Written by Andy McGlashen, Environmental Science and Policy Program
Matthew Grieshop is the first to admit that many of his research projects in sustainable agriculture are nothing new.
"Many of these agricultural practices are things that our great grandparents did," said Grieshop, an assistant professor of entomology who specializes in organic pest management.
For example, one of his many collaborative research projects involves studying the benefits of letting hogs "flash graze" in apple orchards, a practice at least as old as the United States itself. "We have citations from Thomas Jefferson that say he used hogs in his orchards," Grieshop said.
Now he and fellow researchers in the Organic Pest Management Laboratory are studying how to grow food for a crowded planet using tools Mother Nature has provided, instead of manmade chemicals that blunt the environment's richness.
"Organic pest management is simply pest management that's acceptable on a certified organic farm," Grieshop said. And even though he's an entomologist by training, his work doesn't end with bugs. "Weeds and pathogens are pests too," he added.
His lab investigates, for example, the use of insect pheromones to keep pest species from mating; how cover crops can drive weeds and other pests out of fields; and the natural biological control and pollination services provided by beneficial insects.
Grieshop said a major goal of his work is to integrate new commodities into a farming system that has focused on only one crop, like raising hogs on an apple orchard. "At the end of the season, the farmer then has two commodities to sell."
With a quarter-time extension component, his work is right at home in a land-grant university. "Around 90 percent of the research we do is out there on cooperating farms," he said.
He also teaches a newly developed graduate/undergraduate course in organic pest management each fall (ENT 479).
A California native, Grieshop earned master's and doctoral degrees in entomology from Montana State and Kansas State before landing at MSU in 2007.
Although he didn't grow up on a farm, he said he's long been interested in agriculture.
"I've always been conscious of what people are eating," he said. "I'm interested in nature and in people, and agriculture is where the rubber meets the road between those two things. We all have to eat."