Horticulture PhD Student
My research focuses on increasing the sustainability and profitability of agriculture by adapting reduced tillage practices to organic vegetable production. Reduced tillage systems can provide a number of agronomic benefits including improved soil health, decreased fuel and labor costs, and soil water conservation. However, organic farmers rely heavily on tillage for weed control and increased nitrogen availability. I am working to reduce weed competition and increase nitrogen use efficiency in organic systems via a combination of zone tillage and targeted N placement. The goal of these practices is to produce spatially heterogeneous zones within the soil environment and maximize resource utilization by the crop
Zone-tillage combines the benefit of tillage within the crop row while leaving the between-row area undisturbed. Tillage within the crop row incorporates soil N amendments for faster and greater N release. Leaving the between row area untilled maintains cover crop residue on top of the soil surface for weed suppression and decreased soil water evaporation.
Nitrogen use efficiency can be improved by increasing the ability of crop roots to access nitrogen pools. Concentrating N within the crop rooting-zone ensures that N is readily absorbed as it is released through decomposition. One strategy to achieve targeted placement of organic N is through stripped-intercropping of cereal grass and legume cover crops. By isolating the planting of the N rich legume directly in line with future crop establishment, pools of N will be more accessible to the crop. The carbon rich cereal grass planted between crop rows remains on the soil surface in zone-tilled systems to suppress weeds and improve soil quality.
After graduate school I would like to continue research in applied agroecoloy as a post-doc.