A new collaborative New York City-based project on improving urban soils has been awarded grant funding from Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).
Jenny Kao-Kniffin, associate professor in the Horticulture Section in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), and Jonathan Russell-Anelli, senior lecturer and senior extension associate in the Soil and Crop Sciences Section of SIPS, built a team to create applied solutions to current challenges in urban agriculture, including food availability, individual and community health, environmental contamination and economic opportunity.
The collaboration unites other members of SIPS, the Department of Entomology, Cornell Waste Management Institute, Cornell Tech and urban agricultural specialists at Harvest New York. After the team conducts a three-year survey of existing New York City plots, they will develop a mobile app to share their findings with urban growers in a readily accessible format, with information tailored to their needs. The app will include soil management guidelines for different kinds of urban gardens and farms, in addition to crop management and sustainability resources.
This “internet of things” communication bridges the gap between the initial soil health assessment and the need to monitor how urban crops adapt to changing conditions.
“Land-grant universities provide a vital role to the community by enabling the flow of information to reach stakeholders without the need to meet profit margins,” Kao-Kniffin said. “This concept is important when focusing on soil health and other long-term management techniques that promote sustainability. The stakeholders need to trust that the source of the information is truly committed to that sustainability.”