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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #429420

Research Project: Project Sustain: Enhancing Urban Agriculture through Research and Outreach

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21660-005-30-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 15, 2015
End Date: Sep 15, 2019

To 1) develop improved agricultural practices addressing nutrient and water use efficiency, food safety and nutrition, food waste and environmental risks in urban agriculture systems and 2) jointly hold the Urban Agriculture Symposium and Research Roundtable to bring together local, regional and national community leaders, stakeholders, researchers, and policy makers to discuss the current state of urban agriculture and define critical needs for future research.

To accomplish objective 1 - Establish student intern research projects addressing urban agriculture production issues. Potential areas identified are weed control through the use of cover crops and biological agents, reducing food safety risks in aquaponic systems, increasing nutrient use efficiency through recycling of food waste (compositing), increasing productivity of hydroponic systems through intensive management methods for greater capture of sunlight, application of integrated pest management practices in urban settings, and improving production methods for ethnic foods. Student intern research would be conducted with combined mentorship of UDC and BARC scientists (one or two from each location). The research would involve work at UDC food hub locations, UDC Muirkirk Farm, and/or BARC. Students would work closely with UDC and BARC scientists to develop hypotheses, collect and analyze samples, process data, create posters, and write abstracts/reports/manuscripts. Areas of research would be jointly agreed upon by UDC and BARC scientists focusing on areas that address needs of food hub stakeholders. Students would receive a stipend of $2500 per semester. The projects would last through the school year and could continue into the summer. To accomplish objective 2 - BARC would provide support for holding The Urban Agriculture Symposium and Research Roundtable. The conference would bring together local, regional and national community leaders, stakeholders, researchers, and policy makers to discuss the current state of urban agriculture. Key note speakers would provide background information on urban agriculture research programs, USDA programs supporting urban agriculture, the role of urban agriculture in sustainable cities initiatives, and social and ecological benefits of urban agriculture. A key component of the symposium will be breakout sessions and research roundtables to identify critical areas for future research that could be conducted jointly by UDC and BARC scientists. The symposium would be held in the fall (Oct 22-23) 2015 just prior to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations World Food Day Observance October 24, at the Washington, DC, National Geographic Auditorium.