Amaya Atucha and Christelle Guedot
University of Wisconsin- Madison
What is your research about and what is the impact? How does it relate to the horticulture industry, what is the goal?
My research focuses on investigating the impacts of plastic mulches on organic, annual system day neutral strawberries in the upper Midwest in conjunction with researchers at the University of Minnesota. The use of day neutral strawberries, which are not seasonally constrained in when they bloom, allows the transition from June-bearing perennial systems to fall bearing annual systems. I am looking at how using different colored plastic mulches impacts pollinator behavior and visitation; fruit yield, quality, and post-harvest keeping qualities; and various conditions of the micro-climate around the berry plants.
What inspires you to do the work you do?
I am inspired by the possibilities, and the positive impacts that work in plant sciences can have on everything from food security to climate resilience. Obviously, my work doesn’t impact everything in that gamut, but it’s one small piece in the puzzle. A lot of fruit crops, strawberries in particular, are intensive users of chemical pesticides due to the way they’re grown and I think that it is important that farmers in the Midwest have the tools and methods available to them to produce different crops organically, such as strawberries. The aspect of long-term sustainability is also very inspiring to me, and seeing the work of many researchers here in that area makes me very proud to be contributing to sustainability in horticulture however I can.
If you went to the past, what would your younger self say they wanted to be when they grew up? What between then and now inspired the change in careers?
My younger self always wanted to be some sort of scientist– in middle and high school, the job I always came back to was biologist or botanist, in kind of the most academic meaning. I thought that a career in pure academic research was definitely the path I would go down, and that’s part of why I wound up at UW Madison in the first place. Now, of course, I am deep in the throes of academia– but my work skews a lot more towards the extension, applied end of academia and eventually my goal is to implement the discoveries made here on a farm or in the field, which is a big about-face. The thing I think that inspired this the most was realizing that in the field, working with farmers, is where the change happens. Being able to work hand in hand with growers, and by extension getting my hands dirty is what I look forward to most about my work because it is such a physical way to interact with the plants.