Concentrate Organic Matter at Surface to Improve Soils

tilling the field

Intensive tillage with moldboard plow Organic matter is the key to soil quality, but building soil organic matter levels can be slow and expensive. There is an alternative. Research shows (Franzluebbers, 2002) many soil functions improve when organic matter is concentrated in the top 2-3″ of the soil, and that, for many soils and environments, this may be the most effective way to improve soil quality. Soil organic matter (SOM) is crucial for many soil functions, and so has been a primary indicator of soil quality. The % organic matter of the top 6, 8, or 12″ of soil is

Do GMO crops “foster monocultures?”


Corn harvest, from United Soybean Board Do GMO crops “foster monoculture?” This is a frequent criticism of modern agriculture. I have three problems with it: “Monoculture” isn’t the right term to use to describe the relevant issues – its really about a limited crop rotation History and economics are the drivers behind this phenomenon, not crop biotechnology The solutions – to the extent that they are needed – are not what most critics seem to imagine The Corn Belt of the Midwestern US, is a multi-million acre farming region almost entirely dominated by just two crops – corn and soybeans.

Help Erika Bueno Fund Her Graduate Project!

Image of Apocephalus borealis, coutesy of Core et. al 2012

Image of Apocephalus borealis, coutesy of Core et. al 2012 Finding funding for some research projects is incredibly difficult, especially for newer researchers. For phenomena which have only been recently described, finding funding is even more difficult than finding funding for more established research areas. Because of this, there are a lot of labs which rely on citizen science projects or volunteer work to gather data. You have a chance to help a really cool and interesting project that can help us understand a new problem that honeybees are facing – through crowdfunding.

Sex and death in the cornfields: What is a refuge?

good rootworm pic

A lot of people have sent me news articles about the spread of Bt-resistant corn rootworm because they know I am interested in transgenic Bt.  These articles have alarming titles like Voracious worm evolves to eat biotech corn engineered to kill it and Evolution one-ups genetic modification. Yes,  unfotunately, corn rootworm that are resistant to transgenic Bt corn are real (Cullen 2013, EPA 2014a). But the story is more complex than you’d think from these headlines. To explain, I’d like to talk about IRM (insect resistance management), specifically, the IRM for Bt corn targeting pest caterpillars (Lepidoptera).  Please note that corn rootworms are not Lepidopterans, but Lepidopterans are

Biological Pest Control Basics

Biological pest control

Lady beetle, by Scott Bauer. (Wikimedia Commons) Managing pests is an important part of cultivating plants whether you are tending a small garden in your yard or several fields of crops. Insect predators can make short work of healthy plants, particularly if insect predators are in abundance. The good news is that there are natural ways to combat these pests that growers have been utilizing for many years. Granted, not all solutions are created equal. There are a number of reasons why biological control efforts may fail; including breeding being out of sync or the countermeasure not being strong enough.