Grassland 2.0: Restoring People & Prairie to Agriculture;WN@TL goes dark on December 22&29;Genomics & Genetic diversity of carrots;New options for Harnessing Energy from Ammonia

Come Explore the Unknown!   
By Zoom:  at  
In Person: Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison.
For December 15, 2021
Hi WN@TL Fans,
I grew up in Lee County Illinois, a land so flat we called it God’s Own Pool Table, and a place that in the 1830’s and 1840’s had featured Inlet Swamp serving as a hideout for the marauding and murderous Banditti of the Prairie.
Despite that legacy, I never set foot on a prairie as a boy, because the prairie was gone, extirpated if not extinct. Ironically, from our house on College Avenue in Dixon it was just a six-mile bike ride to Grand Detour IL where in 1837 John Deere developed his self-scouring steel plow.  The Deere plow could zing through the virgin sod, the steel singing as it sliced through roots of a 10,000 year-old biome, giving life to crops and crop-farmers, and spelling death for the prairie.
While we may think of our slice of Wisconsin as woodlands, many of us live on land that the glaciers and grasses left for us as prairies and savannas, as wetlands and uplands.  I remember being shocked the first time I saw this map by the Wisconsin Geologic & Natural History Survey based on John Curtis’s The Vegetation of Wisconsin (1959) showing the extent of prairie across southern third of the Badger State.   A similar map of Illinois affirms the extent of prairie before the Euro-Americans colonized with their plows, their roads and their fences of log rails and eventually of barbed wire; and with their steam shovels and ditches to drain the wetlands and swamps (including Inlet) and “reclaim” the land.
Progress was measured first in taking land and then in making the land arable, especially as tallied by tillable acres for growing annual crops.  The disk, the harrow, the drill and the rotary cultivator joined the plow as tools of tillage. At first these fields were sown with wheat for people, oats for livestock, and barley & rye for drinkers.  Later came the dominance of corn and soybeans, mostly for livestock. By the time of John Steuart Curry arrived at the College of Agriculture in the mid 1930’s, we are remembering the land as rows of corn for striding, or fields of wheat for hiding.
Now some 185 years after John Deere’s innovation, the possibility of shifting to a Midwestern agriculture that values a permaculture of grasslands and not just the plow is an intriguing vision for a region spangled with places named Sun Prairie, Sauk Prairie, Prairie du Sac, Prairie du Chien, Garden Prairie, and the moniker ne plus ultra, Eden Prairie.
On December 15  Randy Jackson of the Department of Agronomy and the Wisconsin Energy Institute speaks on 
“Grassland 2.0:  Restoring People & Prairie to Agriculture.”

Description: Grassland 2.0 is a USDA-funded project focused on transforming agriculture in the upper Midwest from grain-based to grassland-based livestock production. The benefits of such a transformation would be restoring critical functions of the original prairie — soil building, clean water, biodiversity — as well as increased profitability, which should keep more and more diverse farmers on the land. Our approach combines top-down efforts to raise awareness by developing this narrative and bottom-up efforts to build-out place-based conversations about how to make this transformation happen.

Bio: Jackson earned his BS in Environmental Science from UC Riverside, MS in Natural Resource Sciences from Humboldt State University, and PhD in Ecosystem Sciences from UC Berkeley. Currently, he is Campbell-Bascom Professor of Grassland Ecology in the Department of Agronomy at UW-Madison. His group explores how agroecosystems accumulate and retain carbon and nutrients while supporting biodiversity. He helps direct Grassland 2.0 and the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial, a 30-yr-old experiment comparing ecosystem services provided by a range of cropping systems typical of the upper Midwest.

Explore More:

WN@TL goes dark on December 22 (Merry Christmas!) and again on December 29 (Happy New Year!).   
In the meantime, mark your new-year calendars:
We launch 2022 with clear eyes on January 5 as Jenyne Loarca provides insights into the genomics & genetic diversity of carrots resulting from analyzing 695 varieties in the field and the lab.
On January 12 John Berry of Chemistry will lay out new options for Harnessing Energy from Ammonia.
Remember, we’ve now shifted to Hybrid so we can both Zoom and gather in one Room—Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI.  
Hope to see you soon at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab!
Tom Zinnen
Biotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H
Please share this missive with your friends & neighbors. 
If you’ll be watching for the first time, please register for the WN@TL Zoom at 
If you’ve already registered for a previous WN@TL zoom this year, you’re good—you don’t have to register again.
Continue to use the link found in the confirmation message Zoom sent you when you first registered.
WN@TL begins at 7:00pm Central
You can also watch the web stream at for one last time on October 20.  The web stream thereafter will redirect viewers to the WN@TL YouTube livestream.

UW-Madison:  5.9 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university. 

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round. 
Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide
1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT on Zoom
2. The WN@TL YouTube channel
3. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin 
4. WN@TL on the University Place website 
Park for a small fee in Lot 20, 1390 University Avenue, Madison, WI