Feeding 9 Billion People and Creating a Healthier, More Resilient Agriculture.

That is the challenge taken up by the faculty, staff and students of the Department of Agronomy.  We generate and apply knowledge about plants that feed and benefit humankind.  We find and implement answers to problems and opportunities concerning efficiency and sustainability of crop production and in safe and environmentally-sound ways. We generate knowledge on the genetics, biochemistry and physiology of plants. We study the interactions among cropping systems, climate, and the environment. We work to ensure that agricultural systems and products in Wisconsin and the world are able to meet rapidly-changing needs and those of future generations.

  • Planting corn plots

Ag Students Gain Experience in Summer ARS Internships

CALS undergraduate students participate in many “beyond the classroom” experiences during their time in college. Summer is a particularly popular time for those experiences, giving students the opportunity to take on internships, jobs and volunteer experiences related to their academic interests. Below we highlight two CALS students who spent the summer working as interns at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station. Rachel Perry: Scouting the fields [caption id="attachment_1759" align="alignright" width="200"] Rachel Perry[/caption] Rachel Perry has been involved in agriculture her whole life. Growing up on a farm in Waupun, Wis., she helped her family grow soybeans, corn and cannery vegetable crops and was also involved in 4-H and FFA. Perry was inspired by a high school agriculture teacher, Tari Costello, as well as her parents to pursue agriculture at UW-Madison. She is now a senior majoring in Agronomy with a certificate in Environmental Studies and Global Health, and she also serves as president of the Badger Crops Club and vice president of the Babcock House Cooperative. This summer, Perry expanded her agriculture interests further as the Crop Scout/Agriculture Safety Intern at Arlington. She scouted fields ...
August 23, 2016
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Boy Scout Plant Sciences Badge Day

Last Saturday, Aug. 20, Kevin Cope, a graduate student in Jean-Michel Ané’s lab, organized the second annual Plant Science Merit Badge Workshop for Boy Scouts. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council (PSGSC) with help from PSGSC president Chris D’Angelo, a graduate student in Irwin Goldman’s lab. Boy Scouts from across Wisconsin and parts of Illinois attended, and 48 scouts earned the badge. More than 15 graduate student volunteers from several different departments and programs helped with the workshop. Scouts attending the workshop took part in lectures, hands-on experiments, and tours of the D.C. Smith Greenhouse and the Allen Centennial Gardens. Said one parent who attended the workshop, “My son commented on how much they learned and came home in very good spirits after a long day. We’ve been to many different merit badge workshops…[This] was one of the best run and highest-quality workshops we’ve seen.” This is the second time Kevin, who serves as vice president of PSGSC, has organized this workshop with the student council. They plan to continue offering this merit badge workshop in the future ...
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Breeding for Flavor

Picture: A team of students led by horticulture professor Julie Dawson (center, in cap) and agronomy professor Bill Tracy (second from left) prepare vegetables for the chef's tasting. The students conduct a tasting of their own to determine which varieties go on to the chefs. CALS scientists are breeding new varieties of produce that not only are delicious, but also will thrive in organic growing systems. And in a new collaboration called “Seed to Kitchen,” they’re partnering with chefs and farmers to help determine what works best. By Erik Ness Chef Tony Miller, Estrellón, takes a seat with colleagues Jonny Hunter of the Underground Food Collective and Dan Bonanno of A Pig in a Fur Coat. The chefs are here to lend their highend taste buds to science, and they start to banter about tomato flavor. What are the key elements? How important are they relative to each other? Despite their intense culinary dedication, these men rarely just sit down and eat tomatoes with a critical frame of mind. “I learned a lot about taste through this project,” says Hunter. “I really ...
July 12, 2016
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More Sustainable Feedstock for Ethanol

Picture: Researcher Gregg Sanford stands before a plot of giant miscanthus at Arlington. Perennial crop yields can compete with corn stover, study suggests By Mark E. Griffin A six-year Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) study on the viability of different bioenergy feedstocks recently demonstrated that perennial cropping systems such as switchgrass, giant miscanthus, poplar, native grasses and prairie can yield as much biomass as corn stover. The study is significant for addressing one of the biofuel industry’s biggest questions: Can environmentally beneficial crops produce enough biomass to make their conversion to ethanol efficient and economical? Since 2008, research scientists Gregg Sanford and Gary Oates, based in the lab of CALS agronomy professor Randy Jackson, have worked with colleagues at Michigan State University (MSU) to cultivate more than 80 acres of crops with the potential to become feedstocks for so-called “second-generation” biofuels, that is, biofuels derived from non-food crops or the nonfood portion of plants. They’ve grown these crops at the CALS-based Arlington Agricultural Research Station and at MSU’s Kellogg Biological Station. “We understand annual systems really well, but little research has been done on ...
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Better Corn for Biofuel

Corn is a common sight in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest, but it’s actually more of a tropical species. As the growing regions for corn move farther north, a corn hybrid has to flower and mature more quickly to produce crop within a shorter growing season. That flowering time is determined by the genetics of the corn hybrid. Conversely, delayed flowering is beneficial for other uses of corn. For example, when flowering is delayed, corn can produce more biomass instead of food, and that biomass can then be used as raw material to make biofuel. The genetics of different hybrids controls their flowering time and, therefore, how useful they are for given purposes or growing regions. Shawn Kaeppler, a professor of agronomy, is working to better understand those genes and how various hybrids can best fit a desired function. Much of his work is done in collaboration with fellow agronomy professor Natalia de Leon. “We look across different populations and cross plants to produce progeny with different flowering times,” Kaeppler explains. “Then we use genetic mapping strategies to understand which genes are important ...
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Marian Lund selected for 2016 United Soybean Board Fellowship

PhD candidate Marian Lund has been selected for a 2016 United Soybean Board fellowship. Marian works on a bacterial biological control agent for soybean cyst nematode called Pasteuria nishizawae, an obligate parasite on SCN. Marian is designing a molecular detection method to monitor the movement and overall ecology of the bacterium in the soil over the growing season. The ultimate goal of this project is to assess this method of SCN control and determine which management practices best foster P. nishizawae in the soil. The United Soybean Board (USB) Fellowship promotes graduate education in the area of Plant Sciences, emphasizing the development of improved soybean varieties, understanding soybean genetics, and developing improved ways to grow and use soybeans. Funds for the fellowship are made available by gifts from the United Soybean Board to the American Society of Agronomy. Two fellowships will be awarded, providing a $25,000 annual stipend to each student for up to four years provided that satisfactory progress occurs toward degree completion. The recipients also receive a membership to the American Society of Agronomy and a subscription to the ACSESS ...
June 29, 2016
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