Valentin D. Picasso, Assistant Professor
Valentín is originally from Montevideo, Uruguay. He earned his undergraduate degree in Agronomy from the Facultad de Agronomia at University of Uruguay (UDELAR) and his doctorate degree in Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University (USA). He has researched forages, livestock grazing systems, agroecology, and adaptation to climate change at the University of Uruguay, before joining the Agronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here he is working to develop sustainable forage and perennial grain systems that will build resilience to climate change. He is developing dual-purpose perennial cropping systems, such as intermediate wheatgrass (Kernza) intercropped with legumes, that can be grazed for forage and produce grain for food. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in International Agriculture, Agroecology, and Forages. He enjoys training young padawans in the ways of sustainability science, as well as biking, ice skating, skiing, and traveling with his family around the world.
Habteab M. Ghebrehiwot, PhD
Habteab is from Eritrea, and he earned his PhD in Botany and MSc in Grassland Sciences from the University of Natal (South Africa) and graduated with a BSc in Animal Sciences from Alemaya University of Agriculture, Ethiopia. He has published more than 22 peer-reviewed scientific articles in highly rated scientific journals, including research on perennial teft. He also served as Division Head for the Animal and Forage Production for the Ministry of Agriculture and an extension agent in Ethiopia, working with many subsistence and commercial farmers (beef and dairy farms) by improving their understanding on animal nutrition, fodder budgeting, forage and pasture production and maximizing their productivity. He has done research on forages, grasses, cereals and weeds in a greenhouse, field and lab.
Edward Bures, Forage Quality Lab
Ed was raised as one of 11 children on a small dairy farm in Northern Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison receiving a BS in Dairy Science and MS in Agronomy with a focus on corn hybrids for silage production. Upon graduation, Ed was employed at the UW-Madison, Department of Agronomy as a Forage Research Specialist. He has continued in this role for the past 26 years under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Albrecht working on forage quality. Currently Ed operates the Agronomy Department forage quality lab and provides a source of information for those interested in forage handling and analyses, and collaborates with many research groups in Agronomy.
Current Graduate Students
Jeremie Favre earned his MSc in Agronomy in this lab, and now he is a PhD student focusing on maintaining grain yields of Kernza over time, as well as developing Kernza for dual-use (grain and forage). He acquired his Bachelor’s degree from the from the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland, his home country. His passion for sustainable ruminant systems has been shaped by a decade of diverse farming experiences in Switzerland, Oregon and Iowa (USA).
Sarah is a master’s student working with both Lucia Gutierrez and Valentin Picasso on resilience of crops to climate change. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Crop Sciences with a concentration in Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. She is currently in the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program in the department of Agronomy and her research project is looking at resilience in oats using a large data set of oat cultivars from 1997 through 2018.
Stefania received her degree in Agronomy from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile, her home country. She is currently part of the Agroecology Masters program in UW Madison, and with her work in the Picasso lab she wishes to contribute to a more sustainable agriculture by researching the perennial dual purpose crop Kernza.
Originally from southeastern Minnesota, Joe is a graduate research assistant under Dr. David E. Stoltenberg and Dr. Valentin Picasso, where he studies the role of weeds in intermediate wheatgrass cropping systems. After receiving his BS in Agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014, Joe spent time working with western Montana wheat farmers and cattle ranchers on climate adaptation and water management strategies. When Joe isn’t working, he enjoys spending time recreating in Wisconsin’s rustic landscapes, and making good food with his friends.
Muhammet is from Turkey. He earned his MSc in Plant Breeding at Iowa state University and his PhD at University of Georgia, studying heterosis and breeding of alfalfa. He is working on resilience to alfalfa to climate change and kernza dual use systems.
Abdul Mannan is a PhD student from the University of the Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan. His work is focusing primarily on heat stress in alternative crops (i.e. Morniga, Quinoa, Chea, Amaranth). He is currently working on his PhD thesis where he is evaluating the thermo–tolerance potential and its potential in Mung beans. He is a gold medalist in co-curricular activities. He is the advisor of the “Sino-US Food & Agriculture Innovation Center” in Pakistan. Abdul spent six months in the lab, working on Kernza and alfalfa projects, and as a teaching assistant in the Cropping System of the Tropics course. His philosophy is to build a bridge between US and Pakistan’s agricultural researchers.
Jaris Emmanuel Veneros Guevara is from Peru. He is an Agronomist with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Sciences. He has worked at the International Potato Center (CIP), National Agrarian University La Molina and in other universities. He works as a lecturer at the National University Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza, Chachapoyas, Amazonas, Peru at the School of Agronomy and Environmental Engineering (https://www.untrm.edu.pe/es/). He has experience in studies of Climate Change, Soil Erosion, Species Distribution, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing. At UW he analyzed the potential global distribution of Thinopyrum intermedium under current climate conditions and in a climate change scenario using GIS.
Dante was born in Lima, Peru. He obtained his DVM degree at Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (Lima, Peru) and his MSc degree in Animal Science at UNALM. He is an associate research at the Livestock and Climate Change Center of Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM) in Lima, Peru. His current research area is the evaluation of silvopastoral systems as a mitigation and adaptation strategy to climate change in the tropics.
Andres is from Uruguay, and obtained his Bachelors and MSc from University of Uruguay (UDELAR). He is a PhD student researching the adaptation of Kernza (Tinopiro) to temperate regions like Uruguay. He conducted greenhouse and field experiments in Madison during 2018.
Eduardo is from Venezuela, and obtained his MSc degree from University of Uruguay. He is a PhD student working on ecological intensification of dairy systems in Uruguay, comparing energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient balances and other impacts. He enjoys brewing craft Kernza beer.
Nicolas Costa is from Uruguay and is an Agronomist MSc candidate at University of Uruguay (UDELAR). He is interested in addressing sustainability issues of production systems as a driver to achieve a more resilient agriculture adapted to climate change. He has worked on estimating national Greenhouse Gas Inventory in AFOLU sector for Uruguay and collaborating with the construction of domestic Measurement, Report and Verification system to monitoring the implementation of the National Determined Contribution (national commitments at UNFCCC to mitigate GHG emissions).
Valentina studied agriculture in the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and received a master’s degree in Agroecology from the École supérieure d’agriculture d’Angers, France. She worked as a lab assistant in the Picasso lab. Outside intermediate wheatgrass research, Valentina enjoys cooking, gardening and making her kids happy.
XU ZHANG is originally from China, Shan Xi Province, Jin Zhong City, located in the middle of China. She earned her undergraduate degree in Animal Science at University of SHANXI Agriculture. She visited as a Masters student at China Agriculture University. Her research focused on use and processing of forages, forage quality and quantity. She also evaluated the effects of the nitrogen rates, nitrogen application stages and clipping time on the dynamics of the starch and the NSC in rhizome of Kernza. She enjoys going skating, running, as well as some extreme sports, and learning about culture and people’s life.
Chenfei is from Nanjing, China. She obtained her Bachelor, Masters, and Ph.D. in Grassland Science from Nanjing Agricultural University. She has worked at Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Institute of Livestock Science. Her research focuses on the effects of harvest regimes and fertilization treatments on the nonstructural carbohydrates content in rhizome of intermediate wheatgrass and the regrowth of the grass. Her career goals are to be a translator of the nature. She enjoys writing and thinking.
Selma Fairach – Jakarta, Indonesia; Engineering major.
Vishnu Yarlagadda – India; Engineering major.
Emily Rau – Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Environmental Sciences major and certificate in Sustainability.
Michael O’donnel – South Chicago, Illinois; Agronomy major.
Kyle Rentmeester – Wausau, Wisconsin; Psychology major.
Dominique Barthel – Winneconne, WI; Biology and life science communications major, and certificate in global health.
Michaela Taddeini – Rogers, Minnesota; Environmental Sciences major.
Joel Cryer – Madison, Wisconsin; Biological Systems Engineering and a certificate in Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering and Society.
Joel played various supporting roles in his time with the Picasso Lab, weighing and processing samples and doing fieldwork in the growing season. He eventually added several outreach projects on a volunteer basis, organizing Kernza plantings at the Henry Vilas Zoo and the Madison Children’s Museum.
Isabella Huizar – Racine Wisconsin; PEOPLE scholar student studying Animal Sciences.
Alumni and Past Lab Members
Nicholas Leete, Research Technician
Nicholas was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and studied agronomy and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University. He managed everyday lab and field operations for the Picasso lab group from 2016 to 2018. Now he works coordinating community gardens in the Madison area.
Kate is from Cleveland, Ohio. Her research focused on two perennial grain crops: “Kernza” Intermediate wheatgrass, a cereal, and Silphium (Silphium integrifolium), an oilseed. Kate studied nutrient and eco-physiological questions necessary for expansion of these crops to sub-tropic regions of the world. She measured nutrient cycling in intercropping systems as well as temperature and light requirements for flowering. Kate has an M.S. in Soil Science and Agroecology from UW-Madison and prior to graduate school she served as a Fulbright research grantee in Uruguay researching food system adaptation to land use change. Her free time is usually spent outdoors, experimenting in the kitchen or submitting herself to the rolling tides of Cleveland sports.
Marisa Lanker – MSc
Marisa is from Wooster, Ohio. Her undergraduate studies took place at Ohio State University, where she majored in International Development with minors in Spanish and Environment, Economy, Development, & Sustainability. She earned her Master’s degree in Agroecology at UW Madison, working with Dr. Micheal Bell and Dr. Picasso. Her research focused on growers’ perspectives and on-farm experiences cultivating intermediate wheatgrass, Kernza. She hopes to shape a career around participatory international agricultural development that engenders both ecological and social sustainability, especially for small-holder and marginalized farmers. Outside the lab, Marisa is an avid runner, an exploratory cook and fermenter, a mediocre but unabashed dancer and singer, a wandering traveler, an endless reader, and a lover of the sun and soil.