might be a potential conflict between biodiversity and production practices. A presentation and report were created to summarize all the findings from the summer.

Integrating Hydrogeological and Permaculture Design Science for Sustainable Irrigated Agriculture and Water Use in Central Sands, WI
Student Researcher:
Maribeth Kniffin
Faculty Advisor: Ken Genskow, Ken Bradbury, Nelson Institute

Kniffin conducted this research at Long Lake in Plainfield, WI through the National Lacustrine Core Facility (LacCore) at the University of Minnesota. The overarching goal was to integrate hydrogeological and permaculture design science to develop best management practices for establishing sustainable agricultural and water resources in the area. She conducted field and lab work where sediment coring, geophysical logging, isotope analysis, pumping tests, and/or electrical resistivity techniques were implemented. In addition, lakeside residents and farmers provided helpful information and insight about the land.

How Do Consumers Identify Local Produce in the Grocery Store?
Student Researcher:
Anna Nardi
Faculty Advisor: Brett Shaw, Life Sciences Communication

Nardi assessed how consumers identify local produce in grocery stores and what marketing techniques are most effective. She interviewed grocers at national big box stores, local Madison grocery stores, natural grocery stores, and co-ops. Questions explored how individuals go about purchasing local food, what food characteristics increase their desire to buy them, and what specific labeling marketing strategies help consumers find these foods in stores.

Integrated Organic Brush Management and Goat Production 
Student Researcher:
Cherrie Nolden
Faculty Advisor: Dan Schaeffer, Animal Science

Goat herding can be used to reduce brush density through managed grazing, as well as providing additional value-added products for the Madison local food economy. Nolden’s research helps to fill the knowledge gap on goat management for invasive brushes in the Upper Midwest. She collected data on goat health, soil composition, and vegetation characteristics at a treatment and control site at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant (BAAP) in Prairie du Sac, WI.

Conservation of Botanical Diversity in Shade Coffee Agroecosystems
Student Researcher:
Jeannine Richards
Faculty Advisor: Don Waller, Nelson Institute

Richards traveled to Reserve El Jaguar and Selva Negra coffee farms in Nicaragua to learn more about epiphyte colonization and diversity. Epiphytes are herbaceous plants that grow on branches and trunks of trees, often found in coffee-growing regions of the world. They are important to local ecosystem by providing nutrients to other plants and recycle nutrients. Canopy and microclimate measures were taken in addition to an inventory of epiphyte communities at both coffee farms. By better understanding epiphyte populations, farmers may adopt practices that support local ecosystems and the nearby coffee plantations.

Assessing Existing Infrastructure for Scaling Up Food Systems  
Student Researcher:
Marlie Wilson
Faculty Advisor: Alfonso Morales, URPL

Wilson created a Geographical information system (GIS) map of key supply chain points to inform institutional buyers, such as hospitals, schools, early care and nursing homes to guide their purchases of products from local farmers. First, regions that would benefit most from mapping, were identified. Then, the food hub model of the Fifth Season Cooperative in Viroqua, WI was assessed for possible future adaption.

Also funded:

Evaluating the Effect of WICST Cropping Systems on Active Soil C and N Pools
Student Researcher:
Kavya Krishnan
Faculty Advisor: Matt Ruark, Soils / Agronomy

Testing Non-Lethal Interventions to Prevent Attacks on Livestock
Student Researcher:
Francisco Santiago-Avila
Faculty Advisor: Adrian Treves, Nelson Institute

Cranberry Pest Biocontrol: Ecology of Odonates in Commercial Production
Student Researcher:
Maria Chavez
Faculty Advisor: Shawn Steffan, Agroecology