Graduate students awarded Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grants

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Student researchers in the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences received nearly half of the 2016 grants recently awarded to graduate students by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Penn State students earned an unprecedented 13 of the 27 regional SARE grants, collectively receiving $193,000 for research projects relating to sustainable agriculture in disciplines including entomology, animal science, rural sociology, horticulture, ecology and agronomy.

"Sustainability is a strategic focus across many of the initiatives coordinated by our college's faculty and student researchers," said Gary Thompson, College of Agricultural Sciences associate dean for research and graduate education. "Their studies are contributing science-based solutions that promote the sustainability of agricultural production, environmental resources and successful rural communities. We're proud that so many of our graduate students have earned this recognition and support from SARE for their research efforts."

An initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the SARE program provides competitive grants to research projects that address issues with impacts on the long-term sustainability and economic viability of U.S. agriculture. The program's Northeast territory includes Pennsylvania, 11 other states and the District of Columbia. Graduate-student SARE grants are awarded to timely research topics with potential outcomes that will benefit members of the agricultural community, including farmers and agricultural education providers.

"Penn State's strong performance in the 2016 Northeast SARE graduate grant competition testifies to the initiative and hard work of both graduate students and faculty across our college," said Clare Hinrichs, professor of rural sociology and a member of the Northeast SARE Administrative Council. "It should also be seen as evidence of Penn State's leadership, innovation and impact, both in the Northeast region and nationally, in sustainable agriculture and food-systems research, training and outreach."

Penn State's 2016 SARE graduate grant recipients received individual awards ranging from approximately $14,000 to $15,000 to apply to the following research studies:

  • Understanding the epidemiology of pathogens within bee communities in Pennsylvania -- Briana Ezray, entomology graduate student, advised by Heather Hines.
  • Do cover crops stabilize wine grape productivity in a variable climate? -- Suzanne Fleishman, horticulture graduate student, advised by Michela Centinari.
  • Evaluating brown mid‐rib dwarf pearl millet as a forage for lactating dairy cows -- Michael Harper, animal science graduate student, advised by Alexander Hristov.
  • Interseeded cover crops: Evaluating nitrogen retention services provided by plant‐microbe relationships -- Sarah Isbell, ecology graduate student, advised by Jason Kaye.
  • A root‐centric view in root‐microbe interactions in apple replant disease -- Emily Lavely, horticulture graduate student, advised by Richard Marini.
  • Renewable alternative bedding for commercial broiler chicken production -- Amy Mayer, animal science graduate student, advised by Paul Patterson.
  • Macroarthropod decomposers in field crops: Influence on residue breakdown and response to prophylactic insecticides -- Kirsten Pearsons, entomology graduate student, advised by John Tooker.
  • Undercover agent: Uncovering the effects of cover crops on a beneficial soil fungus -- Puneet Randhawa, entomology graduate student, advised by Mary Barbercheck.
  • Impacts of cover crops and tillage on predator‐prey interactions within organic cropping systems -- Karly Regan, entomology graduate student, advised by Mary Barbercheck.
  • Plant probiotics? Understanding how soil health practices influence plant‐insect interactions -- Elizabeth Rowan, entomology graduate student, advised by John Tooker.
  • Effects of yield regulation practices on grapevine productivity, health, and economic sustainability -- Maria Smith, horticulture graduate student, advised by Michela Centinari.
  • Targeting sustainable soil management practices using crop modeling in soybean systems -- Giovani Stefani Faé, agronomy graduate student, advised by Gregory Roth.
  • Assessing the impact of energy‐related landowner coalitions on the sustainability of Pennsylvania farming communities -- Grace Wildermuth, rural sociology graduate student, advised by Kathryn Brasier.
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Last Updated October 28, 2016