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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Interests
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Russell Gesch (Russ)
Research Plant Physiologist

Research responsibilities: Leads research on developing management strategies for production of new, alternative, and traditional crops and identifying/characterizing physiological processes and management protocols for crops to cope with environmental stresses. Goal/Mission: To increase efficiency and economic returns of farming systems in short-season, high-stress environments using new knowledge, new products, and new/alternative crops as management tools.

Current research

  • Develop cuphea as a new domestic source of medium-chain fatty acid oil.
    • Investigate basic agronomics - rotational effects of cuphea with wheat, corn, and soybean; harvest techniques to reduce seed moisture and loss
    • Determine nitrogen and sulfur fertilizer requirements for optimum seed and oil yield
      • Determine effects of NO3 vs. NH4 source of nitrogen fertilizer on cuphea emergence
  • Determine benefits of temperature-responsive polymer seed coating for early planted corn and soybean to extend the amount of time farmers have to accomplish spring field work.
    • Determine germination and emergence characteristics (early & late planting dates
    • Determine potential for use of longer season hybrid corn & maturity group soybean
    • Determine potential for minimum-till soils
  • Determine extent of genetic variation in photosynthetic acclimation to temperature fluctuations in switchgrass (comparison of four ecotypes). This study will provide basic information useful to increase switchgrass productivity in northern climates through breeding and molecular genetics.

Future research (next 5 years)

  • Develop new and alternative crops for biofuels and industrial uses.
    • Develop best management practices for camelina, bifora, and pennycress (e.g. planting and harvesting dates and methods, seeding depth, and pest control)
    • Further determination of nutrient requirements for cuphea, particularly effects of sulfur and micronutrients on flowering and oil yield
    • Develop new cropping strategies for new, alternative, and traditional crops in the northern US.
      • Determine potential for double and relay cropping using short life-cycle winter mustards (e.g., camelina and canola) either followed by a short-season annual (e.g. soybean, sunflower, and millet) or inter-seeded with soybean or dwarf sunflower.
      • Evaluate biomass production of conventional and alternative biomass crops, with management practices that incorporate cover crops, living mulches, and perennial rotations.
      • Determine optimal tillage or soil preparation for seeding winter oilseed crops (e.g. camelina and canola).
    • Determine environmental limitations on growth, development, and seed oil and nutrition quality of new, alternative, and traditional crops.
      • Evaluate adaptation of PSR23 cuphea over time to different environments (comparison or original PSR23 with 2001 MN & IL PSR23, and 2006 MN & IL PSR23).
      • Characterize the physiological basis of seed dehiscence in cuphea; examine ethylene production and ?-1, 4-glucanase activity through capsule development and dehiscence and examine the effect of growth regulators (auxin mimics) on dehiscence.
      • Determine water use and temperature requirements for optimum growth of new/alternative crops (e.g., camelina, bifora, and penny cress).
      • Determine whether carbohydrate feedback inhibition of photosynthesis and growth in switchgrass due to saturation of sink organs (i.e., roots and stems) leads to loss of productivity over time.

      Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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