Current Research

Managing Perennial Cover Crops for Sustainable Corn Stover Biomass Production.
This project functions to ascertain the impact of perennial cover established within row crop systems. Given the increasing demand for and removal of corn stover for either cellulosic biofuels or livestock-related purposes for bedding and feedstuffs, a need exists to ensure that natural resources-related issues resulting from the practice of stover removal can be managed appropriately. Soil erosion and nitrate leaching, for example, must be mitigated, and sufficient organic matter must be maintained and managed in an appropriate fashion. Management of natural resources-related issues would most desirably be attained without compromising yield of the crop of primary economic interest or placing extreme infrastructure burdens on operators, which would both function as economic disincentives. Perennial covers may then act to alleviate problems which arise from the removal of stover in conventional systems. Within the Sun Grant-funded project, perennial cover was established with Kentucky Bluegrass and Creeping Red Fescue prior to the planting of both corn and soybean, as the crops of primary economic interest. Data gathered from research plots includes phenology, Light Area Index (LAI), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), biomass, and grain yield, among other parameters. Graduate student, Cynthia Bartel is leading this project. Funded by the DOE North Central Sun Grant Initiative


Leaf Harvesting, environment, and agronomic biofortification impacts on common beans.
This is a two part study being conducted by graduate student and PhD candidate, Rosemary Bulyaba. The first study, 'Effect of leaf harvesting on nodulation, nitrogen fixation, and yield in common beans and cowpea' is focused on determining the optimum leaf harvest percent at Vegetative stage in six common beans and cowpeas. In addition, it also will evaluate whether nodulation at R4, nitrogen fixation, and yield are impacted by the different leaf harvest percent at V6. The second study, 'Impact of differences in agronomic biofortification and environment on grain nutrient composition of common bean' is focused on understanding to what extent grain nutrients in beans (dark red kidney, black turtle, yellow canary/mayocoba, and white beans) are influenced by soil mineral properties and environmental factors.


Food Security CAP - Intercropping alfalfa with corn, intercropping cereal rye and oil seed crops into corn and soybeans.
This research focuses on diversifying and making the cropping system more resilient and at the same time increases its overall economic productivity. The first part of this research is focusing on a double crop of corn and alfalfa where we are trying to maximize land use efficiency and total biomass productivity of the cropping system. The second part of this research involves integrating cereal rye and two oil seed crops (winter camelina and field pennycress) into a corn and soybean rotation system. Pennycress and winter camelina along with cereal rye interseeded into corn and soybean in the fall would act as a cover crop, protect soil nutrient loss, and control erosion. Relay soybeans are planted into all three cover crops in the spring following corn or soybeans, oil seeds are harvested from camelina and pennycress after maturity in early summer. Successful integration of these cover/oilseed crops in the existing corn and soybean-cropping system would increase the agricultural diversity, make the system more resilient by reducing the environmental impact and make it economically beneficial by increasing the overall productivity of the system. Graduate student and PhD candidate, Swetabh Patel, is leading this project as part of the USDA Food Security CAP.