Soil health improvements presented at MSU

On Tuesday Dr. Mriganka De presented his research into the use of poultry and cover crops to improve soil health and increase agricultural output. The title of De’s presentation was, “Can We Regenerate Soil Health and Enhance Corn Productivity in the U.S. Corn Belt through Perennial Cover Crops and Poultry Integration.” 

De’s presentation, the 2024 Douglas R. Moore Faculty Research Lecture, began with discussion of Minnesota being part of the corn belt and the negative impacts high-intensity corn production can have on the environment.

“It just came out, some of this in the Star Tribune, and also in Smithsonian magazine, what is happening is that in our Midwestern states, huge amounts of topsoil lost,” he said. “Are you scared? I am scared.”

Cover crops go in the soil between main or cash crops such as corn and protect the soil from erosion and improve the soil’s overall health. Poultry can then be added to help maintain the cover crops and add nutrients back into the soil via turkey poop and urine. Turkey was the species used by De in his three-year research project.

Many students worked with De on his research, which was performed at Blue Dirt Farm owned by Scott Haase.

Haese worked with De as he felt that it was important to be able to better use natural resources and help the environment.

“It’s pretty alarming to me that we’re not utilizing the resources that nature gives us,” said Haase.

“I believe that this research would help me progress in the plant sciences and yes, this [research] helps soil science research and enhances plant productivity,” said Poorna Kalyani Munagala, a graduate student in biology who assisted De in his research.

De said he started doing soil research because the topic caught his interest when he started attending agriculture school.

“The only subject that I liked was soils because I feel like there was a lot of science behind it, a lot of physics, a lot of chemistry, a lot of biology going on. And that kind of excited me,” said De.

MSU President Edward Inch introduced De and explained the importance of the Douglas R. Moore lecture series — considered the most prestigious research award given to a faculty member at MNSU Mankato.

“I personally always enjoy this lecture and I always come away with something that really scares me or I learn something that’s really good,” Inch said.

After De gave his lecture, members of the audience were invited to ask questions. There was also a mechanism by which those who had streamed the lecture online were also able to ask questions.

Questions asked of De covered topics such as the economic benefits to farmers and how the methods discussed by De could be used to prevent climate change.

At the end of the event, Inch announced the recipient of the 2025 Douglas R Moore award, Mika Laidlaw who will be presenting “An Immigrant by Choice: What is My Role as an Artist and Educator?” next year.

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

Header Photo: Dr. Mriganka De presents his research on soil health at MSU Monday. (Nate Tilahun/The Reporter)

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