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MADISON - From tomato growing to researching water management in the Central Sands regions, the winners of nine grants will be busy in the months ahead.

$746,346 in grant monies were awarded to Wisconsin-based research and education projects as part of North Central Region-SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant program.

Grant programs supported by NCR-SARE include: farmer rancher; research and education; professional development; graduate student; youth educator and partnerships.

Funding considerations are based on how well the applicant presents the problem being addressed, it's relevance to sustainable agriculture in the 12-state North Central region, and how well it aligns with NCR-SARE's goals.

This year’s winners are a collection of farm and non-farm citizens that represent a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in the region.

Wisconsin grant winners

Julie Dawson at The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System in Madison, $199,915 grant for the project, "Improving farmer options for sustainable and profitable direct-market tomato production and hoop house management in the Upper Midwest." 

About the project: Farmers selling to local markets require high-quality tomato varieties adapted to the Upper Midwest. This project will improve varieties specifically for hoop house and open-field production under organic conditions, and will test lower-cost mobile alternatives to hoop houses.

Dawson said the project will expand farmer participation in on-farm trials of tomatoes for local markets. The involvement of chefs and other consumers will provide information on flavor and market quality and will strengthen market opportunities for direct-market growers.

Walter Goldstein at Mandaamin Institute in Elkhorn, WI, $196,088 grant for the project, "Testing N Efficient, High Methionine Corn Hybrids with Organic Farmers."

About the project: Mandaamin Institute will test nitrogen-efficient, high-methionine corn hybrids on seven Wisconsin organic farms using a replicated-strip design with a conventional hybrid check and by determining weediness, grain yield, nitrogen balance, nitrogen efficiency, and comparative nutritional value under fertilized and unfertilized conditions.

“Results will be communicated through publications and meetings, and will focus on the value of the corn for more sustainable corn production and for meeting the methionine needs of organic poultry producers” Mandaamin said.

Chris Blanchard at Purple Pitchfork in Madison, $96,949 grant for the project, "Increasing Market-Farm Enterprise Resilience in Response to Significant Weather Events, Life Events and Other Threats to Livelihood: A Collaborative Response to Known Quality of Life Concerns."

About the project: The project funds in-depth discussion of grower-identified tests of business resilience: significant weather events, significant life events, and operational threats.

“Up to 50 North Central region producers who have experienced these threats will be professionally interviewed, with the best of this content transcribed and developed into live webinars, 90-minute podcast episodes, and written articles, bringing producers together for curated discussion. Results will be broadcast to an established farmer audience of more than 7,000,” Blanchard said.

Greg Richardson at the University of Wisconsin, along with Professor Matt Ruark at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, $11,906 for the project, "The Effect of Best Management Practices on Soil Health in Wisconsin: A Comparison of Soil Biological Measurements Using Long-Term Trials."

About the project: Will measure the influence of farm management practices on soil biological nutrient cycling, a key component of soil health. The project will draw from five long-term research trials in Wisconsin that represent the majority of farmland in the region and host a range of tillage, cover crop, nitrogen fertilizer, and crop rotation gradients.

“This will complement parallel on-farm research and support adoption of management practices verified to promote soil health," said Richardson.

Elizabeth McNamee at the University of Wisconsin, along with Professor Christopher Kucharik at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, $11,882 for the project, "Understanding Irrigation Technologies and Grower Decision-making in the Wisconsin Central Sands."

About the project: Irrigation scheduling and precision irrigation are potential strategies to reduce consumptive groundwater use in the Wisconsin Central Sands, simultaneously supporting highly valued aquatic ecosystems and surface waters while preserving the irrigated-agriculture economy.

“This project will evaluate the effectiveness of these irrigation strategies and improve understanding of grower irrigation decisions using a combination of on-farm field experiments, remote sensing, and interviews," said McNamee.

Jacob Henden at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with Professor Christelle Guedot at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, $11,919 for the project, "Effect of Landscape on Migration of Japanese Beetle into Vineyards across Southern Wisconsin." 

About the project: Will study how the composition of the surrounding landscapes, classified as high or low cropland, impacts levels of Japanese beetle migrating into vineyards across Southern Wisconsin, using isotopic analysis to determine if sampled beetles are migrant or resident to respective vineyards.

“The results are intended to be used by grape growers to assess risk to their crop based on surrounding landscape, and inform decisions about management of Japanese beetle," said Henden.

Jill Hapner at GrassWorks, Inc. in West Bend, $74,610 for the project, "Promoting Grazing as a Sustainable Farming Method to Agency Staff in Wisconsin."

About the project: GrassWorks will work at statewide and local levels with grazing coordinators and farmers to educate agency staff on effective ways to promote grazing to other farmers and develop county programs to continue that education.

“This project will work with partnerships established through previous efforts to teach and promote grazing to farmers and county committees as a sustainable farming method and is the next step following our established soil health education programing and pasture walk toolkit,” Hapner said.

Laura Paine at Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship in Columbus, $74,107 for the project, "Enhancing the Quality of Work-based Beginning Farmer Training Programs Through Trainer Professional Development."

About the project: For aspiring farmers, work-based training (apprenticeships or internships) is the only means of combining hands-on learning and the unique blend of knowledge, skills, and wisdom that only experienced farmers can provide.

“This project enhances the learning experience of aspiring and beginning farmers as they participate in Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship and other mentoring relationships by training farmer-trainers and other agricultural professionals on adult learning, coaching and mentoring best practices, and a technical curriculum on dairy farming,” Paine said. 

Paine's project has been named as the 2017 Paula Ford Professional Development Program Proposal of the Year. Each year, one Professional Development Program funded project in the North Central Region is given this special designation.

Luther Smith at the American Society of Agronomy in Madison, $68,970 for the project, "Sustainable Agronomy." 

About the project: Grant will support a 1.5 day conference by the American Society of Agronomy titled 'Sustainable Agronomy.'

“Our primary outcome will be to increase the adoption rate of sustainable agronomy practices among farmers in the North Central region of the U.S. through educational sessions,” Smith said. 

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