B.S. (Hons.) Global Resource Systems, University of British Columbia, 2012.
You’ve heard it before: reduced tillage is a double-edged sword. On one hand, this approach can provide many soil health benefits; on the other, weed management can become very challenging, particularly in the absence of chemical control. Since synthetic herbicides are prohibited in organic production, organic farmers typically rely on tillage and cultivation for controlling weeds. Consequently, weed management can become especially complex when these mechanical methods are minimized or eliminated.
My research is broadly motivated to address some of these challenges, with a particular focus on optimizing cover crop-based, organic, rotational no-till cropping systems. This approach uses a roller-crimper to terminate a fall-sown cover crop, such as cereal rye, in the spring, and then a cash crop is no-till planted through the rolled mulch. When properly managed, this thick cover crop mulch can provide season-long weed suppression without the need for supplemental control. As a result, diesel fuel, labor, and total energy use is substantially reduced compared to traditional tillage-based organic production systems, which can increase on-farm profitability. This system also provides many ecosystem services, such as reducing soil erosion, improving soil health, limiting nutrient leaching, conserving soil moisture, and enhancing biodiversity.
While much of my work includes mechanistic components to better understand the ecological underpinnings of a particular management practice, all of this research has distinctly applied objectives that have evolved from a systems perspective. Collaborating with farmers throughout NY State on these projects has been one of the most rewarding aspects of conducting this research.
Presently, I am working on three alternative cropping system experiments.
1. Performance of cover crop-based, organic, rotational no-till soybean systems: inter-specific competition in mixtures of barley and cereal rye
For this project, we are attempting to optimize early-season light interception to enhance weed suppression by sowing a cover crop mixture of barley and cereal rye. We are also assessing the effect of rolled cover crops on organic soybean yield (no-till vs. tillage-based management).
2. Evaluating trade-offs between forage quality and yield for winter cereals grown for forage in double cropping systems
This second project is an organic cereal rye, barley, and triticale variety trial for double-cropping dairy forage systems. Trialing four cultivars per species, we will evaluate the trade-offs between forage quality and yield at different growth stages for winter cereals harvested for forage in the spring. The results of this research will allow dairy farmers to more accurately coordinate winter cereal harvest timing with the dietary needs of dairy cows, heifers, and other livestock. Including winter cereals in a rotation can reduce soil erosion, limit nitrate leaching and phosphorus runoff, enhance nutrient cycling, increase homegrown forage, decrease feed imports, and improve farm profitability.
3.Cultural management practices for enhanced weed suppression and profitability: soybean competitive ability in organic no-till systems
This project will evaluate how planting density affects soybean competitive ability, which can be described as the ability to maintain acceptable yields in the presence of weeds (tolerance), and the ability to suppress the vegetative and reproductive growth of weeds (weed suppression). We will include an economic analysis to help inform farmer decision-making.
Presentations and invited lectures
- Rolled, Organic, No-Till Soybeans: Agronomics and Economics, 10 March 2015, New York Certified Organic Annual Meeting, Geneva, NY
- Winter Forage Management, 2 December 2014, Northeast Region Certified Crop Adviser Training Conference, Syracuse, NY
- How Food Shapes Cities, 20 November 2014, Sustainable Agriculture: Food, Farming, and the Future, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
- Double Cropping Systems for NY Dairy Farmers: Balancing Yields and Forage Quality, 18 November 18 2014, Cornell Cooperative Extension – Agriculture and Food Systems In-Service, Ithaca, NY
- Performance of No-Till Planted Soybean in Rolled-Crimped Barley and Cereal Rye Mixtures, 3 November 2014, Agronomy, Crop, and Soil Science Societies International Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA
- Tradeoffs Between Forage Quality and Yield of Winter Cereals in Double Cropping Systems, 3 November 2014, Agronomy, Crop, and Soil Science Societies International Annual Meeting, Long Beach, CA
- Innovative Cropping Systems – Cover Crop-Based Organic Rotational No-Till, 7 March 2014, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Dairy & Field Crop Conference, Auburn, NY
- No-Herbicide No-Till Soybean in the Northeastern US, 5 February 2014, Weed Science Society of America Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC
- No-Herbicide No-Till Soybean in NY State, 8 January 2014, Northeastern Weed Science Society Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA
- Urban Agriculture, 21 November 2013, Sustainable Agriculture: Food, Farming, and the Future, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
- Form and Function: Designing Community Gardens for Plants and People, 8 June 2012, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (UBC Farm), Vancouver, BC