Summer Research Minigrant Program

2017 - Bugel, Cotton, Dower, Eisner, Grace, Hemberger, Jessee, Lanker, Mino, Pfeiffer, Potter-Weight, Reynolds, Schreiber, Steussy-Williams, Suerth, Wang

CIAS mini-grant recipient Jamie Bugel is studying the potential for a savory Chilean corn variety—choclo—to diversify the flavor and vigor of vegetable corn varieties. 

With support from a CIAS mini-grant, Natalie Eisner conducted on-farm testing of a boom-mounted pheromone application system, to facilitate grower adoption of this technology.

Supported by a CIAS mini-grant, Laura Jessee (left) and Alex Steussy-Williams worked with agricultural educators and farmers to create a curriculum for this program.

Andrew Schreiber’s mini-grant research considered the costs of water allocation restrictions—both mandated and market-based—for agricultural use, and the societal benefits of such restrictions.

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With support from the CIAS mini-grant program, Dantrell Cotton conducted interviews and focus groups with neighborhood residents on food accessibility and affordability, as well as their interest in supporting a community food cooperative. 

With CIAS mini-grant support, Jacob Grace created a video that documents the use of private cattle grazing for habitat management on DNR grasslands, and explains the process of conservation grazing. 

Supported by a CIAS mini-grant, Marisa Lanker’s research identified farmers’ actual and perceived results and challenges in growing this novel crop, bringing their voices to the process.

Lauren Suerth’s research, supported by a CIAS mini-grant, describes the processes associated with renting, purchasing and transferring agricultural land, and how those relate to different social, political, and financial institutions.

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Mini-grant recipient Becca Dower worked with the Intertribal Agriculture Council on their tribally-supported agriculture program, which will distribute Native American-grown foods to Native American communities.

Jeremy Hemberger received CIAS mini-grant support for floral surveys in Central Wisconsin as a first step in modeling floral resources in agro-ecosystems for bumble bees.

With support from the CIAS mini-grant program, Leah Potter-Weight and Jules Reynolds examined how local belief systems, values and customs impact the development of livestock practices such as managed grazing, and perennial agroforestry systems, in this community.


Sweet Corn Breeding and Genetics
Student researcher: Jamie Bugel, Agroecology
Faculty advisor: Bill Tracy, Agronomy

This project added to the body of research on savory breeds of sweet corn in the market, which is a summer staple in Wisconsin. In particular, the study focused on exploring the viability of Chilean choclo and strategies for integrating additional regionally adapted vegetables in the future. Data on farmers, breeders, chefs, and consumer opinions were collected through discussions and assessments of organic growing environments.

Exploring the Allied Community Cooperative as a Strategic Approach to Long-term Community Food Security and Empowerment
Student researcher: Dantrell Cotton, Nelson Institute
Faculty advisors: Monica White, Community and Environmental Sociology; Steve Ventura, Soils; and Alfonso Morales, Planning and Landscape Architecture

Allied Drive is a neighborhood in Dane County that has been recognized for its extreme lack of grocery stores and high rates of food insecurity. This project used focus groups to provide beneficial information on resident experiences so that the Allied Community Cooperative could better strategize its community-owned food market. Information gathered during the study help plan the store and provided valuable information regarding policy implications, grant proposals, and long-term developmental strategies for the community.

Traditional Foods and Food Sovereignty Among Native Communities
Student researcher: Becca Dower
Faculty advisor: Patty Loew, Human Ecology

The purpose of this summer project was to discuss and interview community members living in Oneida, Spirit Lake, Menominee, Red Lake, and White Earth about their interests and the possible need for a Native agriculture distribution site.  The information and connections gathered from this summer study gave valuable insight to the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) to move forward with the Tribally Supported Agriculture program (TSA). The research also aided in building bridges between stakeholders so that the needs of Native food producers, as well as communities experiencing food access, are best met.

Spray Boom Mounted Deployment of Mating Distribution System (SPLAT) in Wisconsin Cranberry
Student researcher: Natalie Eisner
Faculty advisors: Brian Luck, Biological Systems Engineering, and Shawn Steffan, Entomology

Wisconsin’s largest fruit crop is the American Cranberry, which amounts to a total value of $939 million and around 4,000 jobs. Given the scale of the industry, pest control around marshes is a particular concern. Most cranberry growers use insecticides to manage insect pests, however, these substances often eliminate important pollinators for the growth of the fruit. This CIAS-funded study aimed to bring awareness to an alternative pest-control process known as Mating Disruption (MD), which targets insect pheromones allowing for disruption of the mating process of specific pests.

Conservation Grazing on DNR Grasslands
Student researcher: Jacob Grace, Agroecology
Faculty advisor: Mark Renz, Agronomy

This video project called attention to the conservation grazing work underway at the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, The Wallace Center’s Pasture Project, and private grazers in Wisconsin. These livestock grazing efforts are important to consider for the maintenance and sustainability of grassland ecosystems as well as the economic viability of diversified crop and livestock systems in the Midwest.

Spatiotemporal Floral Resources and Bumble Bee Abundance in WI Cranberry Agroecosystems
Student researcher: Jeremy Hemberger
Faculty advisor: Claudio Gratton, Entomology

Using the USDA Cropland Data Layer, several primary land-cover types were selected and assessed to determine floral abundance on a bi-weekly basis from May to September. Data gathered over this time was then used in GIS to provide spatiotemporal information on floral resources across the state. Subsequently, cranberry farmers and land managers were then able to use the floral abundance levels to predict bumble bee populations at different points in the year and strategize best practices for increasing product yield.

Apprenticeship Program for Organic Vegetable Growers
Student researcher: Laura Jessee
Faculty advisor: Julie Dawson, Horticulture

The goal of this project, through the Dawson lab, was to create a skills manual and instructional component of on-farm training for use in a formal apprenticeship program for novice organic vegetable growers. This work was performed alongside the Department of Workforce Development, experienced organic vegetable farmers, and novice farmers interested in the program, in addition to discussions and interviews with apprentices, farmers, and administrative employees of the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) Journeyperson Program. For more information on this project,

Bolstering the Potential of Perennial Grain, Kernza: Incorporating Grower Experience and Perspective
Student researcher: Marisa Lanker, Agroecology
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology

Through interviews with Kernza farmers and potential Kernza farmers in the U.S., this study introduced farmers’ voices into the discussion of Kernza growing. Kernza is a perennial crop that exhibits the benefits of perennial versus annual crop production. By lowering the need for pest control and fertilizer, perennial crops present a possible strategy for large-scale environmental sustainability. Therefore, gaining insight into the experiences of the people growing Kernza is critical for future perennial crop-growing efforts.

Mangroves for the Future Small Grant Projects Evaluation
Student researcher: Jessica Mino
Faculty advisor: Nathan Schulfer, International Programs, Nelson Institute

This project took place in the Trat Province of Thailand, through the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in which the researcher conducted site visits to observe how the Small Grant Projects (SGPs) of the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) had benefited the communities. It was the hope that this study would provide valuable information for the improvement of the SGPs program and thus, continue to help fishing communities who are suffering from ecosystem degradation due to climate change.

Contrasting the Effects of Land Cover and Development on Urban Bee Communities
Student researcher: Vera Pfeiffer, Nelson Institute
Faculty advisor: Janet Silbernagel, Planning and Landscape Architecture

Urban agriculture is not only becoming more common but is also more vital to the sustenance of communities due to the rapidly increasing urban population. Using Dane County as a model, this study sampled bee populations and floral resources over a three-month period. The statistical analysis of this information helped fill the gap in research pertaining to urban pollinators and their interactions with ever-changing landscapes.

The Impact of Kraal Belief Systems on Livestock Management
Student researcher: Leah Potter-Weight, Agroecology
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology

The research took place in the Mmangweni, a village in South Africa through the Livelihood, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Development (LAND) Project. The Mmangweni practices amaXhosa in which the ancestral home is the livestock corral, also known as kraal. This study utilized kraal as a lens for understanding how spiritual beliefs can affect the sustainability and impact of agroecological development programs. Interviews and focus groups were conducted in addition to participatory observation of kraal activities like animal management and auctions as well as ancestral worship.

Meanings and Trees in Mmangweni Village: A Participatory Investigation into Agroforestry Systems
Student researcher: Jules Reynolds, Agroecology
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology

With the support of the Livelihood, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Development (LAND) Project and Food and Trees of Africa (FTFA) in Mmangweni village of South Africa, this study aimed to promote dialogue of spiritual beliefs and practices in relation to agroforestry practices. It is the hope that this work will benefit agroforestry practices both abroad and in places like Wisconsin where forests are often revered as more just economic and environmental resources. Data was collected through participation in community activities, interviews with community members, as well as “walk-in-the-woods” interviews to identify key tree species of cultural significance.

Agricultural Water Use in the Central Sands
Student researcher: Andrew Schreiber
Faculty advisors: Thomas Rutherford and Corbett Grainger, Agricultural and Applied Economics

In this study, a multi-sectoral, multi-regional calibrated computable general equilibrium model (CGE), created by Schreiber prior to the study, was implemented to estimate the economic costs to consumers and farmers of increases in water levels in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin. This central region is credited for producing around 70% of the state’s potato production. However, recent decreases in lake and waterway levels due to potato growing have impacted the recreational and economic life of residents.

Apprenticeship Program for Organic Vegetable Growers
Student researcher: Alex Steussy-Williams
Faculty advisor: Julie Dawson, Horticulture

After a comprehensive survey, it was found that many people are turned away from organic farming as a career due to the absence of hands-on training and formal coursework. Therefore, a program was developed to help people who desire to grow organic vegetables, but lack the money, skills, and/or resources that a farmer-born person might have during this project. The student research specifically helped to create a curriculum of workshops and classes by researching and talking with agricultural educators in Wisconsin. This work was done with the help of the Department of Workforce Development, UW-Extension and Julie Dawson’s Lab, and interviews of people at the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA) Journeyperson Program.

Accessing Agricultural Land
Student researcher: Lauren Suerth
Faculty advisor: Alfonso Morales, Planning and Landscape Architecture

The aim of this research was to describe the processes associated with using, exchanging, and disposing of land and their relation to social, political, and financial institutions. A framework was created for collecting data to distinguish between concepts and categories affecting land access. This system of understanding land access was then applied to interviews with farmers, non-farming residents, government institutions, and other relevant organizations. In addition to, observations at public meetings, workshops, and conferences revolving around land access. Lastly, the document of print materials from local organizations was analyzed through the lens of the framework.

Evaluation of New Downy Mildew Resistant Lines for Sustainable Pickling Cucumber Production
Student researcher: Yuhui Wang
Faculty advisor: Yiqun Weng, Horticulture

Downy mildew (DM) causes rapid foliage frost and cucumber death. In the past, this was usually overcome using fungicides. However, over time, DM has formed resistance to the fungicides, making it difficult for farmers, especially those of cucumber to prevent DM formation. Fungicides are also expensive, detrimental to the environment, and take time to be applied. One possible solution to DM is the development of resistant cultivars. This study tested  cucumber lines with a combination of beneficial DM-resistant genes, WI7120 and Gly4, which were derived through marker-assisted backcrossing. By assessing the performance of these lines in the field and greenhouse conditions, these new cultivars may present a sustainable solution for home gardeners and pickle-cucumber growers.