Graduate Students

Brandon Carpenter

Hello, my name is Brandon Carpenter. I am a master’s student in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. My field of study is sustainable vegetable production with an emphasis in soil science. My research involves investigating how biochar influences vegetable production in Midwestern soils, especially carrot and pepper production. The focus of this research is to learn how biochar affects nutrient retention, soil properties, and plant growth, development, and yield. My research will also study economic implications of biochar’s nutrient retention capabilities and how it may affect soil management decisions.

Jennifer Tillman

Advisor: Dr. Ajay Nair
Major: Sustainable Agriculture
Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland
Hobbies: Bicycling, running, camping, reading, cooking.

Current Research: For my thesis, I will study the effects of strip-tillage and row covers on organically and conventionally grown summer squash and melon. I hope to find out if strip-tillage is an alternative to black plastic mulch that could offer warmer, drier soil than no-till strategies, while still maintaining soil structure between rows.  Row covers, if implemented at transplant and left on until pollination must occur, have the potential to reduce disease by providing a physical barrier between the plant and disease-carrying insects.  This reduces the need for chemical insecticides that also kill beneficial insects.  I will see how these factors interact to determine if strip-tillage and row covers could be used in conjunction to produce healthier plants and soil while using fewer chemical sprays. My project is part of a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional effort to mitigate disease, build soil health, maintain pollinator populations, and improve communication amongst small- and large-scale cucurbit farmers.

Raymond Kruse

My name is Ray Kruse.  I grew up in Dyersville, Iowa on a Registered Brown Swiss dairy farm.  My parents milk 55 cows and farm 120 acres.  I was very involved in 4-H and FFA growing up.  I have my Bachelors of Science Degree in Agronomy with an emphasis in soils.  My graduate research is emphasizing in summer cover crop effects on vegetable production.  Cover crops I study include cowpea, sorghum sudangrass, buckwheat, and oats. I will study  In my free time I enjoy gardening, surfing, and designing and building agricultural implements.  My current career goal after I graduate with my Masters of Science in Horticulture is to start my own farm.  I have specific interests in growing niche crops and experimenting with their growing systems.


Dana Jokela

I grew up near Burlington, VT, where I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2008 with a B.S. in Ecological Agriculture. After graduating, I left Vermont and spent a year working in the Minnesota Conservation Corps, and then a few years working on different farms across the country before coming to Iowa State in fall 2013 to begin my Master’s degree. My current research focuses on conservation tillage systems for organic vegetable production. Specifically, I am looking at cover crop-based, no-till and strip-till systems as alternatives to conventional tillage in cole crop production. My objective is to determine whether these conservation tillage systems can maintain yields while improving soil health compared with conventionally tilled cropping systems.

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