2018 Young Scholar Enhancement Grant Projects

With attached research posters:

LS16-272 Novel Cover Crops for High Tunnels Outreach and Research Internship; Alexandra Tracy. Cover crops have been extensively studied in open-field systems, and are generally considered to enhance environmental sustainability and may be of relatively minimal economic cost, as they typically are grown during a time when crops cannot be grown. The primary reason cover crops are not widely used in high tunnels is due to the growing time required, which encroaches upon cash crop production in year-round systems. If cover crop use is to be expanded in the region, we must identify new cover crops that are particularly well-suited to the unique temporal windows and microclimates of high tunnels. The project sought to evaluate novel cover crops for high tunnels in the Southern region. Outreach materials were also developed.

LS16-273 Improving Silvopasture Systems in the South: Identification of Suitable Forage Crops and Enhancement of Environmental Quality in Upland Forests; Sonia Clemens. Agroforestry is a management practice that is defined by its intentional, intensive, integrative, and interactive nature. Under this practice, trees and shrubs are integrated into cropland and animal grazing areas. Silvopasture, a type of agroforestry, reduces stress on crop and animal farming systems by incorporating trees that provide shade, shelter, or additional timber, fruit, or nuts for the farm. The interest in agroforestry as both a method of meat production and as a method of regenerative agriculture has increased recently in the southeastern United States. In particular, silvopasture holds great potential to increase grazing opportunity, enhance habitat, and improve soil quality. A research and practice gap that needs to be filled is how to restore forest understory; in particular, ground forages in agroforestry systems following a disturbance or restoration. Planting and monitoring samples in greenhouse conditions will allow us to begin to better understand how to ensure the sustainability of forest stands as the system evolves and matures.

LS17-282 Disease Assessment of Table Grapes Grown Under High Tunnel Conditions in Arkansas; Brittany Lowery. Table grapes are one of the most popular and widely produced fruits. Increasing production of U.S. table grapes could offset the need to import. However, table grapes grown in regions other than California such as the Southeast require intense disease and insect management. In this project, disease and insect damage of table grapes was monitored under a high tunnel production system to determine sustainable production techniques, feasibility, and best practices for local farmers. Additionally, the benefit of different trellis systems and fruit thinning treatments on growth and yield of table grapes was assessed.

LS17-286 Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Soils of Semi-arid Pastures: Response to legume presence; Paxton Hughes. Transitioning from continuous row-crop monocultures to grasslands can reduce water and nutrient inputs, increase resistance to wind and water erosion, and increase soil health indicators such as build-up of soil organic carbon and greater water retention in the semi-arid Texas Southern High Plains. Yet, because livestock production systems contribute a significant portion of global greenhouse gas production through enteric methane emissions, we do not know whether or to what degree these benefits entail a trade-off in terms of contribution to global climate change via greenhouse gas emissions. Accounting for greenhouse gas production dynamics from both soil and cattle in pasture ecosystems can aide modeling and life cycle analysis efforts to assess potential climate change impacts of sustainable agriculture. The objective of this project was to quantify and compare soil emissions of methane in pastures established with a warm-season perennial grass either in monoculture or with legumes.

Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, under sub-award numbers: LS16-272, LS16-273, LS17-282, and LS17-286. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.