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  • Madison Moses

Madison Moses

Distinguished Honors - Applying N to the Field: Cultivating Resilience through a historical and social contextualization of an agroecological soil nitrogen study

Project Description

United States agricultural policy has been heavily production-centered for centuries, using racial discrimination and environmental degradation as a means to achieve maximum profit while reaping devastating social and ecological consequences. Synthetic fertilizers have successfully increased agricultural productivity, sustaining global population growth; however, they have also dramatically increased the size of reactive nitrogen (N) pools, presenting environmental and human health challenges. Moreover, synthetic fertilizers have tied many farmers into an agricultural paradigm that is controlled by corporate and federal interests, depriving them of agency. Agroecological nutrient management has the potential to build soil health and water quality while liberating farmers from dependence on synthetic inputs. Agroecological inputs depend on the process of N mineralization to make N available to crops, but the temporal and quantitative dynamics of N mineralization in different management systems are complex and not well understood. This project investigates N mineralization in two compost-based cucumber production systems to better understand how each system influences N mineralization. We found that management had variable effects on N mineralization and encountered challenges that call for honing of methodologies based on local conditions and needs. Ultimately, these data can be used to help farmers make informed decisions about when and how much N to apply to their fields to achieve productivity and environmental integrity goals, generating resilience in soils and communities alike.

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Department

Environmental Studies

Faculty Advisor

Denise Finney

Hometown

Philadelphia, PA