Boosting Maize Yields Sustainably
Farming systems that use ecological principles—rather than expensive chemicals—are helping African farmers raise more food sustainably. One method protects maize from destructive moths with two partner crops: a legume that repels the hungry moths and a grass that attracts them for a tasty meal. This “push-pull” approach improves soil fertility and can triple yields, but some farms have seen much smaller gains. This team will find out why. Their answers about how surrounding landscapes and soil affect results will help more smallholder farmers benefit from sustainable practices that are helping their neighbors.
Investigators: Katja Poveda, Entomology; Andre Kessler, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Laurie Drinkwater, Horticulture; Magdeline Laba, Soil and Crop Sciences
Big Pool, Little Pool
Flooding in urban areas is a growing problem, as the world’s cities expand and storms become more intense and variable. Piscinões (big pools) are São Paulo’s primary strategy for reducing flooding. While often effective for flood control, these single-purpose basins also divide neighborhoods, concentrate pollutants, and require costly maintenance. With officials and experts in São Paulo, this team will create landscape-based design guidelines for piscinões that can work at large and small scales to enhance human communities and urban ecosystems. These multifunctional pools offer a new model for urban living with water.
Investigators: Brian Davis, Landscape Architecture; Raymond Craib, History; Tammo Steenhuis, Biological and Environmental Engineering; Thomas Whitlow, Horticulture
Crop Disease and Climate Change
Some plant pathogens spread through the air—and the effects on staple food crops can be devastating. Climate change could mean more frequent plant epidemics, as extreme weather may move pathogens more easily across continents. This project brings together experts in atmospheric science, plant pathology, and computational sustainability to model how climate change, weather events, and changing agricultural landscapes will influence the future long-distance transport of fungi affecting global food security, such as wheat stem rust fungus. The team will coordinate with Cornell’s Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat program and international disease management programs to safeguard the world’s wheat.
Investigators: Natalie Mahowald, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Gary Bergstrom, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology; William Fry, Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology; Christopher Myers, Physics
Conservation Incentive Programs for Latin America
Some biodiversity hotspots in Latin America have lost more than half of their forests to agricultural development. Several nations are considering market-based conservation solutions to forest restoration. Programs that reward environ-mentally sustainable practices—growing coffee and other crops beneath trees, for example—can support struggling rural communities, restore degraded land, slow forest loss, and help countries meet international carbon commitments. Working with Rainforest Alliance and industry partners in Nicaragua, the researchers will develop a portfolio of practical incentive programs to help Nicaragua meet its international pledge to restore 2.8 million hectares of degraded lands.
Investigators: Amanda Rodewald, Lab of Ornithology/Natural Resources; Mark Milstein, Johnson School; Viviana Ruiz Gutierrez, Lab of Ornithology; Miguel Gómez, Applied Economics and Management; Stephen DeGloria, Soil and Crop Sciences