Research Profile: Carlson shares passion for cover crops, sustainability

When Rebekah Carlson grew up helping out on her uncle’s farm in Nebraska, he always told her, “you’ve got the farm girl in you”. He was right.

After studying Biochemistry at Biola University in California, Carlson took a job as a crop consultant in Nebraska. Then, while working in agronomy, she wanted to learn more.

“I called up Dr. Don Wyse at the University of Minnesota to learn about programs. He started talking to me about the Forever Green Initiative,” says Carlson.

Carlson grew up around cover crops. (Her uncle is heavily involved with the implementation of cover crops on his own farm.) Carlson’s interest and passion for stewardship led her to be a research assistant focusing on cover crop research.

Working with the Forever Green Initiative, Carlson looks for cover crop options that are both environmentally and financially sustainable for the farmer. She is also hoping to find a cover crop that is self-seeding to provide an economical and sustainable option for farmers in the Midwest.

Through her research at the University of Minnesota Rosemount Research and Outreach Center, Carlson has learned that everything takes time. One question leads to 80,000. But Carlson enjoys being able to work directly with farmers and the Forever Green Initiative.

“It’s nice to be able to talk to the people who have their boots on the ground. At the end of the day we all want the same thing, something sustainable and easy to manage.”

This past growing season, Carlson focused her research on interseeding different types of cover crops into a soybean field. The purpose was to try to get a second crop harvested after the soybeans were already taken out. Next year Carlson will conduct the same research, but while growing corn. Once the results are collected, she will compile her findings and finish her program in December 2017. Following that, her future is wide open.

“After my master’s (degree), there are a few opportunities that I want to take advantage of that explore the intersect of science, agriculture and communication. That’s before I, hopefully, end up back out in the country or in a small town working directly with the community I live in.”

Meghan Doyle