State-sponsored Dairy Innovation Hub funds third round of research grants at UW–Platteville

The University of Wisconsin–Platteville recently awarded five faculty research fellowships to help increase dairy-related research capacity through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. Known as the Dairy Industry Impact Innovation Faculty Fellowships, or “DI3 faculty fellowships”, selected faculty members will tackle research projects in the Hub’s four priority areas: stewarding land and water resources; enriching human health and nutrition; ensuring animal health and welfare; and growing farm business and communities.

The Dairy Innovation Hub, which launched in 2019, harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls campuses to keep Wisconsin’s dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy products in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner. It is supported by a $7.8 million annual investment by the state of Wisconsin.

A faculty research fellowship is a temporary position for permanent faculty members. The goal is to provide support for a specific research project and any ancillary costs — including ensuring that the faculty member will have enough time to conduct the research and support for existing teaching responsibilities.

“As we go into our third round of Dairy Innovation Hub faculty fellowships, I continue to be impressed with the projects and ideas coming from across our university. Each fellowship will have an impact on the dairy community as well as on the faculty, staff, and students engaged in the research projects,” says Tera Montgomery, professor of animal and dairy science and leader of the Hub’s UW–Platteville campus steering committee.

DI3 Faculty Fellowships are intended to leverage existing UW–Platteville expertise to provide timely results supporting the goals of the Dairy Innovation Hub, with an emphasis on addressing recommendations generated by the state’s Dairy Task Force 2.0, which completed its work in 2019.

Recipients for capacity-building supplies and equipment at UW–Platteville have also been selected for funding from the Hub. More information is at dairyinnovationhub.wisc.edu.

The following UW–Platteville faculty fellows were selected for Dairy Innovation Hub funding:

Full implementation of automated rotational grazing and assessment of its impact on animals and on forage

Project Summary: Pasture systems are an effective and potentially economical way to produce feed for livestock, but grazing management can be a challenge. Previous Hub-funded research developed two prototype systems, physical and virtual, for automated rotational grazing to improve the flexibility and efficiency of pasture grazing. This technology can close the “expertise gap” and allow more farms to effectively utilize rotational grazing while gaining actionable data on their animals and forage. With this additional funding, the researchers will gain a better understanding on how individual animals learn and respond to the stimuli of the developed barrier technologies. Additionally, researchers seek to determine changes in forage composition and utilization in pasture systems equipped with these novel technologies.

Harold Evensen, engineering physics – Evensen is a professor of engineering physics at UW­–Platteville with research interests in carbon nanotube-based electronics, automated rotational grazing, and advanced automation. He earned his PhD in engineering physics from UW–Madison.

Andrew Cartmill, soil & crop science – Cartmill is an assistant professor of soil & crop science at UW–Platteville. His research interests include sustainable production and ecological topics such as plant diversity, plant responses to stressors and below ground responses to stressors. Cartmill earned his PhD from Texas A&M University.

Opening windows for research, teaching, and demonstrations through rumen cannulation

Project Summary: The reticulorumen is the most important part of the ruminant digestive tract in dairy cows, responsible for 70-80% of digestion processes. Rumen cannulation, or the surgical process of placing a cannula in the side of a cow, is the gold-standard method for gaining access to the reticulorumen to conduct nutrition related research. With support from present and former UW–Madison veterinarians, Pralle and Hardyman will be trained in rumen cannulation surgery, postoperative care, and long-term care of cannulated cows. Twelve cows will be cannulated after training at UW–Platteville’s Pioneer Farm. This population of cannulated cows will allow for more innovative research in reticulorumen metabolism and digestion.

Ryan Pralle, animal and dairy science – After receiving his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2020, Pralle joined UW–Platteville as a faculty member supported by the Dairy Innovation Hub. He is currently an assistant professor of animal and dairy science. His research interests include dairy cow nutrition and predicative analysis.

Krista Hardyman, animal and dairy science – Hardyman is an associate professor of animal and dairy science and an advisor for students in the animal science, dairy science, and pre-veterinary medicine programs at UW–Platteville. Prior to joining the university, Hardyman practiced veterinary medicine in both large and small animal private practices.

Evaluating nitrogen availability from solid-liquid-separated and composted manure

Project Summary: Manure is often applied to land to return organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Manure processing methods, such as solid-liquid-separation and composting, have grown in popularity to improve transport logistics and farm nutrient distribution. However, there is a lack of information on the nutrient availability of these treated manure end products. This project aims to evaluate the impacts of manure processing strategies on nitrogen availability and explore how the results can improve current nutrient management planning strategies. UW–Platteville’s Pioneer Farm will be used as a case study to investigate available nitrogen in soil that was treated with different types of processed manure products. Available nitrogen will also be assessed from separated manure solids and composted manure from regional dairy livestock facilities.

Joseph Sanford, soil & crop science – Sanford joined UW–Platteville as an assistant professor of agricultural and biological systems engineering and faculty researcher for the Dairy Innovation Hub in 2020. His research interests include management of farmstead and edge of field runoff, nutrient management, precision manure application, water recovery and recycling, pathogen inactivation and transport, and emerging agricultural contaminates. Sanford earned in PhD in biological systems engineering from UW­­­­–Madison.

Chris Baxter, soil & crop science – Baxter is a professor of soil & crop science and coordinator of the Reclamation, Environment, and Conservation program at UW–Platteville. He conducts research and develops extension programming in nutrient management and soil fertility and serves on the Pioneer Farm Research Advisory Board. Baxter also serves as a statewide nutrient management specialist for UW–Extension.

Developing novel and sustainable disease management strategies against Aphanomyces root rot of alfalfa

Project Summary: Alfalfa is the most widely grown forage legume in the United States and is used for hay and silage. Although many cultivars that are grown in Wisconsin are relatively hardy, many are susceptible to root rot caused by the pathogen Aphanomyces euteiches. Aphanomyces root rot is difficult to control and currently, there are no effective management strategies to utilize once infection begins. However, natural pesticides are a promising control strategy for disease management. This project aims to investigate the use of essential oils as an antimicrobial treatment against A. euteiches infections. Six active components of plant essential oils will be studied for their effectiveness in controlling the pathogen at different concentrations. Proper dosing will ensure quality and a continuous supply of alfalfa hay and silage for Wisconsin dairy farms. 

Muthu Venkateshwaran, soil & crop science – Venkateshwaran is an associate professor of crop physiology and molecular biology and the Soil and Crop Science Program coordinator at UW–Platteville. His research interests include plant-microbe symbioses, plant defense signaling, plant disease management, rhizosphere microbiome and sustainable agricultural practices. Venkateshwaran earned his PhD in plant pathology from UW­–Madison.

Utilization of plasma activated water (PAW) as a clean-in-place (CIP) sanitizer for surface disinfection of dairy processing equipment

Project Summary: Dairy products are susceptible to microbial contamination and spoilage. Equipment surfaces of manufacturing machinery in the dairy processing line are the main source of biological contamination of processed milk. Contamination leads to reduced quality, shelf-life, and safety of dairy products, so proper cleaning and sanitation is critical. Clean-in-place (CIP) is an automated method to clean equipment without major disassembly and uses chlorine-based sanitizers and acidic or alkaline detergents as cleaning agents. However, post-cleaning liquid waste contains residual sanitizers and disinfection by-products (DBPs) which are potentially hazardous to human health and the environment. This project focuses on utilizing plasma activated water (PAW), which is generated by discharging the novel non-thermal technology cold plasma to water, as an alternative to traditional CIP cleaning agents and determining its effectiveness. PAW has antimicrobial properties, can inactivate biofilms, and has no carcinogenic by-products.

Zifan Wan, animal and dairy science – Wan joined UW­–Platteville in 2021 as an assistant professor of animal and dairy science and a faculty member supported by the Dairy Innovation Hub. Wan’s research focuses on the application of non-thermal technologies, such as cold plasma, for enhanced food safety and quality to achieve sustainable manufacturing goals. She earned her PhD in food science from Iowa State University.


Contact: Maria Woldt, Dairy Innovation Hub program manager, (608) 265-4009, maria.woldt@wisc.edu