Our research seeks to:

  1. Evaluate the viability of agricultural management systems to curtail environmental problems, promote sustainable pest control and biodiversity conservation while maintaining productivity and profitability.

  2. Use ecological and evolutionary theory to better identify and design agroecological practices that promote improved farm multi-functionality.

  3. Describe the intersection between ecology and socio-economic forces that form incentives and barriers to the adoption of sustainable food systems through collaboration in interdisciplinary teams.

Costs and benefits of diversified farming systems

 

Farmers use management practices that enhance agro-biodiversity and ecosystem services that can provide many benefits to farmers, the environment, and society. We are studying how ecological diversification affects ecosystem services, how growers perceive and experience the benefits and costs of ecological diversification, and how diversification affects the productivity and socioeconomic viability of farming operations.

Alternative pest control strategies

We focus on alternative pest control strategies that reduce the reliance on insecticide use. Specifically, netting barriers limit pest access to a wide range of crops from complete canopy exclosure systems in blueberries and caneberries, to row cover systems in annual vegetable crops like squash, melons, and leafy greens. However, managing weed control, pollination, and pathogens can become more challenging. Our lab studies how to optimize barrier systems to make them profitable for growers.

Services and disservices of birds in agriculture

 

Birds are increasingly viewed as food-safety hazards and pests in farmlands. Yet birds also benefit growers by consuming pests. Our work aims to: identify pest, vector, and beneficial species and quantify their net economic impact on strawberry crops, determine how farms could be co-managed to achieve conservation, food safety, and production goals, and explore how farmers’ values and attitudes towards birds influence farming practices. This research is supported by a USDA AFRI grant for the next 3 years.

Integrated poultry and vegetable rotations

 

Integrating animals into a crop-rotations helps create a closed or semi-closed system where energy and nutrients are recycled and may enhance farm diversity, land use efficiency, and profitability. However, there are barriers to implementing these systems including: food safety concerns, lack of scientific data demonstrating advantages, and lack of producer knowledge and experience in such systems. The goals of this research are to evaluate different integrated systems for vegetable and poultry performance, soil quality, pest and disease control, food safety risk, and the profitability.​

Participatory research on organic/agroecological management systems

 

A recent outbreak of the coffee leaf rust in 2013 devastated Central American coffee. In response, farmers are planting varieties that are resistant to the rust and a greater diversity of coffee varieties. Our research will use a long-term, plot experiment to test how resistant varieties and variety diversity will impact coffee rust outbreaks, other pests and diseases, soil processes, coffee yield and yield stability, and coffee quality. Our research will also aim to understand how these barriers may be overcome with cultural or engineering practices.