Kernza: A Perennial Crop With Perks

“Picasso is excited to collaborate with his new colleagues at UW–Madison. “There are lots of opportunities to develop interdisciplinary projects to solve the most critical problems we are facing today in terms of agricultural sustainability,” he says.

And in an era of increasing globalization, Picasso has cast his gaze beyond the borders of Wisconsin. He maintains an international focus as he studies the agroecological intensification of grazing systems around the globe, especially in Latin America.”

Kernza: Perennial Crop with Perks

Clare Gietzel, 2017/2018 IPSA Scholar

Congratulations to undergrad Clare Gietzel, 2017/18 Independent Professional Seed Association scholar!

Clare has been awarded a $2,000 scholarship, one of five granted annually. Clare is getting her BS in Agronomy with certificates in Global health and Environmental Studies, and is planning on a career in plant breeding. Clare is a longtime member of the Badger Crops Club and its newly elected president.

The IPSA is an independent association, formed in 1989, representing the interests of independent seed companies. To date IPSA has funded over $1,500,000 in private and public research projects.

UW Crops Team competes in Chicago Collegiate Crops Judging Contest

On November 19, the UW Crops Team placed 8th out of 10 teams in the Chicago Collegiate Crops Judging Contest. The contest was held at the Loyola University downtown Chicago, IL campus and is sponsored by the CME Group, GROWMARK, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists.

crops-teamThe Crops Team consists of undergraduates Katelyn Van Treeck, Rachel Perry, Clare Gietzel, and Jacqui Hilliard. The team was advised and coached by volunteers Dan Smith and Nate Drewitz.

The contest consisted of weed, disease, and crop identification, grain grading, and seed analysis. In the identification portion of the contestant they were given plant and seed samples and had to identify common crops, wheat varieties, common diseases of corn, soybean and small grains, and weeds. In the grain grading portion of the contest they were required to grade barley, corn, oats, rye, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat according to USDA Federal Grain Inspection Service standards. In the seed analysis portion they were required to identify seeds of common crops, weeds, restricted and noxious weeds.

The Crops Team is part of Badger Crops Club and travel to the contest was made possible through a generous grant from the Wisconsin Certified Crop Advisors.

Congratulations, Crop Team!

(story by Dan Smith)

In Memoriam: Supporting Young Women in Science

Sharon Gray’s work in Ethiopia is not done.

The 30-year-old UC Davis postdoc had gone to the African nation to discuss the start of a plant biology research project. She and others — including Associate Professor Siobhan Brady — were in a car, driving on the outskirts of the capital city, Addis Ababa, when a rock came crashing through a window, striking and killing Gray. Brady was not injured.

Now, to preserve her legacy of mentorship, and hopefully bring this scientist to the United States,Gray’s family is raising money via GoFundMe to mentor women in science. “The mission of this current campaign is to make something positive out of this tragedy,” Markelz wrote for the GoFundMe site.

He said the family is discussing the exchange proposal with multiple institutions, including UC Davis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Gray received her Ph.D. Meanwhile, as of around 11:00 am today (Oct. 18), the GoFundMe drive had raised more than $92,000 toward its $200,000 goal.

Memorial Fund:

Article detailing Sharon’s life and mentoring:

Posted in All

New Jackson lab manuscript on plant-associated soil microbes

The Randy Jackson lab has released a new manuscript titled “Bioenergy cropping systems that incorporate native grasses stimulate growth of plant-associated soil microbes in the absence of nitrogen fertilization”.


The choice of crops and their management can strongly influence soil microbial communities and their processes. We used lipid biomarker profiling to characterize how soil microbial composition of five potential bioenergy cropping systems diverged from a common baseline five years after they were established. The cropping systems we studied included an annual system (continuous no-till corn) and four perennial crops (switchgrass, miscanthus, hybrid poplar, and restored prairie). Partial- and no-stover removal were compared for the corn system, while N-additions were compared to unfertilized plots for the perennial cropping systems. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and Gram-negative biomass was higher in unfertilized perennial grass systems, especially in switchgrass and prairie. Gram-positive bacterial biomass decreased in all systems relative to baseline values in surface soils (0–10 cm), but not subsurface soils (10–25 cm). Overall microbial composition was similar between the two soil depths. Our findings demonstrate the capacity of unfertilized perennial cropping systems to recreate microbial composition found in undisturbed soil environments and indicate how strongly agroecosystem management decisions such as N addition and plant community composition can influence soil microbial assemblages.

You can read the manuscript here (PDF).

4th Annual Agroecology Barn Dance!



It’s that time of year again to show off your dancing skills and enjoy some great company! The 4th Annual Agroecology Barn Dance is here! This years dance will have live music, provided by the band Thirsty Roots with caller Steve Pike. Delicious vegetable stew, bread, and apple cider are included with your ticket price.

Date: October 22nd, 2016
Time: 7:30pm-10:30pm (doors open at 6:30)
Location: The Cates Family Farm – 5992 County Road T, Spring Green, WI 53588

ONLINE TICKETS (available until Oct. 21st @ 11:30pm)
$15 Students | $20 General |
$7 Kids 8 and Up | Kids under 8 Free
$20 Students | $25 General catesfarm2
$10 Kids 8 and Up | Kids under 8 Free

Because this is Wisconsin, plenty of beer will be available by donation and we will be having a meat raffle. There will also be assorted desserts available by donation.

Camping is available on the farm for free for those who would like to spend the night and enjoy the Driftless scenery a bit longer. There will be no dogs allowed this year, as the cattle will be in the pasture.

Come join us and enjoy the beautiful Cates Family Farm! All proceeds benefit research by the students of UW-Madison’s Agroecology Program. Hope to see you there!

Please contact Sam Asper ( with any questions.

You can also check out the Facebook event here:



Molly Jahn to speak at lecture series

May 7, 2017
Challenges of Feeding the World in 2050
Molly Jahn, Professor, UW-Madison Agronomy and Genetics departments

Molly is participating in a lecture series titled “Farming, Food, and Responsible Fruitfulness” organized by Bethel Lutheran Church’s environmental awareness program. The lectures, which take place at the church at 10 a.m. on various Sundays between Oct. 16 – May 7, cover topics such as relationships and challenges of agriculture and food distribution, land, water and energy use, urban and rural connections, food for the future, and food for the planet.

See more information on the lecture series here.

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

Rachel perry

Rachel Perry

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 for weeds, insects and diseases and monitored four different insect traps. She also updated safety kits and information around the station and pitched in to help the station superintendents wherever she was needed.

One of Perry’s favorite parts of her time at Arlington was the diversity of her work. “Every day there was something different happening, something different to learn,” she says. “Since it’s a research farm, there were things not common on regular farms, but there were also a lot of similarities to many of the farms in Wisconsin. Seeing both of these sides made it very interesting and educational.”

Perry was also given the opportunity to talk with Extension agents in various counties throughout the summer and learn what work in Extension entails. She says her time at Arlington helped confirm her desire to become involved with Extension after graduation. She hopes to be part of the outreach efforts to help farmers solve their problems by bringing university research to them.

Ryan Seffinga: Advancing precision agriculture

Ryan Seffinga spent a good part of his summer driving an ATV. But this wasn’t an ordinary ATV – it was fitted with a GPS receiver, a cellular modem and a monitor, all to collect data from the over 500 fields at Arlington. Seffinga says his time on the ATV driving around the fields, collecting data and familiarizing himself with the station was some of his favorite time during his internship.

His time was well spent as the equipment and data he collected is part of a farm management system that Seffinga established at the research station over the course of the summer. The new system advances precision agriculture technologies and will allow for easier data management by allowing users to view yields across harvested fields, plan for future field operations and more.

Seffinga’s interest in farm machinery and technology started many years ago as he grew up next to a John Deere dealership in Durand, Wis. He brought that interest to his internship and to UW-Madison where he is currently a senior studying Biological Systems Engineering with a focus on machinery. On campus he is part of the Badger Pulling Team that takes part in the ¼ Scale Tractor Design competition and is involved with the Engineers in Business student organization.

After graduating in December of this year, he plans to pursue a position in design engineering with an ultimate goal of starting his own engineering and sales business. Seffinga says his time at Arlington has shaped his goals and helped him realize the importance of precision agriculture. “I now know that the agricultural industry is investing more money into the precision side of things. By remaining in this part of the industry, I can expect tremendous opportunities to present themselves, especially in new product development.”