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Ralph Ferrigno

CAFE 2020 summer scholar Ralph Ferrigno
Project Title: 
Cover Crops and the Fate of Nitrogen
Program Year: 
Environmental Science
Ashley Keiser

Collating existing literature describing the fate of nitrogen from decomposing cover crops.


During the summer of 2020, I conducted a literature review of scientific studies to gather information regarding the fate of nitrogen stored in cover crops and how different variables (i.e. termination methods) may affect soil nitrogen availability. Using google scholar as the primary search engine, I found studies with relevant information on stored nitrogen in cover crops, effects of various termination methods, and influence of microbial communities in agricultural soils. In a shared drive, I organized the primary literature and maintained summary tables so that Dr. Keiser and I could meet at least once a week to discuss what I had found. I also helped organize data in excel which included making graphs to look at trends. This information will inform next summer’s field research and ongoing grant applications.


This project gave me significant experience in conducting a literature review to address a specific set of questions. In doing this project, I gained a better understanding of what it means to apply a science background to understand and improve a real-world situation. This included working in collaboration with a professional colleague to achieve a mutual goal.


While I was disappointed to not get out in the field due to COVID-19, I was pleased to have an inside look into the initial background research that supports effective experimental design and helps to formulate hypotheses. I was able to create a scientific poster to report my summer’s efforts.

Published article on cover crops and the fate of nitrogen