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 Faulty set to speak at Cover Crop Field Day

Cover crops can be used effectively to reduce soil erosion, reduce the need for herbicides and other pesticides, protect water quality by limiting nitrogen (N) leaching, and increase soil organic matter. Farmers, Ag professionals and Ag educators are invited to attend a Cover Crop Field Day at Arlington Agricultural Research Station on Oct. 8, 2014 to learn more about cover crop research conducted by University of Wisconsin-Extension and UW-Madison throughout Wisconsin. Get the full story at: http://fyi.uwex.edu/news/2014/09/05/cover-crops-field-day-scheduled-for-october-8/
September 15, 2014
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Fall alfalfa management can make or break survival, says Dan Undersander

While farmers gear up for corn silage harvest, they should not overlook sound fall management of their alfalfa as the end of summer draws near. For good winter survival and quick green-up next spring, that last cutting needs to be early enough for the alfalfa to be able to regrow and replenish root reserves, or be so late that it does not regrow much at all, reports Dan Undersander, UW-Madison forage specialist. Undersander was part of a webinar sponsored last week by Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW). Undersander says producers tend to worry about alfalfa and winterkill, while actually of more concern is winter injury to this forage. In other words, the alfalfa is slower out of the starting gate and first-cutting yield is not as big as it could be come spring. Alfalfa gets ready for winter by hardening or changing to its winter structure, says Undersander. How effectively the crop hardens depends on genetics and fall weather conditions. The fatty acid composition of the alfalfa root changes during hardening due to the preferential accumulation of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The preferential deposition of ...
September 4, 2014
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“If We Understand What Chefs Want, We Can Produce It”

VERONA, Wis. — There's a good chance that many of the suddenly trendy vegetables that foodies latch on to in the next decade will benefit from research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While plant breeders at many public universities focus on improving field corn, soybeans and other crops used in food manufacturing or livestock feed, those in Madison want to produce better-tasting vegetables. The university has long had ties to the vegetable processing industry, as Wisconsin is among the top two or three states in producing canned or frozen sweet corn, green beans and peas. But vegetable breeders say the local food movement has created additional opportunities with a boom in organic farms, farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants. The challenge is coming up with varieties consumers like, even if they can't always articulate what makes one ear of corn better than another. "Apples are almost the only fruit or vegetable that when you go to the grocery store, you see 30 different apples all by name," said Bill Tracy, a sweet corn breeder who chairs the university's Department of Agronomy. "We could do ...
September 2, 2014
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“So this is comparable not to breaking the door or even just knocking on the door, but to knocking on the door while wearing cologne.”

The mechanical force that a single fungal cell or bacterial colony exerts on a plant cell may seem vanishingly small, but it plays a heavy role in setting up some of the most fundamental symbiotic relationships in biology. In fact, it may not be too much of a stretch to say that plants may have never moved onto land without the ability to respond to the touch of beneficial fungi, according to a new study led by Jean-Michel Ané, a professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Legumes like soybean plants, pictured in Jean-Michel Ané’s lab, can grow without nitrogen fertilizer when engaged with rhizobia. (Photo: Jean-Michel Ané) “Many people have studied how roots progress through the soil, when fairly strong stimuli are applied to the entire growing root,” says Ané, who just published a review of touch in the interaction between plants and microbes in the journal Current Opinion in Plant Biology. “We are looking at much more localized, tiny stimuli on a single cell that is applied by microbes.” Jean-Michel Ané Specifically, Ané, Dhileepkumar Jayaraman, a postdoctoral researcher in agronomy, and Simon Gilroy, a professor of ...
August 28, 2014
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“The corn is probably sweet enough”

On the track of not-so-sweet corn Monday, August 25th, 2014 You might wonder why Bill Tracy bothers to breed new varieties of sweet corn. It’s already unbelievably tender and crisp and supersweet. We just need more of what we’ve got, right? Not really, says Tracy, chair of the UW-Madison agronomy department, who has been breeding sweet corn since the 1980s. There’s a lot of things besides sweetness to worry about. And in fact, sweetness is something a lot of people would like less of. “Modern sweet corn has excellent eating quality, flavorful and tender​. We are always looking to make improvements to eating quality but the corn is probably sweet enough,” says Tracy. “We want to improve disease resistance, weed competitiveness, shelf life, and other traits to make it easier to grow and provide better more consistent quality for the consumers.” “We are also looking at developing non-sweet vegetable corns for culinary uses. Many chefs and cooks feel modern sweet corn is too sweet for many recipes. In 2014, we began new efforts in developing non-sweet vegetable corns. We have gathered heirloom sugary sweet corns that are prized for ...
August 26, 2014
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Plant Sciences Symposium Seeking Proposals

(as seen on eCALS) The Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council (PSGSC) is in the midst of planning the annual UW-Madison Plant Sciences Symposium. This fall our symposium will be entitled Plants and Society: Integrating Food and Science in Today’s Culture. The theme of the the integration of multiple disciplines and perspectives in addressing research inquires related to agriculture. This year we are adding four 15-minute presentations to the schedule. PSGSC invites students from departments related to agriculture to join us in creating another great symposium. This is a great opportunity for students to work on professional presentation skills as well as receive recognition from the UW-Madison community, and the larger international audience that the symposium attracts via the live webinar. The symposium will be held on Friday, October 3rd in Union South. We would like to give everyone an opportunity to apply for the chance to be one of our featured speakers in this year’s symposium. Student presenters will be given 15 minutes to talk about their work, followed by 5 minutes for questions. To apply please send a brief abstract (max 300 words) describing the research you would like to present and a current CV to psgsc@rso.wisc.edu. After review ...
August 18, 2014
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