Penn State Graduate Students Break Sustainable Ag Award Record

Posted: October 4, 2016

An unprecedented number of 13 graduate students from one institution were awarded SARE grants in 2016.

Each year Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) offers a competitive grant program for graduate students in 12 states and Washington D.C. focused on sustainable agriculture. In August 2016, NE-SARE awarded 13 grants to Penn State students in the College of Agricultural Science, the greatest number of awards ever made to a single institution under this program. A total of 27 graduate student projects were funded in 2016, and the only other universities receiving multiple awards this year were Cornell and the University of Vermont, who received 5 and 4 graduate student awards, respectively.

The goal of the grant program is to support graduate students who are conducting research on topics specific to sustainable agriculture in the northeastern U.S. Research may encompass a wide range of topics but to be eligible for funding, projects must specifically address needs faced by regional farmers and farm service providers. All projects must also explore the sustainability themes of good environmental stewardship, profitability, and quality of life for farmers and the community. Northeast SARE Graduate Student Grants are offered annually with applications due in May.

Funded projects from Penn State span topics related to ecology, entomology, horticulture, animal science, agronomy, and rural sociology. Specific awards and recipients are outlined below. The success of Penn State graduate students and faculty in this year’s program is a testament to their hard work and dedication to sustaining the future of agriculture across many interrelated disciplines. Success in this program also provides evidence of Penn State’s leadership, impact, and innovation for sustainable agriculture education and training in the northeast.

Overview of 13 NE-SARE funded graduate projects in 2016. Projects were all awarded to the College of Agricultural Science across 6 disciplines.

Student Project Title Program Adviser
Ezray Understanding epidemiology of pathogens within PA bee communities Entomology Hines
Fleishman Do cover crops stabilize wine grape productivity in a variable climate? Horticulture Centinari
Harper Evaluating brown mid-rib (BMR) dwarf pearl millet as a forage for dairy cows Animal Science Hristov
Isbell Interseeded cover crops: Evaluating nitrogen retention services provided by plant-microbe relationships Ecology Kaye
Lavely A root-centric view in root-microbe interactions in apple replant disease Horticulture Marini
Mayer Renewable alternative bedding for commercial broiler chicken production Animal Science Patterson
Pearsons Macroarthropod decomposers in field crops: Influence on residue breakdown and response to prophylactic insecticides Entomology Tooker
Randhawa Undercover agent: Uncovering effects of cover crops on a beneficial soil fungus Entomology Barbercheck
Regan Impacts of cover crops and tillage on predator-prey interactions in organic cropping systems Entomology Barbercheck
Rowan Plant probiotics? Understanding how soil health practices influence plant-insect interactions Entomology Tooker
Smith Effects of yield regulation practices on grapevine productivity, health, and economic sustainability Horticulture Centinari
Stefani Fae Targeting sustainable soil management practices using crop modelling in soybean systems Agronomy Roth
Wildermuth Assessing the impact of energy-related landowner coalitions on the sustainability of PA farming communities Rural Sociology Braiser