The University of Wisconsin–River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) recently awarded seven faculty research fellowships to help increase dairy-related research capacity through the Dairy Innovation Hub initiative. The 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.
Funded through a $7.8 million per year investment by the state of Wisconsin, the Hub harnesses research and development at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls campuses to keep Wisconsin’s $45.6 billion dairy community at the global forefront in producing nutritious dairy foods in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner. Since its launch in 2019, the Hub has funded more than 160 projects across the three campuses.
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 time to conduct the research and support for existing teaching responsibilities.
The following UW–River Falls faculty fellows were selected for funding:
Bahareh Hassanpour, Department of Plant and Earth Science
“Groundwater fluctuations-related nutrient cycling and stream water quality in agricultural headwater areas”
Hassanpour is an assistant professor in agricultural water management with research interests in remediation of non-point source pollution, water quality, nutrient cycling, and the fate and transport of contaminants. Her position is partially funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.
Project summary: Wisconsin has seen changes in groundwater levels due to the changing climate and rainfall patterns. Groundwater levels impact soil moisture and thus, oxygen availability, which impacts nutrient cycling and export. However, the impact of groundwater levels on nutrient cycling in agricultural soils with manure application and water quality is largely unknown. Understanding and quantifying this impact is crucial in developing nutrient management strategies and predicting water quality and greenhouse gas emissions. This project aims to create a molecular–scale explanation of the transport and cycling of nutrients with respect to groundwater levels in Wisconsin headwater manure–applied agricultural soils. The research findings will achieve an unprecedented mechanistic understanding of nutrient dynamics and aim to obtain a quantitative link between soil nutrient cycling, export, and soil moisture conditions which impacts the mitigation of nutrient loss and greenhouse gas emissions.
Veronica Justen, Department of Plant and Earth Science
“Optimizing forage cover crop systems for agronomic production and environmental stewardship”
Justen is a professor of crop science with research interests in plant breeding, field crop production, and enhancing diversified crop rotations with cover crops and hardy winter small grains.
Project summary: Dairy farmers continue to expand their use of cover crops after corn silage to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss and to supplement their forage production. This project will evaluate the interactive effects of cover crop species, environmental factors, and agronomic management on the productivity of forage cover crop rotations in Northern climates using field and controlled environment experiments. This study aims to provide a better understanding of how management decisions, such as cutting date and termination method, combined with environmental factors, such as temperature and moisture stress, influence the productivity of various cover crop species and the productivity and quality of the following corn crop. Data collected from this study will provide insights on how these combined factors influence nutrient availability and soil health. This information will be valuable for dairy farmers to determine best management practices that simultaneously maximize cover crop benefits for both environmental stewardship and agronomic production.
Sylvia Kehoe, Department of Animal and Food Science
“Effects of using calf jackets on performance and health of purebred and crossbred dairy calves in different rearing environments”
Kehoe is a professor of dairy science and an assistant chair for the department. She teaches courses on lactation and milk quality as well as animal welfare.
Project summary: The use of calf jackets for dairy calves is consistently increasing due to industry recommendations. However, research is limited as to their benefits. Young calves are significantly affected by cold temperatures, but much of the previous research on calf jackets may not be applicable to conventional U.S. calf rearing systems because it was conducted internationally or in group-housed environments. In addition, many farms are raising dairy x beef crossbred calves that may react differently to the use of calf jackets. This project will evaluate the use of calf jackets for dairy calves and dairy x beef crossbred calves in both an indoor calf barn and outdoor hutch environment. Feed intake and calf health performance will be recorded to assess for any differences between calf type and housing situations in different environmental temperatures.
Natasha Rayne, Department of Plant and Earth Science
“Effect of in-field prairie strips on nutrient cycling and biodiversity in crop production systems: A preliminary study”
Rayne is an associate professor of plant and earth science, specializing in soil science with an emphasis on soil fertility. Her research focuses on nutrient cycling and the improvement of soil health using manure.
Project summary: Farmers use various practices to minimize soil nutrient loss through erosion and leaching. Integrating prairie strips on cropland, including dairy forage systems, has shown promise in this area. However, information is lacking on the soil nutrient contributions of planted prairie strips to crop production systems and changes in the soil nutrient status over time. This project seeks to investigate these changes throughout prairie strips that are established in forage crop production systems. In collaboration with local farmers, prairie strips will be established in their crop fields. These fields will be compared to maintained, restored prairies in Wisconsin to develop insight into how well they mimic a prairie’s ecosystem functions.
Susanne Wiesner, Department of Plant and Earth Science
“Establishing a baseline greenhouse gas budget and climate resilience target for the Mann Valley Dairy Farm”
Wiesner is an assistant professor of environmental science. Her research interests include agricultural atmospheric science and climate resiliency, land-atmosphere interactions, remote sensing, and ecosystem management. Wiesner’s position is funded by the Dairy Innovation Hub.
Project summary: Despite the popular perception that larger dairy farms cause greater environmental damages than smaller farms, there is limited scientific literature on the effect of farm size on distinct environmental concerns and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This project intends to improve the monitoring and verification of GHG emissions at the Mann Valley Farm at UW–River Falls as a case study from a small–medium farm. The goal of this project is to optimize measurement strategies for GHG from fields and barns, and to compare measurements with modeled values following IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) GHG guidelines. Furthermore, the project aims to establish a GHG baseline for Mann Valley Farm which can be used to assess impacts from future management changes. The results of this research will also assess the degree of climate resiliency of Mann Valley Farm to future weather extremes, which can help ensure its environmental and economic sustainability.
James White, Department of Agricultural Economics
“Rural economic development in Wisconsin: analysis of intergenerational mobility and community-centered case studies”
White is an associate professor of agricultural economics. He teaches a variety of courses in the department and has research interests in agricultural management, finance, and public policy.
Project summary: This project will focus on rural Wisconsin communities and examine causes of economic decline and alternatives for generating positive economic growth with existing assets. Current research on rural economic development is limited by the reliance on publicly available datasets and a focus on questions of importance to academics rather than the local officials who contend with the issues created by the economic decline. This research effort will attempt to overcome these limitations by taking a more qualitative approach based on interviews and focus groups, and it will produce case studies and a theoretical examination of the drivers of rural economic growth.
Bob Zeng, Department of Agricultural Engineering Technology
“Efficient manure land application through innovative tillage systems: feasibility and environmental impacts”
Zeng is an assistant professor of agricultural engineering. He is a licensed professional engineer with expertise in the areas of machinery systems modeling, testing, automation, and numerical simulation.
Project summary: Manure is a valuable source of organic nutrient for field crops. Traditional surface manure spreading is low in cost, but it may cause nutrient loss, odor, and water pollution. Incorporating liquid manure into the soil and injecting manure below the soil surface can minimize environmental concerns and maximize nutrient utilization by crops. This project will investigate the feasibility of integrating innovative tillage and liquid manure land application systems and evaluate the economic and environmental impacts. A field unit prototype machine for liquid manure incorporation and injection will be developed and its performance and effects on soil, crop, water, and air quality will be evaluated through plot–based tests. Case studies will be conducted to assess the feasibility and profitability of the integrated manure application systems. The goal of the project is to develop a viable liquid manure application system that maximizes field efficiency and crop nutrient availability while minimizing environmental impacts.
Contact: Maria Woldt, Dairy Innovation Hub program manager, (608) 265-4009, email@example.comThis article was posted in Uncategorized.