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Agriculture

Maria Verburg

Maria Verburg

Maria Verburg, a senior from Vergennes, Vermont, is comparing the net energy produced in a rotational system with underseeded legumes with that produced in a continuous corn system. She worked with Dr. Chris Goedhart on a project to be funded by the USDA SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) program. Four treatments were replicated three times in side-by-side plots. Twelve test plots were replicated and planted side-by-side. Although the bulk of the work will happen this fall following the harvest, Verburg collected planting and growing data comparing the amount of energy produced and used for each of the test plots. Verburg also tested for variables such as organic matter, nitrate-nitrogen concentrations, and plant chlorophyll content.

She will continue to analyze the data this fall, but the summer work gave her a good opportunity to think about a wide range of factors that go into research. “What’s important from such a study?” asks Goedhart. “Farmers make decisions using competing paradigms. Choices can be based on profitability, net energy produced, or on measures of sustainability. A study like ours can provide information allowing farmers to prioritize their cropping decisions based on comparative data seen through the lens of each paradigm.”

Verburg says this was her best summer job so far.

“The opportunity to work with this research project was really exciting. Knowing I was a part of advancing and promoting sustainable agriculture was a real draw for me. I love the ag department, and knew I would enjoy working for them.”