UW collaborates in $10 million project to study diverse perennial forage systems

People standing in grass field
UW Extension agroecologist Anowar Islam describes research at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle.

University of Wyoming scientists are a part of a multi-state team launching research into perennial forage systems and help promote their adoption.

UW will serve as a research hub site for western states to collect, organize and analyze soil samples.

“We will measure and compare numerous production, environmental, social and economic factors,” said Anowar Islam, UW Extension forage agroecologist. “UW will play an important role in initiating and executing this highly relevant and timely project.”

The project involves more than 50 researchers and stakeholders from 23 universities, two USDA-Agricultural Research Service centers, and 12 farmer organizations, industry groups, non-governmental organizations and government agencies, said Islam, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Funding is through a $10 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Prevailing agricultural systems in the U.S. are dominated by annual crop monocultures that lack resilience to extreme weather and are challenged by soil erosion and other environmental issues, said project director Valentin Picasso, associate professor in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Department of Agronomy.

“Through this new project, we hope to promote the transformation of the landscape to be more resilient, by integrating more perennial crops and forages with livestock,” he said.

Part of the effort involves a nationwide network of 50 farm pairs—one farm already using diverse perennial forage systems paired with one interested in transitioning toward more diverse perennial systems—that represent all of the major agro-ecoregions of the United States.

The team will share results through outreach and education materials throughout the five-year term of the award.

UW will also serve as one of the three coordinators (with Maryland and New York) of the education program to:

* Recruit and instruct high school teachers and summer undergraduate student interns on diverse perennial circular systems, resilience, economic services and economic value,

* Develop curriculum materials for K-12 student education, and

* Partner with local community entities and projects to create learning programs and opportunities.

For more information, contact Islam at mislam@uwyo.edu or 307-766-4151.

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