New video series gives taste of organic ag research, grad student training at UW
In 2020, an anonymous donation to the University of Wisconsin–Madison funded the creation of the UW Organic Collaborative, a group of faculty, staff and partners committed to furthering organic agriculture through world-class research, academic training and impactful outreach. At the same time, the gift also enabled the establishment of five assistantships for graduate students focused exclusively on organic research and education.
Now, in a new video series called “The First Crop: Emerging Organic Leaders at UW,” viewers can learn about the inspiring stories and research experiences of this “first crop” of graduate students, who are preparing for their future roles as leaders in the organic industry. The video series – which features a two-minute video for each graduate student – is available to watch on YouTube at: https://go.wisc.edu/organicagvideoseries.
The videos feature:
Ariana Abbrescia, who graduated in May 2023 with a master’s degree in agroecology. Abbrescia’s project involved working to develop web-based resources for integrated disease and pest management in organic vegetable crops, with guidance from Amanda Gevens, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology, and Russel Groves, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Entomology. In her video, Abbrescia says: “[My project is exciting] because I’m able to learn about these topics myself and then I can take that information and turn it around and condense it and make it into a useful tool for growers.”
Claire Benning, who is pursuing a master’s degree in agroecology. Benning is working to determine the benefits of cover crops and cover crop mixtures on organic grain farms, with guidance from Matt Ruark, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Soil Science. In her video, Benning explains: “In the Upper Midwest, cover crop adoption has not really taken off… if [my research] is a success then this could mean that there will be much more cover crop adoption throughout [our region]”
Ambar Carvallo Lopez, who is pursuing a PhD in plant breeding and plant genetics. Carvallo Lopez is working to breed organic tomatoes with high yield and good flavor, with guidance from Julie Dawson, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture. In her video, Carvallo Lopez says: “After graduating, I would like to work as an organic plant breeder, focusing on vegetables, working with traits that can directly benefit organic farmers.”
Liam Dixon, who is pursuing a PhD in plant breeding and plant genetics. Dixon is working to breed organic table beets for disease resistance, with guidance from Irwin Goldman, professor in the Department of Horticulture. In his video, Dixon explains: “The unfortunate reality is that we have an uncertain future ahead of us, and overall we expect there to be a more complicated growing environment for farmers. So we will need vegetable varieties that are up to the challenge, and I would really like to help in the development of those vegetables.”
Guang Tian, who is pursuing a PhD in agricultural and applied economics. Tian is exploring retail competition, marketing, and opportunities for organic dairy producers in the upper Midwest, with guidance from Sheldon Du, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. In his video, Tian says: “I can use my economics knowledge and the math tools and other coding skills to help farmers and do some real research that people care about.”
Watch all five videos at: https://go.wisc.edu/organicagvideoseries.