Current Agriculture Research

Co-location of agriculture and solar power in Maryland– overcoming barriers to a novel hybrid technology to reduce emissions and enhance resilience

PI: Dr. Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman, University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UMD AGNR)

Co-PIs: Paul Goeringer (UMD AGNR), Elizabeth Thilmany (UMD AGNR), and Dr. Drew Schiavone (University of Maryland Extension)

Duration: June 2024 to Dec. 2025

Grant: $122,695

Description: As Maryland implements an ambitious renewable energy strategy, the installation of photovoltaic solar (PV) across the state has the potential to generate land-use conflicts. Dual-use projects, such as agrivoltaics, where PV panels are co-located on farms, have been suggested as a strategy to get past those conflicts. However, many economic, technical, political and social barriers exist to implementing a new technology. This project aims to examine the barriers to adopting agrivoltaic technology to inform future implementation of this new hybrid technology.

This Hughes Center funding will allow the UMD faculty leading this project to start the Maryland AgriVoltaics Research and Extension Consortium (MAVREC). The Hughes Center funding will support the researchers in exploring how Maryland farmers and other stakeholders perceive agrivoltaics and what data would be necessary to help inform planning and policy to support this novel technology. The consortium of researchers will host a series of focus groups across the state to interview key practitioners and stakeholders. They will also use a GIS approach to identify locations suitable for dual-use agrivoltaic projects. 

Project PI Mitchell Pavao-Zuckerman (Associate Professor in ENST) noted the important benefits of this project for Maryland. “This Hughes Center funding will help inform best practices for agrivoltaics with the goal of reducing future land-use conflicts,” he said. “Our findings will build awareness of this new technology and increase the capacity of Maryland farmers to adapt to climate change while also contributing to the state’s renewable and emissions goals.”

Enhancing Resilience in Agriculture Using Profitable Maryland Triticale Cultivars


PI: Vijay Tiwari

Duration: June 2023 to May 2025

Cost: $141,434

Description: Changing climatic conditions, increased pressure from biotic stresses and reduction in agricultural land pose big global challenges for crop production. As a result, there is an urgent need to focus on developing resilient cereal crops that require low input and can fulfill the needs of grain, forage, feed and cover crops. A new project being led by University of Maryland Assistant Professor Dr. Vijay Tiwari suggests triticale is a great fit for these requirements. 

Low adoption of triticale in the North Eastern region is due to issues with concerns about production, availability of end-use markets, competition from wheat, barley and rye, and lack of focused research to identify better triticale lines and their evaluation for cover crop performances. 

This project will deliver efficient, modern, locally adapted triticale cultivars that can be used as the cool season cover crop for Maryland and the broader Mid-Atlantic region.

Saltwater Intrusion

salt-intruded field

Saltwater intrusion represents the leading edge of coastal climate impacts. Inland movement of seawater can change soil salinity in coastal farmlands, leading to crop yield declines and reduced resilience of coastal lands to climatic events.

Read about all of the Hughes Center's saltwater intrusion work here.

Optimizing cover cropping for carbon sequestration under future climate change scenarios

Cover crops

PI: Jared Wilmoth and Stephanie Yarwood (University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Duration: June 2023 to June 2025

Grant: $99,914

Description: A major concern for Maryland agriculture is the impact of more frequent and extreme weather patterns on crop productivity and land management. Changes in the intensity and duration of wet conditions are already affecting the operations of farms in Maryland, as well as the strategies of farmers as they grapple with uncertainty in future climate-change scenarios and make important decisions about soil carbon sequestration and carbon markets. 

A study being performed by Drs. Jared Wilmoth and Stephanie Yarwood of the UMD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources theorizes that optimized cover cropping is a potential solution to sequestering more carbon in agricultural soils, which could help to mitigate climate change and make farmlands more resilient to its impact. 

Rye and vetch are frequently used as cover crops in Maryland, and when grown together, they likely have greater potential to increase the amount of carbon fixed in soil. Optimization of winter cover cropping with rye and vetch will be crucial for building resilience to climate change given that Maryland is projected to experience the most extreme changes in temperature and precipitation during the winter months over the next 80 years. However, it remains unclear how the management of these cover crops affects the flow of newly fixed carbon between particulate and mineral-associated forms of soil organic matter, which determines the stability of carbon in agricultural lands under future climate scenarios.

The study’s investigators expect that with the most optimal winter cover-cropping practices, more carbon can be sequestered in Maryland agricultural soils. The overarching goal is to provide new data on the role of cover cropping in sequestering carbon and help producers to predict how much carbon they may be storing under different weather conditions. By closely investigating how newly fixed carbon is incorporated into soil organic matter by cover crops, our work will help establish more optimized cover cropping strategies for farmers to build larger and longer-lasting soil carbon stocks.

Research Identifies Challenges and Opportunities in Farmers' Response to Climate Change

Research released by partners at the Nature Conservancy, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES) and the Maryland Grain Producers (MDGP) measures farmers’ and farm advisors’ thoughts toward current issues related to climate, conservation practices and the carbon market.

This research was conducted by Matt Houser (the Nature Conservancy and UMCES), Jennifer Gannon (MDGP), Lindsay Thompson (MDGP) and Amy Jacobs (the Nature Conservancy) in 2022 and 2023. It was funded by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology. It suggests that Maryland farmers are adopting practices that provide climate resilience at relatively high levels despite the goals for such adoption stemming from non-climate-related origins.

The research team interviewed farmers and farm advisors like seed dealers, Extension agents, and other agriculture-related consultants around the state and set out to understand their views on climate-related challenges and opportunities. The study covers a wide range of topics, from beliefs on changing climatic conditions to current management practices to questions on how they receive information. 

“The development of carbon markets and potential future markets for agricultural environmental credits has been a hot topic. As professionals that represent farmers on a State and National level, we found it very important to understand the true opinions of farmers on topics such as the carbon market for agriculture, climate change and current conservation issues,” said Gannon, MDGP’s public relations and program assistant. “With that information, we will be able to do a better job moving forward developing and evaluating other programs to ensure they have a positive impact not only on agriculture but also on the agricultural community.”

Gannon said many of the farmers had similar responses when asked about topics surrounding climate change, resiliency and practices to aid, such as cover crops. The study says that 83% of farmers and 86% of advisors believed that climate change was occurring, regardless of its cause. But neither group was generally deeply concerned about any threats to agriculture from changing climatic conditions. Rather, economic and social issues were perceived as much more immediate threats.

The study also measures barriers to the carbon market, which Gannon said was the surprising part of the study’s results.

Most producers interviewed noted barriers to participating in the carbon market, including the widespread use of cover crops and no-till systems as factors that disqualify them from many carbon programs that focus on new practice adoption. Adding to the complexity is the fact that a higher percentage of farmers rent ground. Producers were also not confident in the science related to carbon trading.

“With the results from this research, we will be able to better understand any barriers to participation in the carbon market for agriculture, in addition to adoption of conservation practices in general. Understanding farmers' true thoughts on ‘hot topics’ is the integral first step for us to be a useful partner to farmers,” Gannon said.

Read the entire study here