Category Archives: Researcher Reels

Researcher Reels are videos produced by researchers as part of a free online workshop to help them better communicate what they do to general audiences. For the date of the next workshop, contact:
David Poulson
director, Michigan State University’s Translational Scholars Program
517 432 5417

Making the world less hungry through agronomy management

By Ben Muir

As part of our series, “10 ideas to make the world less hungry,” Ben Muir talks to Bruno Basso, an ecosystem scientist at Michigan State University, about using legumes as a substitute for fertilizers.

Michigan State gave Basso the ‘innovation of the year award’ in 2016 for his work on crop-plant innovation and crop-plant management. He is now working with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization on innovative ways to quantify crop production at the end of each growing season.

Basso’s idea to make the world less hungry is rooted in agronomy management.

Listen to the interview here.

And come back next week for a new idea.

Study: Malawi’s fertilizer subsidy not ‘miraculous’

Joe Messina

By David Poulson

When geographer Joe Messina first analyzed satellite images of Malawi farm fields, he figured he had made a mistake.

Almost everywhere he looked in the East African nation he found maize harvest declines over the previous decade.  But this was the site of the Malawi Miracle, a fertilizer subsidy program so successful that it was lauded by researchers in scientific journals and by writers in the New York Times and The Economist.

It became a model program used to justify similar enormous investments by the international community in other African nations.

“I assumed I was wrong,” said Messina, a researcher at Michigan State University’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

Continue reading Study: Malawi’s fertilizer subsidy not ‘miraculous’

Improving vegetable farming with community-driven irrigation tech in Uganda

Farmers installing an irrigation system . Photo provided by: Abraham Salomon


In Uganda, farmers in rain-fed agricultural communities depend on irrigation. Without irrigation, they battle with fluctuating and
unpredictable weather conditions, droughts and flooding. Crops don’t do well and yields are low.

Abraham Salomon. Photo: Lizzy LaFave

Researcher Abraham Salomon, of the University of California-Davis, is working in eastern Uganda, collaborating with local farmers, social advocates, and engineers on flexible and community-managed irrigation interventions. They’ve been installing and maintaining adaptable irrigation systems that allows tomatoes, cabbage, beans and other vegetables to thrive in the dry seasons and the unpredictable rainy seasons.

Listen to the our interview to Abraham here

Protecting potatoes – when all your money is underground

Photo: Luke Steere
Photo: Luke Steere

French fries, hash browns and crispy chips come to mind when we think about potatoes. Potatoes are the most widely consumed crops in the United States, and the world’s fourth-largest food crop, after maize, wheat, and rice.

Potatoes grow on almost every continent. They adapt well toclimate and are a good source of potassium, vitamin C and carbohydrates. Their greatest enemy is soil borne diseases. Currently, those diseases are controlled by fumigating the soil with chemicals. That’s expensive both economically and environmentally. And it kills beneficial organisms!

Luke Steere, a doctoral student in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University, says potatoes have chosen him. Why? He talks to Ali Hussain about his research of molecular techniques and how it could reduce fumigation and improve production of potatoes.

Listen to the interview here

New book examines power, concentration in the food system

phil-book-coverA few powerful actors decide what we eat and how much gets to us.

As much as 40 percent or more of the market at every key stage in the U.S. food system is controlled by four firms, according to Philip Howard, an associate professor in community sustainability at Michigan State University. Continue reading New book examines power, concentration in the food system