Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

Posted: October 6, 2010

NE SARE 2010 Graduate Student Award recipients:

Evaluating Normande, U.S. purebreds, and Normande crossbreds on production, reproductive performance, survivability, and partitioning of energy during periods of high and low pasture availability.

Dustin Brown, Penn State University, University Park PA
Faculty advisor: Chad Dechow

Modern Holsteins have been bred for high milk yield with high input costs. The Normande, a pasture-adapted breed, has energy partitioning characteristics that see them through periods of slow pasture growth. The student will compare Normande, U.S. Purebreds (primarily Holstein) and Normande crossbreds in various confinement and grazing systems, gathering data on cow condition and mating and selection strategies to see if genotype, environment, and pasture availability correlate in a meaningful way in the Northeast. The goal is to develop data that can improve herd health in the grass-fed production of dairy and cheese. The results will be submitted for journal and agricultural media publication.


Exploiting plant genotypic diversity for sustainable insect pest management

Ian Grettenberger, Pennsylvania State University, University Park PA

Faculty advisor: John Tooker


Plant and animal systems thrive on diversity, and modern agricultural monocultures lose the benefits implicit in the complex interactions that diversity supports. New evidence suggests that genetic diversity within a species can be as valuable as broader species diversity in supporting complexity. This could enhance predator diversity and abundance, reduce insect pests, and potentially increase yield. The student will use soybeans and the soybean aphid to assess the strength of predation between two levels of plant genetic diversity and characterize the natural enemy community in test and control plots. The overall goal is to find out whether intraspecies diversity has promise for sustainable pest control. Results will be shared with growers and extension educators and integrated into outreach events.


Self-regulating weed control through the enhancement of beneficial ground-dwelling invertebrates

Jeffrey Law, Pennsylvania State University, University Park PA

Faculty advisor: Robert Gallagher



To reduce reliance on herbicides for weed control, the student will determine if incorporating a green manure crop into reduced tillage systems will enhance the diversity, abundance, and activity of beneficial soil invertebrates that feed on weed seeds. He will use pitfall trapping to quantify and identify the invertebrates and seed cards to quantify and identify the weed seed. He will also determine whether carabid beetles eat specific weed seeds and cause a shift in the emergence of different kinds of weeds and explore which seed species they prefer. The overall goal is to measure the effect of seed predation by soil invertebrates as a tool for farmers to reduce or forestall weed germination. The results will be submitted for journal publication.