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2024 Warner Grant Recipients

Lettuce seedlings

Congratulations to the 2024 Warner Grant recipients.

The Agroecosystems Management Program (AMP) is pleased to announce the award of the 2024 Warner Grants. The Warner Grants for Sustainable Agriculture are made available through the Paul C. and Edna H. Warner Endowment Fund.  The fund was established specifically for on-farm research in sustainable agriculture related to crop (agronomic and horticultural) and animal production systems that are ultimately intended for human consumption. Research is intended to identify and publicize sustainable agricultural practices and systems that are profitable, socially responsible, energy-efficient and improve water quality and other environmental concerns relevant to Ohio farmers. The 2024 recipients are:

  • Eugene Law (Horticulture and Crop Science, OSU) and Eli Dean  (Clyde, OH) - "Stale Seed Bed Planting in Organic Corn Using Flame Cultivation"

    Preparing a “stale” seedbed is a common practice in organic agriculture. This tactic involves multiple cultivation passes to encourage germination of weed seeds and then terminate them while young, reducing competition for the cash crop. The hope is to exhaust the weed seeds in the soil, but wet spring weather and labor/time shortages can limit the number of cultivation passes, leaving the possibility that the final cultivation will still bring some weed seeds closer to the soil surface where they are more likely to germinate and compete during the critical period of weed control that occurs in the first few weeks after cash crop emergence. Propane flame cultivation is a re-emerging tool available for organic weed management. We believe that replacing the final mechanical cultivation pass with flame cultivation will still accomplish the goal of terminating emerging weeds but is less likely to bring new weed seeds to the surface, thus resulting in a cleaner planting environment and less early weed competition. It also has the added benefit of providing more flexible timing for farm operators. Unlike mechanical cultivation, the flame pass could easily be done between the planting and emergence of the cash crop. Therefore, flame cultivation could offer flexibility for organic growers during the busy spring planting season and provide an important option during wet Ohio springs.
     
  • Logan Minter (South Centers, OSU), Ashley Leach (Entomology, OSU Extension), and Jamie Arthur (Little Miami Farms, Xenia, OH) - "Protecting Pumpkins with Perimeter Trap Crops"

    Cucurbit crop growers face several severe pests which cause extensive direct and indirect damage to cucurbit crops through feeding and vectoring of untreatable plant pathogens.  Management of these serious pests is a major challenge to organic growers due to the short residual time, questionable efficacy and expense of many approved chemicals. Even conventional growers face concerns with current management practices reinforced by controversies surrounding the use of chemicals such as the neonicotinoids which may pose risks to bees and contribute to pollinator declines.  In some cases, these concerns have even lead to the potential of boycott, by beekeepers, of farms using these chemicals.  A method to allow the use of these chemicals for their effectiveness, yet be restricted to non-flowering, non-crop plants, could alleviate many of these concerns. The rationale for use of seedlings rather than traditional perimeter trap crops allowed to grow to maturity is to reduce potential exposure risk to pollinating insects by systemic insecticides expressed through flowers by using young, pre-flowering plants.
     
  • Fernanda Krupek (Horticulture and Crop Science, OSU) and Lindsay Klaunig (Trouvaille Farm, Athens, OH) - "Participatory Research to Develop Red Onion Varieties for Diversified and Local Food Systems in Ohio"

    This project addresses the following food systems challenges in Southeastern Ohio 1) Increased interest in local and regional agri-food systems, which plays a central role in economic viability, but due to limited production research (e.g., varietal development for local markets, organic and low input systems, heritage breeds) is at risk of meeting the needs of growing healthy food more sustainably; 2) Production challenges diversified farmers face due to climate change and land pressure; and 3) The need for more resilient seed systems based on agricultural biodiversity, decentralization, and flexibility.
     
  • Matthew Kleinhenz (Horticulture and Crop Science, OSU) and Michelle Nowak (Franklinton Farms, Columbus, OH) - "Effects on Spinach Yields and Labor Costs of a Manually-vented Versus Remotely-vented High Tunnel"

    High tunnels (HTs) are essential for harvesting and marketing high-value crops fall through spring and can increase yields of heat-loving summer ones. Thanks in part to government cost-share programs, many small growers now have at least one HT on their farms. Indeed, HTs are a primary tool employed by countless thousands of small fruit, vegetable, herb, and flower growers globally and approximately 25,000 specialty crop growers in the U.S. Many HT growers employ sustainable-organic approaches.  HT use is exceptionally popular and important but not easy. HT production is difficult because it is essentially farming inside a clear box. Until now, this has required potentially disastrous learning curves, and considerable amounts of time, money, effort, and nonrenewable resources.  It has also involved real potential for crop and/or structural damage and personal physical, financial, and psycho-emotional peril because most growers have simple, non-mechanized HTs that must be vented manually, with sides and doors that must be opened and closed onsite by the grower or an associate or employee. Indeed, cropping success tends to call for HT wall and door positions to be adjusted repeatedly in response to or in anticipation of weather conditions, crop needs, and other factors. Failing to make an adjustment, mistiming it, or setting positions mismatched with weather conditions and crop needs can have severe consequences for crops and HTs themselves, which can be damaged or destroyed if left open when winds are strong. Managing HT temperature, humidity, and airflow manually and onsite is time-consuming, costly, and mentally draining, especially if growers don’t live onsite or have multiple HTs. Also, because HT production contributes significantly to the diversity, resilience, and equity of local-regional food supplies and systems, consequences of sub-optimal HT ventilation extend past the farm gate.
     
  • Van Ryan Haden (Agricultural Technical Institute, OSU) and Matt Falb (Constant Springs Farm, Orrville, Ohio) - "Effects of a Perennial Pasture and a Diversified Crop Rotation on the Soil Food Web"

    Healthy soil is a dynamic ecosystem consisting of minerals, air, water, and living organisms. The health of soil is dependent on a diverse set of organisms that perform important ecosystem functions related to decomposition, nutrient cycling, and the regulation of pests, pathogens, and disease. These organisms also play a vital role in maintaining various soil organic matter and carbon pools which effect the resilience of soils to environmental changes in temperature, moisture, and disturbances.  The flow of energy and nutrients between these organisms, and complex grazer, predator and prey relationships that exist in in a food chain is also known as the Soil Food Web.  Given the novelty of new soil health tests, there is a pressing need for research and outreach efforts designed to bring farmers and scientists together to better interpret the soil biological data and gain a greater understanding for how the soil food web is influenced by long-term farm management decisions.