FFAR Blog2020-11-09T01:12:09-05:00

From the FFAR Blog

Precision Agriculture Tools for Livestock Production

By Caleb J. Grohmann, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at the University of Missouri

Livestock producers make several critical decisions daily that impact the health of animals and the farmer’s bottom line. Yet the supply of quality livestock technicians and managers who can make these decisions is decreasing across all sectors of animal agriculture, especially in the United States swine industry. Precision livestock farming technologies offer an interesting opportunity to provide support in making accurate decisions that positively impact the productivity and sustainability of swine operations. In my Ph.D. research at the University of Missouri–Columbia, we are striving to build tools to help pig farmers proactively and positively impact pig survivability in wean-to-finish pig barns.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

June 4th, 2024|

Transforming Agriculture with Data and Artificial Intelligence

By Shiang-Wan Chin, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at Cornell University

In an era in which sustainable agriculture is not just a choice but a necessity, my research with Dr. Hakeem Weatherspoon at Cornell University introduces a groundbreaking decision support system named Real-Time Optimization and Management System (ROAM). This innovative system is the cornerstone of my research, signifying an advancement in the realm of Digital Agriculture (DA).

ROAM isn’t merely a technological advancement; it’s the embodiment of a new era of data in farming called digital agriculture. By integrating state-of-the-art networking technologies and sophisticated data analysis, ROAM transforms traditional farms into network-enabled farms. This revolutionary technology enables farms to make data-driven decisions and optimize operations in real-time for better productivity and sustainability.

Central to ROAM is the Many-Objective Robust Decision Making (MORDM) framework. This advanced framework is integrated into an intuitive user interface, offering farmers a seamless and efficient decision-making tool. MORDM’s ability to handle multiple objectives and variables makes ROAM even more broadly applicable to providing robust and adaptable solutions to the ever-changing challenges in agriculture

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

March 31st, 2024|

How Our Waste Can Improve Soil Health in Semi-Arid Dryland Cropping Systems

By Madeline Desjardins, 2022-2025 FFAR Fellow
at Washington State University

Like most people, I once spent virtually no time thinking about the content of toilets and where those contents went after a flush. This all changed when I began my Ph.D. work in Dr. Deirdre Griffin LaHue’s Soil Health Lab at Washington State University. With funding from the FFAR Fellows Program and the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, my graduate research focuses on how biosolid byproducts from our waste stream can improve soil health and support sustainable agricultural production.

My research focuses on how biosolids influence the physical, biological, and chemical soil health properties of semi-arid dryland grain systems, and whether biosolids can help growers establish cover crops in these systems. The geography of this research is in dryland systems in Central Washington. These systems face some specific challenges related to water availability that can severely limit crop yields. Annual precipitation in this area is low (~10 inches of precipitation a year), and these systems rely solely on precipitation to meet the water needs of the crop (this means they are completely unirrigated).

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

March 14th, 2024|

The Innovation Dilemma: Why Adoption Rates for Agricultural Technologies Lag Behind

By Enrique Pena, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at North Carolina State University

Occasionally, I will read an article that a friend, family member or colleague has shared with me about groundbreaking advancements in agriculture, and it usually starts with a title like “All in one planter: till, seed, and fertilize in a single pass” or “Autonomous tractors! Let a robot farm for you”. I always think, “Wow, this is really cool!” And then, I notice little interest from farmers to adopt these technologies. Despite being available in the marketplace, many of these innovations do not gain enough traction to become normalized in the industry. Drones provide a good example of this, as farmers have been reluctant to invest in these despite the decades the technology has been available. Over time, I have seen the gap widen between the number of innovations breaking into the market and the number of farmers adopting them. Why is this the case? I believe that we, as scientists and innovators, need to improve our communication strategies to boost the adoption of valuable agricultural technologies.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

December 20th, 2023|

Building Team Chemistry, The Bigger Picture Behind Cows and Climate

By Conor McCabe, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at the University of California-Davis

How does cattle production impact the climate? Microbes that reside within the stomach of cows break down the grasses and plants they eat. These microbes also form the greenhouse gas methane, which is released into the atmosphere via cattle burps. Our lab studies various plant compounds, products and feed ingredients that have the potential to reduce this methane source. While a single graduate student coordinates the design of one of these studies and leads it to completion, it takes a dedicated team to make it all happen. As the lead graduate student on a recent project, it was my role to recruit, manage students and create community, which made for a challenging but invaluable growth experience as an aspiring scientist….

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

December 18th, 2023|

Protecting the Vidalia Onion

By Sujan Paudel, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at the University of Georgia

Within the U.S., Georgia is famously known for its Vidalia onion industry. These onions were first grown in Toombs County, South Georgia. Their unique flat shape with a sweet taste led to immediate popularity among growers and consumers. The distinct quality of this onion is due to the low amount of sulfur in the soil which cuts down the acidity and pungency making them sweeter than most other varieties. The continued growth of the industry and Vidalia’s increasing popularity did create branding problems where onions brought from outside were bagged and sold as Vidalias. The Federal Market Order 955 in 1989 defined the growing regions and mandated the growers to register and use specific varieties that provided national protection to the industry. This branding support and advancements in storage conditions oversaw the further growth of the industry which accounts for a staggering $160 million farm gate value and is now spread across 12,000 acres in 20 counties of South Georgia. My research, as a plant pathology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, aims to help protect this industry from deadly bacterial diseases..

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

September 21st, 2023|

Going Nuts: Nut Crops as Climate Resilient Protein Alternatives for the Future

By Matt Davis, 2022-2025 FFAR Fellow
at University of California – Davis

With the impact of climate change on agriculture becoming ever-more apparent, food producers and researchers need to be able to adapt quickly to environmental pressures. A greater reliance on nut crops could play an important role in this adaptation. Nuts are nutritionally dense and one of the most climate efficient food sources of protein. For example, producing 100 grams of beef protein generates almost 50 Kg of greenhouse gases, which is more than 150 times the greenhouse gas emissions produced for the same amount of nut protein.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

April 25th, 2023|

Building Bridges Between Academics & Farmers

By Ellie Ellis, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at Colorado State University

Some people claim there is a growing disconnect between agricultural research and the farmers who are supposed to benefit from the findings of this research.While controlled experiments are great for understanding specific agronomic outcomes, they are not well suited for studying the impacts on farm economics, neighboring farmers, or the surrounding ecosystem.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

April 6th, 2023|

Engineering Beneficial Bacteria to Improve Human Health

By Echo Pan, 2020-2023 FFAR Fellow
at North Carolina State University

Though we are only just beginning to understand the many ways in which microorganisms impact health, the advance of next generation genetic sequencing technologies has enabled us to reveal the composition of the human microbiome. Scientists are working to better understand the interactions between the microbiome and the human host, as well as potential ways to manipulate the microbiome to improve health.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

March 1st, 2023|

How Heat Stress Impacts Swine Health

By Lauren Anderson, 2020-2023 FFAR Fellow
at North Carolina State University

As temperatures increase, it not only impacts human health but also can be a major threat to swine agriculture. Pigs are disproportionately affected by heat stress due to their physiology. They can only sweat at about two percent of the rate of the average human, so their ability to dissipate heat by evaporative cooling (through sweat) is virtually non-existent.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

January 25th, 2023|

Wetlands: Agricultural Soil & Water Management for a Changing Climate

By Chantel Chizen, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow
at University of Saskatchewan

Like the seasons, there are natural drought-flood cycles where we experience a back and forth between years of little precipitation leading to drought and other years with heavy precipitation that can cause flooding. However, with climate change these weather extremes are expected to be more intense and the patterns may become difficult to predict.One strategy that can increase crop production’s resilience to extreme weather is maintaining wetlands within cropland.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

December 30th, 2022|

Throwing a Wrench in the Pesticide Treadmill

By Swati Mishra, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow

Adorned in beautiful black and golden stripes, the Colorado potato beetle (CPB) is a perfect example of the saying, “all that glitters isn’t gold.” These charming and seemingly innocuous beetles cost potato farmers tens of millions of dollars annually. A single young beetle can eat up to 40 centimeters of leaf surface every day, which is about half the size of a sheet of copy paper. Combine that with a reproduction rate of about 500 eggs per female, leaving a potato field with nothing but plant skeletons.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

November 16th, 2022|

Building Tools for Plant Genome Editing

By Simon Sretenovic, 2020-2023 FFAR Fellow

Researchers and plant breeders are diligently working to secure global food security. While the population increases, the amount of arable land is decreasing. Climate change is also contributing to the growing uncertainty about future food supplies due to its impact on crop yields. Yet, all is not lost. My research at University of Maryland is addressing this problem at a fundamental level by improving the gene editing toolkits that are at the center of cutting-edge research to develop high-yield and climate-resilient crops.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

October 26th, 2022|

Archea, Microbial Superheroes?

By Jabeen Ahmad, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow

Food insecurity is a concern now and in the future. Globally, the United Nations estimates that about 690 million people are food insecure. By the year 2050, the world population is expected to reach nine billion people, requiring food supplies to double. While the demand for food grows, fertile, arable land is decreasing and extreme weather events are increasing, making the task of feeding everyone more difficult. With climate change, the problem is further exacerbated as pest and pathogen ranges expand and habitable zones for crops change. Plants need to be stronger and hardier. At the same time, we need to implement more sustainable crop management practices that lessen chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. The challenge seems intractable.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

September 27th, 2022|

Tackling Malnutrition with Biofortification

By Aichatou Djibo Waziri, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow

Sometimes, minor details can have the biggest impact. For example, zinc is a mineral nutrient recommended in small proportions; just 12 to 15 milligrams per day suffices. Yet, a diet that’s deficient in zinc can cause a plethora of dysfunctions, including neural defects and delayed growth in infants. The solution to this challenge requires more than the development of supplements and fortified foods. Although the products from supplementation and fortification are relatively cheap in high-income countries, they are still unaffordable in many low-income countries. Additionally, the prevalence of malnutrition is further exacerbated in low-income countries due to their reliance on cereal grains, such as wheat and rice, that are inherently low in mineral nutrients.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

August 29th, 2022|

Wheat: already delicious and now nutritious

By Addison Carroll, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow

Strict dieters probably save the empty calories from pastas and breads for their ‘cheat’ days, but now wheat-based products can be both healthy and tasty. Historically, wheat production has primarily focused on yield – more wheat produced per hectare. Yet, the focus on increased production unintentionally resulted in reduced nutritional quality. Breads, noodles and the like are not considered to be particularly high in protein and micronutrients. Specifically, iron and zinc are the micronutrients that are most important to human health, yet are found in low quantities in wheat. Given growing threats to food and nutrition security in the face of population growth and a changing climate, scientists are tackling the challenge of producing wheat varieties that are both high yielding and rich in protein and nutritional quality.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

July 26th, 2022|

Reducing water scarcity by improving water productivity in the United States

By Gambhir Lamsal, 2021-2024 FFAR Fellow

Water is a scarce resource utilized by farmers, cities and industries to advance their economic activity. As population increases and the effect of climate change intensifies, competition among multiple stakeholders will exert additional pressure on already over exploited resources. According to the US Government Accountability Office, four out of five states in the United States will face water scarcity somewhere in their state in the coming decade.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

May 24th, 2022|

Manure – Waste or Resource?

By Manny Sabbagh, 2020-2023 FFAR Fellow

Many people view manure as just a pile of waste, yet this combination of feces, urine and bedding material is so much more than that. An inevitable byproduct of the livestock industry, manure can be an inexpensive tool to improve the soil and the plants we grow for food, fiber and fuel. With some supplementation from synthetic sources, manure can supply plants with the macro- and micro-nutrients needed for proper growth and production. My research as a Rockey FFAR Fellow at the University of Minnesota focuses on identifying optimal manure management strategies, with a specific focus on the use of cover crops, to help growers while also protecting the environment.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

April 25th, 2022|

Dusting the Soil for Fungus-Prints: Spinach Seed Production and One of its Greatest Threats

By Alex Batson, 2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

Spinach, one of the most popular dark-green leafy vegetables in the American diet, is grown across the United States and the world. Yet spinach seed only can be produced in a few regions that share specific climatic conditions: summers characterized by long days, mild temperatures and low humidity with little rainfall. Consequently, the ideal climate in western Oregon and western Washington makes this the only spinach seed production region in the United States and the home of up to one-fifth of the global spinach seed supply.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

March 29th, 2022|

A day on the Battlefield: Searching for Perennial defenses in wild places

By Kelsey Peterson, 2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

Punctuating the dust and dryness in my research plots is the sound of brown leaves scraping together – a sound typically heard in October when leaves begin to die on purpose as plants prepare for the winter. In July, however, the scrape of brown leaf on brown leaf is not good and the noise has nothing to do with the dry heat. Plants making this noise are infected – much like you would assume a person with a rattly cough is not well. Infections from pathogens – like rust – aptly named due to the amber, brown color of their reproductive pustules – push themselves into plant cells and leech on plant nutrients until the tissue dies.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

January 25th, 2022|

Rockey FFAR Fellows Alumni Share Program Highlights

Established in 2018 by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and North Carolina State University, the FFAR Fellows (recently renamed the Rockey FFAR Fellows), creates unparalleled opportunities for professional development and growth. As a trailblazing force in food and agriculture research, FFAR invests in scientific workforce development, including supporting the development of early-career scientists like the Rockey FFAR Fellows. 

We spoke with several Rockey FFAR Fellow alumni who spoke from personal experience about the benefits of the program and how it has prepared them for professional success in the agriculture industry.  

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

December 15th, 2021|

Can Adding Carbon to the Soil Help us Manage Weeds?

By Maria Gannett, 2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

Soil is alive with microorganisms and keeping the soil microbial community healthy is key to plant growth. But how exactly are soil microbes and plant growth related? And how might we use this knowledge to develop a useful weed management tool for growers? These are the fundamental questions my research is seeking to answer.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

December 15th, 2021|

Gene Editing is a Real Solution for Climate Change

By Nicholas Karavolias, FFAR Fellow 2020-2023

As a plant biologist, I have continually been inspired by the work of peer researchers developing innovative solutions to the severe impacts of climate change in natural and agricultural environments. I have been especially inspired by the disruption that the new editing tool CRISPR/Cas has brought in fields ranging from human medicine to agriculture.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

November 21st, 2021|

Taking Science Beyond the Bench: Critical Reflections for Change-Oriented Research

By Krista Marshall, 2019-2022 FFAR Fellow

The urgency of climate change mitigation and adaptation in agriculture coincides with a call for all of us to envision food systems that promote equity, justice and dignity for all people who produce, process, distribute and consume food. As scientists, we can play an important and collaborative role in generating solutions to these challenges. We should reflect a collective vision that represents a diverse range of stakeholders in our scientific work.

Continue reading at the FFAR Blog.

October 21st, 2021|
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