Why do we want soil sampling to suck?

fund raisingYes, this from is from a chat a student and I had with Dyson.  No, it isn’t a cynical comment on the fiscal state of public universities.  Dane and I  were thinking about getting  loose soil out of the hole in a reasonable way when it hit me ..  We needed a Dyson V6. Motorhead!

Multifunctional Woody Polyculture

Illinois has gone NUTS with research on edible perennialized food systems.  Check out the Woody Perennial Polyculture and the Multifunctional Woody Polyculture sites that are located on our campus’ South Farms.


I got to interact with many great folks in 2015

2015 picsFrom top left these are folks include NCERA 59 (soil organic matter regional research group) members (Ron Turco, Dan Olk, me, Rhae Drijber, Paul Verburg and Matt Ruark), women soil scientists participating in the Soil Security conference (Sabine Grunwald, Skye Wills, Katina Hanson, Diane Stott, ?? (sorry!), and Bianca Moebius-Clune, participants at a field day at Janies’ Farm (farmers: Ross and Harold Wilkins, ??, and program organizer Bill Davison), The Ugartes in Bolivia!, participants in our multifunctional woody perennial polyculture workshop (Tito Lavaire, Ron Revord, Jeremy Guest, Tim Mies, Dane Hunter, Kevin Wolz, Diana Kapanzhi, Sarah Lovell, Mark Coggeshal,Tom Molnar, Shibu Jose and me), and Gayoung Yoo in Seoul before the World Soils Congress! The lettuce ice cream and community gardens spotted as part of U of I Global Issues Forum held in Taiwan.

Lab group celebrating with ice cream

vimeoWe are going to be sad to say goodbye to many friends as summer ends.

Wander Lab Dishing Dirt

See video!

Agriculture Evolving

It was a treat to visit the Morrow Plots with Ford Denison during his visit to campus to discuss his book “Darwinian Agriculture”.  It was great fun to stand in front of this county’s oldest agronomic trial and ponder how to study perennial polycultures with Ford (former manager of LTRAS which UC Davis claims as the world’s youngest 100  year study)  with students participating in the Agriculture Evolving class.  Students interested in developing woody polycultures were particularly interested in his critique of agriculturalists who seek  to blindly mimic nature.  Ford gave us a lot to think about as we imagine the world’s new ‘youngest’ long term polyculture trial.

Ford Denison with me at the Morrow Plots

Ford Denison with me at the Morrow Plots

Summer 2013 Update

Lab lunch to celebrate the completion of field sampling and than Ed Zaborski fir all of his hard work

Lab lunch to celebrate the completion of field sampling and thank Ed Zaborski for all of his hard work finding fields

New Forms of Agriculture: Ordinary Practices, Public Depate and Social Critique

inraAm excited to be involved with a two-day international conference on “New Forms of Agriculture”, to be held Nov. 20 & 21, 2013, on the INRA/AgroSup/University of Burgundy campus. The conference focuses on the social and political aspects of alternative agriculture movements, public debates over the pros and cons of differently configured agri-food systems, and other ways in which discussions about farming are politicized and/or depoliticized. Keynote speakers will include Julie Guthman of the University of California–Santa Cruz, Nancy Peluso of the University of California-Berkeley, and myself.  I’ll be talking about my experiences working with others to develop a National Sustainable Ag Standard (Leo-4000) and to refine the measurement tools used by government agencies to quantify agricultural conservation benefits and carbon-emissions.  Am looking forward to visiting with Laura Sayre, who is one of the main organizers of this event and, the editor of Fields of Learning.

Contributions to this conference are welcome from all social science, humanities, and related disciplines, focusing on examples from any geographic region and from any historical or contemporary period.  For more on this click here.


What a Summer – Can we top in 2012?

Roller derby has noting on us

Team 2011

Carmen Ugarte is in print!

Check it out!

The influence of organic transition strategy on chemical and biological soil tests
Carmen M. Ugarte and Michelle M. Wander
Renewable Ag and Food Systems doi:10.1017/S1742170511000573

Soil testing strategies that include biologically based indicators in organic and alternative farming systems are needed in
order to improve recommendations that balance production and environmental goals. In this study, soil samples were
collected before and after soils were transitioned from conventional row crop production to organic management using rotations that varied in both their inputs and tillage intensity. Ley-, row crop- and vegetable-based farming systems were implemented using locally specific production practices. Subplots were imposed within each system to allow comparison of farming systems without amendment and with dairy manure- and compost-amendment. Soil analyses included standard chemical tests (0–15cm) for available phosphorus, exchangeable potassium, calcium, magnesium, pH, total
organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN). Biological assays (0–15 and 15–30cm) included particulate organic matter-C and -N (POM-C, POM-N), soil and POM C:N ratios, fluorescein diacetate (FDA) hydrolysis, potentially
mineralizable N (PMN) and hydrolysable amino-N+NH4 (IL-N). Even though cropping and tillage intensity varied among systems (ley concentrations tested medium to high, even without compost or manure application. Labile fractions of soil organic matter were more enriched in the deeper sampling depth; whereby, POM stocks within the 15–30cm depth increased by
20% on average compared to roughly 6% in the surface depth. This and observed changes in other properties demonstrate
the multiple benefits derived from use of winter annual or perennial crops. Results from our analyses suggested PMN and POM have particular promise as metrics of change in commercial soil testing facilities to assist recommendations for amendments to balance production and environmental goals.


Info on Spring Classes

Scholarship of Sustainability NRES 499 CRN 53752
Spring Semester offering 10 week course
2 Credits
Lecture/discussion 4:00-5:50 p.m.
Discussions on Tuesdays beginning Jan 31 in Turner N-221
Lectures meet Thursdays in 103 Mumford Hall
Scholarship of Sustainability NRES 499 syllabus 2012

The class will meet over 10 weeks, starting on Tuesday, January 31, and ending Thursday, April 12. The class will meet each Tuesday for one hour (from 4:00-5:50) for discussion of the readings. The main sessions will be on Thursdays, starting February 2, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Room 103 of Mumford Hall, on the University’s south quad (just across the street (south) of the Morrow Plots on campus–about an 8 minute walk from the law school). This unusual format is due to the fact that the main, two-hour sessions, will include students from other campus courses as well as community members.  (They are open to the public.) The format of the main sessions will involve comments by Dr. Freygogle and (usually) two other campus faculty members, followed by questions and open discussion.  The general topics of the 10 sessions are set forth below.  All of the readings will come in two, spiral bound photocopy volumes, available in late January (cost–perhaps $35 total).  (Note–the order of the topics is still subject to change.)

Sustainable Food Systems

ACES 199—CRN 57624 


TR, 1:00 – 2:20 pm

This course is designed to foster critical systems thinking and collaborative analysis across multiple disciplines for the development, production, preparation, and consumption of food within complex social and ecological systems.  The course includes the consideration of challenge of producing enough food to feed the world population, and the environmental (e.g., climate change, sustainability, environmental footprint), economic (e.g., food insecurity) and health (e. g., obesity, diabetes) issues that are related to food.  A central idea is to start with “the food we eat” and connect it to health (e.g., obesity, nutrition, disease), the environment (e.g., environmental implications), the global economy (e.g., population growth, community economic development), and technology (e.g., genomics, engineering, information processing).