MSU awarded grant for innovative soil research

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Lisa Tiemann (right) with a student. (view larger image)

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch soil scientist Lisa Tiemann has been awarded $300,000 from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) to conduct research that advances FFAR’s mission of addressing world food and agriculture challenges in innovative ways.

MSU will match that amount, providing $600,000 in research funding over four years. Tiemann’s work will focus on new and ongoing projects pertaining to rotational crop diversity and its impact on soil, and climate change during the winter. These areas of emphasis will also be merged to examine the use of crop rotation as a mechanism to improve soil resiliency in light of climate change.

“This is a bit different from a typical grant in that the money isn’t tied to just one project,” Tiemann said. “I’m grateful that FFAR is so flexible with this funding, so I’ll be able to use it on multiple projects, students, equipment and more. I think my research fits nicely under the innovation category because we need to come up with creative ways to grow more food with dwindling resources.”

Tiemann has conducted research on crop rotation and its benefits on soil microbial diversity on a small scale with individual growers. She would like to expand this work statewide. Using FFAR funding and partnering with commodity groups and growers, Tiemann said she plans to test hundreds of soil samples from around the state in an effort to determine the impact of crop rotation. The samples will be from fields with a variety of management strategies and cropping systems.

This fall, Tiemann will begin work at the MSU Tree Research Center on campus. With funding from FFAR and the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, she plans to study the effect of winter climate change on soil. Tiemann indicated that very little research has been focused on climate change during the winter months.

“For this project, we want to see how snow and low temperatures affect the behavior of soil microbial communities,” Tiemann said. “Scientists are learning more about heat stresses and the pressure that puts on plants and the soil, but less emphasis has been placed on the opposite end of the spectrum. In places such as Michigan, this will be extremely important.”

Additionally, funding from FFAR will be used for ongoing research, such as a crop rotation project currently under way at the Montcalm Research Center in Lakeview, Michigan. With funding from the Michigan Potato Industry Commission and Project GREEEN at MSU, Tiemann is exploring the impact of four cover crops—cereal rye, annual rye, winter pea and hairy vetch – on soil.

These projects, among others, will help Tiemann and her colleagues learn more about the best ways to protect soil — a key component to improving crop production.

“Soil is a vital piece of the agriculture puzzle that we need to solve in the coming decades,” Tiemann said. “Nearly all of the food we consume is grown from soil, and that resource needs to be protected and strengthened over time. The stakes are very high, so the urgency expressed by funding entities such as FFAR is certainly appreciated.”

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