Northern Michigan University junior environmental science major Ryann Rich was recently named the Helen and William Milliken Scholar by the Michigan Environmental Council for her proposed undergraduate research idea “Wetting Your Wheat: Is Sustainable Agriculture in the Marshes?” Established in 2018, the Belding, MI native is the first recipient of the scholarship.
“A huge part of sustainable agriculture is crop rotation,” said Rich. “However, many farmers struggle with marketing their cover/secondary crops. One of the major goals implementing a sustainable food network to help local farmers by creating a market for such crops and creating an ease of access to processing facilities.”
Rich's research idea is to conserve large wetland areas by cultivating new crop varieties that can be planted in buffer and riparian zones. Through planting in natural wetlands, farmers can utilize the natural hydrological processes of the area and, as a result, will not have to invest in artificial irrigation. In addition, farmers will no longer have to drain and tile the wetlands in order to successfully grow their crops.
“My research idea was inspired by my dad who taught me the importance of wetlands and conservation,” said Rich. “I have an agriculture background that gave me some incite to the idea.”
Along with taking her research idea to graduate school, Rich will be working with the Michigan Environmental Council this upcoming summer to work on implementing a more sustainable food network in the Upper Peninsula.