Krista Jacobsen, PhD
Assistant Professor in the UK Department of Horticulture
Dr. Jacobsen's research focuses on evaluating effects of sustainable agricultural systems on soil quality and fertility in sustainable and organic farming systems, with an emphasis on soil carbon and nitrogen cycling. An agroecologist by training, Krista and the members of her lab work from an interdisciplinary, systems perspective. This includes understanding not only the functioning of alternative horticultural systems but also considering the social and economic fabric within which these systems are woven. For example, we may look at economic, human labor and energy requirements, and prefer to work in systems that are applicable to small-holder, local farmers in the regions we work in. Current Jacobsen Lab projects include:
Improving our understanding of intensification in organic farming systems affects soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics, nitrogen leaching losses, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Incorporating conservation tillage and cover crops into year-round, organic high tunnel production.
Testing new cover crops for high tunnel production in the Southeast.
Assessing energy use (energy returned on energy invested) in organic vegetable production systems.
Ongoing research comparing movable and stationary high tunnels for year round organic vegetable production.
The bulk of our research is conducted on the University of Kentucky (UK) Organic Farming Unit (UK OFU), a 20-acre USDA Certified Organic research and teaching facility on the UK Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington, KY. We also work with local farmers throughout the Bluegrass Region and Eastern Kentucky.
Krista is a native to southwest Iowa, but has called Kentucky home since 2009. She teaches and advises in UK's Sustainable Agriculture Undergraduate Degree Program. Her courses include Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture (SAG 101), Plant Production Systems (PLS 386, co-taught with Dr. Mark Williams), Agroecology (SAG 390) and a summer study abroad to Indonesia in Tropical Agroecology and Sustainable Development.
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Current Graduate Students
Debendra is a PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky. He completed his Bachelor's degree in 2009 and Master's degree in Horticulture in 2011 from Tribhuwan University, Nepal. He then worked as an Agriculture Development officer for the government of Nepal at the Department of Agriculture. He is interested in nutrient cycling, organic vegetable production, highland organic coffee production and utilizing organic waste as a source of plant nutrients. He is currently working with Dr. Krista Jacobsen on Sustainable Nitrogen and Carbon Cycling on Diversified Horticulture Farms at the University of Kentucky.
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Undergraduate Student Workers
Savannah McGuire is a junior at the University of Kentucky and is studying Sustainable Agriculture. She has been an assistant in the Jacobsen lab since February 2015. She is interested in vegetable production and enjoys field work and being outdoors. She plans to graduate in 2018 and attend graduate school.
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Ellen Green is a fourth year student at the University of Kentucky double majoring in sustainable agriculture and environmental studies. she has been an assistant in the Jacobsen lab since January 2016. Her research interests include community food systems and environmental ethics. Ellen plans to continue her research upon completing her undergraduate degree in 2017, and hopes to study sustainable agriculture in graduate school.
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David Smith is a recent graduate of Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. As a student, David conducted undergraduate research in the Jacobsen Lab exploring differences between high tunnel and field soils around the state. David is an avid runner and outdoors man, with broad interests in biology, sustainability, and environmental sciences.
Michael Hurak is a recent graduate from the University of Kentucky having majored in Sustainable Agriculture. Throughout the course of his college career he studied abroad twice; once in Indonesia with Dr. Jacobsen and an intern program with Maejo University in Thailand. Michael has been an apprentice at the UK Horticulture farm and has worked with several labs in the College of Agriculture, the latest with Dr. Haramoto at Spindletop Farms. Michael is now a research analyst at the University of Virgin Island's Agriculture Experiment Station where he is involved with several research programs including: animal husbandry, agriculture biotech, tropical agriculture, and sustainable agriculture overall.
Jennifer Taylor is a fourth year student at the University of Kentucky double majoring in environmental studies and geography. She has worked with the Jacobsen Lab since May 2016. Her research interests include the impact of conservation spaces on local populations. After Jennifer receives her bachelor's degree in May 2017, she is looking to pursue a career in environmental justice work.
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Alex Williams is a trained weed scientist for the control of vegetation on golf courses, home lawns, landscapes, and plant nurseries. She received her PhD in Crop Science from the University of Kentucky where she researched Poa annua biotypes on golf course putting greens and their differential responses to commonly used herbicides and plant growth regulators. Additionally, she researched the behavior of flurprimidol in turfgrass species. Alex completed her MS in Horticulture from the University of Georgia, researching the influence of soilless growing media on the movement and longevity of the herbicide, dimenthenamid-P. Alex also received her BS in Agriculture with an emphasis in Horticulture from Western Kentucky University. During her undergraduate studies she worked at Redbud Ridge Gardens, a perennial nursery and landscaping company. Currently she is a research analyst at UK in the Department of Horticulture working in the Jacobsen laboratory.
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Graduate Student Alumni
Alex successfully defended his thesis entitled Reduced Tillage and Living Mulches in Organic Production Systems in Fall 2013. He is currently employed as the Sustainable Food Systems Director at Virginia Tech University.
Alex earned a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana, Missoula. His hometown is Chapel Hill, North Carolina, perfectly situated halfway between the outer banks and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Seasonal jobs in the outdoors have been excellent excuses for him to explore the natural history and management of forests and agricultural landscapes. Alex has worked as an intern at an outdoor survival skills school for children in New Jersey, a wildland firefighter in Idaho, and a forest research technician in Montana. His interest in sustainable agriculture grew from an internship at N.C. State University’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems, and by working on the student-run farm at the University of Montana. The year prior to his arrival at UK was spent on an organic vegetable farm in western North Carolina. He is interested in optimizing weed management strategies and conservation tillage practices for organic vegetable production. He believes that cover crops, prudent cultivation, creative rotations, and an adaptable approach towards tillage are the foundation of sustainable farming systems. Alex's graduate research with Dr. Krista Jacobsen was focused on the influence of conservation tillage and inter-seeded cover crops, or “living mulches,” on nitrogen mineralization, weed community composition, and soil aggregate stability in organic bell pepper production. Alex is grateful to have worked beside the students and faculty of UK’s student run organic CSA, and hope to replicate this model for hands-on learning as an educator in the future.
Kavita successfully defended her thesis in Spring 2014. She is currently employed at the USDA-APHIS Headquarters in Beltsville, MD.
Kavita began her career in Finance after graduating from McGill University with a Bachelor’s in Commerce in 2009. However, after feeling a pull to get back to her roots, Kavita left her job and took an Agroforestry and Tropical Horticulture internship at the Jama Coaque Reserva in coastal Ecuador. After returning to the United States in 2011, Kavita worked on a number of certified organic diversified vegetable and livestock operations throughout the North East United States, including her own family business in Pennsylvania, Plant Magic Perennials. Kavita’s research interests are focused on the downstream effects of agricultural systems, primarily human health and nutrition.