NSF grant funds WRC-led research into innovative cover-cropping


Once only thought of as a weed, camelina is now recognized for its value as an oilseed crop. New research may reveal camelina's value as a cover crop.

The University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center director Jeff Peterson is the lead investigator on a recently awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) grant which funds new research on providing sustainable food, energy and clean, plentiful water for the Earth’s burgeoning population.  NSF partnered with the National Institute for Food and Agriculture to award 46.6 million in grants to researchers committee to finding solutions to a potential sustainability crisis.

Peterson’s project, Innovations for Sustainable Food, Energy, and Water Supplies in Intensively Cultivated Regions: Integrating Technologies, Data, And Human Behavior, combines innovation in cover cropping with analysis of beneficial outcomes for farmland and farmers. Four research teams will work independently and together. Winter camelina, an oil seed crop, will be rotated with soy bean and corn crops, with varying seasonal planting times and fertilization levels. Meteorological, soil, water and crops data will be collected to evaluate the crop models used; this information will be used to develop management strategies for producers. A socioeconomic team collects data from surveys and randomized control to determine who might adopt the new cropping systems. Of particular interest is the role of incentives from certification programs, including the feedback effects of using producer data for peer benchmarking. The data science team will identify crops, including winter cover crops, from satellite imagery. An integrated modeling team will create modeling tools to quantify systems-level outcomes. These simulations shed light on the feasibility and impacts of innovations in the food-energy-water system under different scenarios, including spatial patterns and the role of socio-economic drivers.

Other researchers on Peterson’s team are Axel Garcia, Amit Pradhananga, Vipin Kumar and Jason Hill, all from the University of Minnesota.