Academic focus: Breeding for sustainable cropping systems, cover crops, intercropping, polycultures, organic farming systems, Legumes, forages, alfalfa, hemp
Research summary: My research focus is on plant breeding for sustainable cropping systems. I take multiple approaches, including breeding for organic systems, for intercropping and polyculture systems, for pest resistance and for ecosystem services. I work on a range of species, including cover crops, perennial forages, bioenergy crops and hemp.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I try to spend as much time outside as I can, whether hiking, biking, paddling or skiing. I also enjoy elaborate cooking projects and exploring other cultures through language and food.
What brought you to Cornell CALS?
My main interest as a researcher is to develop plant varieties and plant breeding approaches that improve the feasibility for farmers to adopt sustainable practices, including planting more perennials and cover crops, increasing diversity in their rotations, and reducing tillage and pesticide inputs.
Between Cornell’s outstanding plant breeding program, the interdisciplinary focus of SIPS, ongoing work in sustainable cropping systems and plant breeding for organic systems, and New York state’s vibrant sustainable agriculture community, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better place in which to do this work!
Why did you feel inspired to pursue a career in this field?
I started my career in agriculture as a farm apprentice and worked on both vegetable and dairy farms, and became interested in the technical hurdles limiting farmer adoption of sustainable practices. I studied these issues from a social science perspective, but was increasingly drawn to plant breeding as a way to provide tangible solutions to sustainability challenges.
I also love spending time in the field and the opportunity to get to know the diversity, seasonal rhythm and “personality” of new crops. I’m really excited about the diversity of species within my program – I get to work with a bunch of crops, including multiple forage and cover crop species, hemp and biofuel crops.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about Ithaca so far?
After spending the last two years in Washington, D.C., I have been surprised (and thrilled) by the number of hiking trails in and around town.
If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve?
There remains a huge amount we do not know about what goes on below the soil surface! Advances in plant phenotyping and selection for below-ground traits could affect many environmental issues, including nutrient loss, water quality, soil conservation and climate change.
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