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

Shawn Conley wins Pound Extension Award

This week Professor Shawn Conley was presented the Pound Extension award by Dean Kathryn VandenBosch at the 2015 CALS Awards. The Pound Award is given to a faculty member is an outstanding integrated Extension asset of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.  
May 1, 2015
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“Microbes are incredibly charismatic if you have the right mindset”

David Duncan loves to think about dirt, and a quick glance at his family tree could lead one to believe he comes by it naturally. His grandfather was an agricultural extension agent and his handful of uncles includes two agronomists and an expert on fungi. But Duncan, a University of Wisconsin–Madison doctoral student in agronomy and a Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center researcher, asserts that what really pulled him into agronomy was his mother. “My interest in biology was agricultural from the get-go and I think it’s because my mom always loved the idea of having a great big garden,” Duncan says. “Early on, I learned from her that growing things was a good pursuit, something worth doing.” Duncan spent his childhood in central Wyoming, an arid region where it’s hard to grow much of anything. He recalls tending some strawberries and rhubarb with his mom, but remembers even better the summers he spent digging around in the decomposing pile of grass clippings out by the shed. “It was sort of an early experiment in microbial ecology,” Duncan says. “Unfortunately, it ended when the ...
April 27, 2015
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“Now it’s time to really make decisions”

Click here to listen to Joe Lauer talk about the 2015 corn growing season with Sevie Kenyon of UW CALS.
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UW Crops Team Places 5th at NACTA Conference

  On April 10, the UW Crops Team placed 5th out of 18 teams in the Crops Judging Contest at the 2015 NACTA Judging Conference in Moline, IL.   [caption id="attachment_1197" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Pictured: Dani Edelburg, Mark Kendall, Katelyn Vantreeck, and Rachel Perry. (Photo courtesy of Mark Kendall)[/caption] The Crops Team consists of undergraduates Dani Edelburg, Mark Kendall, Katelyn Vantreeck, and Rachel Perry, advised and coached by graduate students Dan Smith and Dave Marburger. "It's a really hands-on, practical contest - it's great career prep, and gives them experience that they may not have gained in a class," says Smith. The contest consisted of an agronomic exam, math exam, plant identification, and agronomy practical lab exam. Contestants were quizzed on everything from plant morphology and anatomy, nutrient management, biofuels, the seed industry, and climate. In the math portion of the contest they were required to calculate area conversions and pesticide applications, seed emergence calculations and soil erosion estimates. In the practical lab portion they were given plant samples and had to identify everything from disease symptoms to insect damage, interpret seed tag information, determine soil texture ...
April 17, 2015
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Mob Grazing, the New Old Craze

MADISON, Wis. — Mob Grazing is a “new” grazing technique that has been slowly sweeping Wisconsin and the upper-Midwest for the last decade. This technique attempts to simulate historical grazing patterns conducted by native herbivores with a range of domesticated livestock. While Mob Grazing is similar to rotational grazing, producers who implement this practice typically graze forage that is taller and more mature, with more animals per unit area, faster paddock moves, and a longer regrowth period after grazing events. Graziers use this new technique for a variety of reasons including weed control, even distribution of manure, pasture resilience, decreased animal selectivity and even to improve soil health. While there may be benefits, there are also concerns about potential negative impacts. “In Their Own Words” is a video series created by the University of Wisconsin-Extension that takes a closer look at what mob grazing really is and how it’s being used on the landscape. Farmers featured in the video have utilized mob grazing in some form as part of their pasture- and herd-management strategy, and are excited to share their successes as well ...
March 31, 2015
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“Those numbers aren’t as big as they could be”: Climate Change affects Soybean Farmers Even In Good Years

MADISON, Wis. — Even during good years, our nation’s soybean farmers are, in essence, taking a loss. That’s because changes in weather patterns have been eating into their profits and taking quite a bite: $11 billion over the past 20 years. This massive loss has been hidden, in effect, by the impressive annual growth seen in soybean yields thanks to other factors. But that growth could have been much greater—30% higher—if weather variations resulting from climate change had not occurred, says a study published last month in Nature Plants. “We are still making yield gains because of breeding and other strategies, but those numbers aren’t as big as they could be,” says lead author Shawn Conley, a University of Wisconsin-Madison agronomy professor and UW-Extension soybean and wheat specialist. In the study, researchers isolated the impacts of changing temperature and precipitation on soybean yields in a much more precise way than previously done. While earlier approaches relied on estimates, Conley’s team used data gathered from their own field trials, giving them access to reliable and consistent information about the genetics of the soybeans being ...
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