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, Urban and Regional Planning

How does systemic racism impact food systems? Dundore worked with community leaders and farmers of color in South Madison to test a Food Systems Racial Equity Assesment Tool. Her participatory action research will create a framework for analysis and problem solving regarding South Madison food environment issues while also providing evaluative feedback on the assessment tool.

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

Participatory plant breeding is a cost-effective strategy for creating marketable cultivars that provide production qualities desired in organic farming: disease resistance, weed competitiveness and resilience. Additionally, this approach to breeding facilitates selection for qualitative traits, like distinctive flavor, desired by organic consumers. Hanson compared two different participatory plant breeding models—on both a farm and research station—to evaluate their cost efficiency and effectiveness while developing novel, locally adapted, flavor-identified beet cultivars suited for organic production.

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, Urban and Regional Planning; Ken Bradbury, WI Geological and Natural History Survey

High capacity groundwater pumping for irrigated agriculture in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin has reduced long-term average groundwater and surface water levels. Kniffin’s research integrated hydrogeological and permaculture design science to develop best management practices for agricultural and water resources at Long Lake in Plainfield, WI. Additionally, this study provided a process to engage local growers in data collection and discussion about local hydrogeology and limits on water use, which could inform the development a locally-relevant, market-based system.

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

Consumer demand for local food has increased over the last ten years. Despite growth in farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture (CSA), most people buy the majority of their food at grocery stores, and about 4 out of 10 consumers find it challenging to find local produce at the store. In order to measure and understand how Wisconsin consumers identify local produce in grocery stores, Nardi interviewed household shoppers around Madison to better understand their local food preferences and familiarity, how they identify local produce at the supermarket, and the effectiveness of grocery store local produce labels.

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, Botany

Shade-grown coffee supports environmental biodiversity including birds, amphibians, insects and epiphytic plants, such as orchids and bromeliads, which grow harmlessly on other plants. Richards’s research examined variables, including tree species and proximity to intact forest, impacting epiphyte colonization on shade trees in Nicaraguan coffee farms. Her research will increase understanding of the potential for agricultural land in the tropics to support both botanical conservation and farmer livelihoods.

Assessing Existing Infrastructure for Scaling Up Food Systems  
Student Researcher:
Marlie Wilson
Faculty Advisor: Alfonso Morales, Planning and Landscape Architecture

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.

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

Diverse crop rotations can potentially enhance the sustainability of agricultural systems and provide ecosystem services such as erosion prevention, nitrogen fixation, nutrient scavenging and weed suppression. Krishnan’s research looked at the seasonal dynamics of carbon and nitrogen cycling in six different cropping systems in the long-term Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST). The data collected from this research will hopefully result in improved agricultural management strategies that match soil nitrogen supply to crop nitrogen needs.

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

Chavez’s research examined the potential for on-site predators—specifically dragonflies and damselflies—to control arthropod pests that can wreak havoc in cranberry bogs. She surveyed the abundance and diversity of dragonflies and damselflies on eight commercial cranberry marshes in Vilas, Portage, Price and Oneida counties, and examined the extent to which these beneficial insects are eating cranberry pests. This research will enhance the sustainability of commercial cranberry production through increased understanding of the role of damselflies and dragonflies in both biological pest control and as an indicator of the ecological health of cranberry marshes.

Also funded:

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