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K-State Today

August 11, 2021

Two agronomy graduate students awarded research grants in sustainable agriculture

Submitted by Kathy Gehl

2021 North Central SARE Graduate Student Grant recipients, Carlos B. Pires and Lily Woitaszewski, from the Department of Agronomy.

Two graduate students in the agronomy department recently received research grants from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

Of the 57 proposals submitted by graduate students from across the north-central region, 24 were selected for funding. The funding period for the grants will begin this fall and run for two years.

Doctoral student Carlos Bonini Pires received approval for his proposal “Using On-Farm Soil Health to Engage Research and Education Toward Sustainable Agriculture." For this project, Kansas State University, Bayer Crop Science, USDA-NRCS, Guetterman Brothers Family Farms and The SAVE Farm will form a team to provide integrated research, extension and education efforts to farmers and future agriculture players on the understanding of soil health and sustainable agricultural practices.

This project builds upon the Kansas Soil Health Partnership and will extend the on-farm soil health research conducted at Guetterman Brothers Family Farms in Bucyrus since 2018 for seven years. Besides research, this project will have a strong extension and outreach component. The involvement of farmers via field days and educational approaches such as cover crop gardens and bilingual soil health videos will substantially affect the adoption of sustainable practices, increase soil organic carbon, soil biodiversity, water infiltration and reduce soil erosion. 

Piris is originally from southern Brazil and graduated from the Federal University of Santa Maria–Brazil, with a Bachelor of Science in agronomy. He is currently the president of the Brazilian Student Association and vice president of the Agronomy Graduate Student Association. He is working on his doctorate under the direction of Chuck Rice.

Lily Woitaszewski, a master’s student, will be working on her project, “Weed Suppression by Grazed Winter Cover Crops with Varied Timing of Livestock Removal." As resistant populations of weed species in Kansas continue to rise, there is a need to implement integrated weed management practices. Cereal rye cover crops produce large amounts of biomass and therefore suppress weed growth. Cattle producers also utilize cereal rye as forage to balance economic costs.

This project will help uncover the optimum grazing period needed to achieve the highest level of weed suppression. Educated management decisions early in the growing season will offer economic gain by balancing weed management costs later in the growing season with the value of beef production realized in the late winter and early spring. The recommendations from this experiment will have both direct and indirect effects that will reduce weed populations, herbicide resistance and overall herbicide applications. Producer profitability will increase as well as stewardship of the environment through the use of integrated weed management strategies.

Woitaszewski was raised on a cow-calf and row crop farm in Nebraska. She completed her undergraduate degree in agronomy with a minor in agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is currently working on her master’s degree in weed science under the supervision of Sarah Lancaster.