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Research Lab

Focused on the climate adaptive research projects around food, water, energy and biodiversity within the western Lake Superior region

Our Western Lake Superior region faces near and long term challenges and opportunities related to food and agricultural systems.  A growing demand for local foods is driving expansion of the small scale sustainable agriculture fitting for our region.  Training young farmers and educating youth and citizens more generally on the important role that food and agriculture plays in the transition toward sustainability will be increasingly important.  Institutions of higher education play a key role in these activities.

Climate change is also bringing new challenges and opportunties for our region. As climate systems migrate northward in uneven processes, productivity of agricultural activities will increase.  Yet this warmer and more volatile climate and weather will mesh with an existing poorer quality soil regime created by the ecological activities associated with the Great North Woods. Meeting the challenges of a changing climate and increased agricultural activities and production will require creativity and innovation over the next several decades.

How do we synergize research activities that can address these challenges, which include attention toward how human social and economic activities interface with changing ecological conditions through the interfaces of food, water, energy and biodiversity infrastructures.  The Humanities and social sciences are key to navigating these issues alongside science and engineering.

Accordingly, the UMD Land Lab is pursuing those opportunities via the following activities:

  • farm scale wind turbine –conceived, evaluated, and installed with input from UMD’s  Departments of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Office of Sustainability, Facilities Management and other partners– provides renewable energy for the field site as well as research and learning for engineering faculty and students.  In addition to modeling farm-scale renewable energy systems, the turbine also models a process for evaluating appropriate technology for the region; UMD biologists and local EPA scientists worked extensively establishing baseline data over two years on potential impacts on birds, bats and other wildlife at the SAP landscape.
  • The UMD Land Lab is in the second year of a research collaboration with agronomists at the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus over the past two years on evaluating field scale performance of 20 varieties of organic heirloom dry beans that can serve as a season extension product.
  • The UMD Land Lab hosts hydrological research with University of Minnesota Twin Cities based researchers in regional climate change manifestations in building a ‘keyline’ terra-form system for ‘catch and release’ strategies appropriate for both drought and flood conditions.
  • The UMD Land Lab has partnered with the Natural Resources Research Institute on a pending biochar research program.  This program would explore options for amending boreal soils for agricultural production against the backdrop of regional climate change.
  • The UMD Land Lab hosted native pollinator habitat research in collaboration with the Xerces Society in evaluating methods of prepping land for planting varieties of plants and plant communities.
  • The UMD Land Lab will install in Fall, 2016 a full spectrum weather station whose real-time data will be publicly available and also be used in on campus research and teaching weather and climate courses.
  • Our future research projects respond to regional needs and interests (as determined by a survey with the Sustainable Farming Association) including season extension techniques and technologies, cultivar varietal development, and climate change issues as it relates to food and agriculture.