Exploring a Novel Goat Silvopasture System for Increased Farm Diversity and Enhanced Ecosystem Services
Silvopasture, a combination of livestock with trees and forages, offers a promising alternative sustainable management system that provides both environmental and economic benefits in an integrated fashion. Due to their innate browsing preference, goats can offer unique ecosystem services to unmanaged wooded landscapes by feeding on invasive brush species, providing an organic, productive alternative to herbicides and machinery typically recommended for silvopasture transition and management.
The overall objective of our project is to examine the viability of a novel goat silvopasture management system instead of open pasture for ecosystem services and economically viable goat production for small and marginalized farmers. We will evaluate the ecological dynamics of goat silvopasture systems in Missouri to enhance productivity, income, and environmental impact.
Impact of Timber Stand Improvement and Prescribed Burn on Forest Farming of Non-Timber Forest Products and Soil Ecological Properties
Forest farming practices involve cultivating high-value specialty crops in the forest understory with specific management of the canopy and the forest overstory to promote the growth and establishment of the desired crop. The understory or specialty crops (Non-Timber Forest Products, NTFPs) can include various items for food (mushroom and nuts), botanicals (herbs and medicinal), decorative (floral greenery and dyes), and handicrafts (baskets and wood products). Although forest farming involves modifying the forest ecosystem, if correctly done, the primary forest functions are not negatively impaired but rather enhanced. This study is designed to evaluate the feasibility of forest farming of four Missouri native perennial herbs and the impact of timber stand improvement (TSI) and prescribed burn (PB) on forest ecosystem processes.
Productive Multi-Species Alley Cropping
This research will showcase a highly productive alley cropping system to suited to support small Missouri farmers. The system will include plantings of high-yielding Chinese chestnut trees, hardy figs, currants, gooseberry, roselle, and other berry crops in the spaces in between.
Alley cropping production methods can help improve soil health and water quality while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The lab will study how an alley cropping system can be used to grow an array of specialty crops for small farmers.
Cover Crop-Based No-Till Systems for Small Vegetable Farmers
Emerging cover crop-based, no-till systems offer solutions to many critical management concerns of organic producers. However, adoption of these systems by small and mid-sized producers has been greatly limited by the lack of scale-appropriate equipment and strategies. This project has been designed to develop and promote effective cover crop-based, no-till systems involving frost-killed, spring-terminated, and living mulch systems that could be easily implemented by small producers.
Using Data Science to Understand the Social Disparity of Extreme Weather Impact
Climate change induced extreme weather events have been on the rise and associated hydro-climate extremes are expected to have a profound impact on the environment and human lives. However, limited capability in analyzing observed data sets can pose a challenge to develop management efforts to sustain natural resources. Given that under served communities are at great risk of climate impacts, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have a crucial role to play in training a diverse workforce capable of utilizing big data and machine learning techniques for climate change research and management. This project aims to develop minority and underrepresented individuals to pursue STEM education and specifically careers in data science.