Nicole is a Cropping Systems Scientist who joined the Russell Ranch team in late 2017. Nicole also helps coordinate research with the extensive network of University of California and industry researchers who come to Russell Ranch to conduct research in the facility's unique long-term agroecosystems. Nicole grew up in southern WI and consequently loves dairy cropping systems and forages. She double-majored in Agronomy and Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed her PhD in Crop Science at Washington State University, where she investigated agronomic and soil fertility management in dryland organic wheat-based systems. Nicole has conducted on-the-ground agricultural research in wheat, corn, beans, forage, and grazing systems, as well as working with Kernza, a new perennial grain crop.
Her research focuses on increasing the diversity of crop rotations and landscape cover in agricultural production systems using a variety of techniques, including the incorporation of legumes, organic soil amendments (e.g., compost), and grazing into row crop rotations. Current projects include developing cropping system practices that encourage greater organic matter input to soil to reduce synthetic fertilizer application, through increasing the use of organic soil amendments, legumes in grain rotations, perennial crops and covers, and the incorporation of livestock into annual row cropping systems. An increase in these practices will also require a greater understanding of nutrient cycling, and I am currently investigating N and P cycljng with winter cover crops and compost, as well as linking soil microbial communities and activity to nutrient cycling and agroecosystem functioning, particularly in terms of productivity and economic outcomes for growers.