KBS research program receives NSF renewal grant

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MSU AgBioResearch, Phil RobertsonThe Michigan State University Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program recently received a renewal grant of more than $5.6 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue its work examining the ecology of major U.S. row crops.

KBS LTER received its original NSF grant in 1988, and this new award will fund the site for another six years.

LTER researchers investigate how various plants, microbes and insects in agricultural landscapes contribute to farm productivity, environmental health and profitability. Cropping systems studied include corn, soybean and wheat rotations, forage crops such as alfalfa, and biofuel crops such as poplar trees and natural plant communities.

More than 40 MSU faculty members are involved in research at the site, which is also home to the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s biofuel sustainability effort. The LTER project is unique in its long-term multidisciplinary focus on how the various parts of agricultural systems work together to produce food, fuel and environmental benefits, and on how farmers and resource managers can use this information to design better agricultural landscapes.

AgBioResearch scientist Phil Robertson, who is the director of the KBS LTER program and professor of crop and soil sciences at MSU, said that the renewal award is not automatic and “speaks to the continued success of LTER researchers to discover knowledge that helps to keep U.S. agriculture competitive and better able to deliver environmental benefits that are important to everyone.”

This knowledge is especially important “in an era of changing markets, new global food needs and unprecedented environmental change,” he said.

The KBS LTER is part of a national network of 26 LTER sites. The network, which was established by the NSF in 1980, includes sites that conduct research on tundra, forest, grassland, desert, wetland and urban ecosystems. KBS is the only agricultural site in the network. Each LTER site goes through a grant renewal process every six years.

In addition to NSF funding, LTER is supported by MSU and MSU AgBioResearch. KBS is also one of 14 AgBioResearch centers located across Michigan.

Photo: MSU AgBioResearch scientist, Phil Roberston

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