Push-pull farming technique

Three new Atkinson postdoctoral fellows are launching international research on regulating the world’s food supply chain, fighting crop pests naturally, and managing road emissions for cleaner transportation 

Atkinson Postdocs Tackle Global Problems

February 28, 2017

Push-pull farming technique

Three new Atkinson postdoctoral fellows are launching international research on regulating the world’s food supply chain, fighting crop pests naturally, and managing road emissions for cleaner transportation. The postdocs will begin two-year appointments in 2017.

The Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowships in Sustainability address urgent world sustainability needs. The postdocs link their research at Cornell, advised by Atkinson Center faculty advisers, with nonacademic partners to advance on-the-ground application of the sustainable solutions they develop. Partner organizations this year include the Centre for Environmental Stewardship in Kenya and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Atkinson postdoctoral program selects two to four new postdocs each year. Watch for the next call for proposals this spring.

James Krueger, PhD ’17, University of Wisconsin–Madison

James Krueger

East African farmers seeking to join the global supply chain confront a confusing lineup of food production requirements, including overlapping community, national, and international rules for pesticide use. No single authority has the last word on food production. Shared regulatory responsibility, argues environmental studies scholar and attorney James Krueger, could be best for farmers, communities, and sustainability. Collaborating with Gerald Torres, Marina Welker, and the Centre for Environmental Stewardship, Krueger will work with vegetable farmers in Meru, Kenya, to understand how new EU pesticide regulations are impacting farming practices, community institutions, and Kenyan food certification efforts. His study will reveal how overlapping regulatory regimes—from folk regulation to international law—can help farming communities manage local resources while reaching global markets.

Daniel Mutyambai, PhD ’15, North-West University, South Africa

Daniel Mutyambai

Farming systems based on ecological principles give African farmers environmentally friendly, cost-effective ways to manage pests naturally, raise more food, and adapt to climate change. The “push-pull” method—using intercropping to repel insects from the target crop—has helped more than 135,000 small farms boost maize yields and soil fertility. Working with Andre Kessler and the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Daniel Mutyambai plans to extend the successful push-pull strategy beyond maize to drought-tolerant sorghum, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s major staple and cash crops. By determining and testing the plant chemical communication mechanisms that make push-pull effective, Mutyambai’s project will establish a method for adapting the push-pull approach to different crops and landscapes across East Africa.

Shaojun Zhang, PhD ’14, Tsinghua University, China

Shaojun Zhang

Clean, sustainable transportation is a worldwide climate priority. In collaboration with K. Max Zhang and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Shaojun Zhang will develop and pilot test a data-driven emissions management system to reduce road emissions and accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Integrating real-time emissions sampling with existing smart traffic sensing, the new system will provide a dynamic picture of local traffic environments and air quality, assess environmental impacts of changing traffic conditions, and even identify individual high-polluting vehicles. The modeling will incorporate real electric vehicle users’ driving habits, pulling together consumer behavior and big data to inform wiser sustainable transportation decisions—for consumers, policymakers, and industry stakeholders.