Purdue receives $ 10 million for #DiverseCornBelt project

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A $ 10 million project aims to make Midwestern agriculture more resilient by diversifying farms, marketing and the agricultural landscape.

We’ve all heard of hedging a bet or diversifying a portfolio so that we can face the ups and downs, and it’s the same concept, said Linda Prokopy, head of the department and professor of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University, which is leading the project.

“What’s new is that market and environmental research tailored to this part of the United States will inform our next actions, and individual farmers and stakeholders will be involved every step of the way,” says -she. “Growing just one rotation of corn and soybeans is not necessarily economically, environmentally or socially sustainable. We will work with farmers in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa to evaluate alternative cropping systems that can be used in the Midwest – we will evaluate small grains and / or rotational forage crops, forage crops perennial or bioenergetic, agroforestry, horticultural food crops and grazed livestock.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture has selected the project, titled “#DiverseCornBelt: Resilient Intensification through Diversity in Midwestern Agriculture,” which has a multidisciplinary team that covers the life sciences , physical and social.

“This project builds on the talents of our faculty and can make a critical contribution to the diversification of Midwestern agriculture. The lessons learned can benefit farmers across the region, ”said Karen Plaut, Dean Glenn W. Sample of Purdue Agricultural College.

The team draws on the expertise of Purdue Agriculture. In addition to Prokopy, Purdue professors on the team include Shalamar Armstrong, associate professor of agronomy; Steve Hallett, professor of horticulture and landscape architecture; Ian Kaplan, professor of entomology; Sarah LaRose, assistant professor of agricultural education; Elizabeth Maynard, Associate Professor of Clinical Engagement in Horticulture; Aaron Thompson, assistant professor of horticulture and landscape architecture; and Ariana Torres, associate professor of horticulture, landscape architecture and agricultural economics.

Kaplan specifically addressed the biophysical research component of the project.

“We plan to collect large-scale field data on a wide range of cropping systems in the Corn Belt region – from Indiana to Iowa – which vary from traditional corn monocultures to very diverse farms,” ​​he said. he declared. “This sampling effort will test how diversification practices at realistic spatial scales impact on biophysical variables important to farmers. For example, we plan to collect data on soil health, water quality and insect biodiversity. By measuring these variables in three states, we will be able to understand how the implementation of specific agricultural practices simultaneously affects agroecosystem function, crop yields and long-term sustainability.

Stakeholder listening sessions, polls and interviews will also inform the five-year project, Prokopy said.

“We will examine the environmental costs and benefits of diversified systems through on-farm research, as well as identify economic and social barriers to change. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the lack of resilience of our current system and how farmers have suffered as a result, ”she said. “We hope such pandemics will be rare, but unfortunately we cannot say the same for climate change. There will be challenges ahead and we must prepare for the future. We hope this project will bring together farmers, researchers and the agri-food community to understand how.

Letters of support for the team’s proposal came from farmers, industry, academic institutions, and environmental organizations including General Mills, Smithfield, Kellogg’s, Red Gold, Indiana Agriculture Nutrient Alliance, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, National Association of Conservation Districts, Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition, Iowa Soybean Association, and National Wildlife Federation.

The #DiverseCornBelt extension program will support farmers and local markets in their transition to a more diverse environment.

“We don’t know which types of diversification this project will identify as the most promising, but the extension team will be ready to spread the word, help stakeholders assess results and provide the resources to make changes. to more sustainable Midwestern agriculture. Said Elizabeth Maynard, extension specialist and associate professor of clinical engagement in horticulture and landscape architecture.

The project will also engage the future workforce through educational modules and immersive learning experiences.

“Students will take field courses where they will travel together and learn how to create a sustainable system,” said Prokopy. “It’s like a study abroad course, but across the region. Students will learn from farmers, market organizers and researchers to get a better idea of ​​the whole farming system.

Project partner institutions include the American Society of Agronomy, Conservation Technology Information Center, Sustainable Food Lab, USDA Economic Research Service, USDA Forest Service, Illinois State University, Iowa State University, l Montana State University, The Nature Conservancy, Practical Farmers of Iowa, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Farmers, agricultural advisers and traders, community leaders and landowners interested in participating in the project through surveys, interviews and stakeholder listening sessions should contact Prokopy at [email protected] .

US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Project n ° 2021-68012-35896) funded this work.

Writer: Maureen Manier, mmanier @ purdue, .edu

Source: Linda Prokopy; [email protected]

Agricultural communications: 765-494-8415;

Maureen Manier, Head of Department, [email protected]

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