Traditional Tribal Growing Practices for Integrated Pest Management

Progress report for FNC20-1212

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $27,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Member of Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Daniel Cornelius
Member of Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Expand All

Project Information

Description of operation:

This project included seven growing sites in three communities in 2020 covering roughly 10 acres, despite pandemic challenges.


This project seeks to address the problem of implementing effective integrated "pest" management (IPM) through traditional Indigenous intercropping systems supported by innovative use of modern equipment and methods.  Our individual farms will gather information and serve as demonstration sites, highlighting how Native growers and communities with minimal financial resources can expand agricultural production in a scalable yet culturally appropriate manner.

Tribal member-operated partner farms each grow three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) along with plant relatives (sunflowers, amaranth, sun chokes, and other plants) using different techniques for weed, insect, and animal management pressures that are often magnified given heirloom Indigenous crops' elevated nutritional profile.  Partners will record and share their cropping layouts and data, evaluating the effects of different planting and management techniques using both a BCS two-wheel, walk-behind tractor and four-wheel tractors with an emphasis on implements that minimally impact the soil like a rotary plow, rolling crimper, and no-till planter.  Additional IPM strategies will employ fencing, cropping layout (i.e. squash perimeters), simulated predators and decoys, natural seed treatments, fertilizers, and timing.  

Three partners with four farm sites will demonstrate and evaluate a spectrum of intercropping traditional production strategies incorporating degrees of modern technology, and additional partners will be invited to participate.

Project Objectives:
  1. Evaluate and compare the effectiveness of traditional Indigenous cropping systems at different scales

The project's first year overcame pandemic-related challenges in preparing and planting crops in each of the three partner's communities.  These sites ranged from small garden areas with a couple brand new growers to several acres using a four row no-till planter.   Results in 2020 were mixed with animal damage, poor soil, and drought being the biggest challenges.

2. Expand knowledge by convening partner farmers with additional Tribal growers to evaluate and share best IPM practices at different stages of the project

Results have been shared through online trainings led by project partners in spring 2021.  The pandemic was a virtually insurmountable barrier for workshops in 2020.  However, this project was able to bring equipment to two new growers in the Lac du Flambeau community, giving them the ability to plant and grow for the first time.  Planting and crop progress was also shared on social media platforms, reaching several hundred people.

3. Share the results in field days, workshops, and through a resource guide.  While applicants are applying individually, each also professionally works in Native American agriculture where they regularly teach and provide technical assistance to a large population of Native growers and food producers, so the reach of this project will be substantial.

As referenced in #2, workshops were not possible during the pandemic in 2020.  Workshops are currently in the planning stage for 2021 to expand upon the online trainings conducted in spring 2021.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info


Materials and methods:

This project will have three field sites between the three partners, Dan Cornelius, Jessika Greendeer, and Greg Johnson.  Both partners will use Indigenous intercropping at various scales of production to demonstrate a range of options that can work for other Tribal growers and prospective growers. Minimal quantitative data collection includes total planting area, seed density, soil testing, and harvest yield.  Qualitative data collection includes monthly plant condition, weed prevalence, animal/insect pressure, and other observations.

Mr. Cornelius' first field area is located at the edge of Madison, Wisconsin where a two-wheel BCS tractor will use a combination of mowers and a rotary plow to demonstrate and research a modern application of traditional Indigenous intercropping directly into highly invasive reed canary grass without the use of chemical herbicides.  A minimum of four test plots will be grown in both years: 1-2) corn planted in May and June, respectively, with squash/pumpkin perimeter, 3) a small no-till corn plot using the precision seeder, and 4) a separate squash/pumpkin plot to serve as a control in evaluating weed suppression of reed canary grass. 

Mr. Cornelius' second field area will be a new growing area converted from a conventional corn/soybean rotation (entering second year of organic transition).  This operation will demonstrate research application of larger scale growing approaches using a four-row corn planter in plowed and no-till plots.  Squash/pumpkins will be planted in strips to employ intercropping on a larger scale.

Ms. Greendeer's farm is located outside Hudson, Wisconsin.  A graduate of the Rodale Institute, Ms. Greendeer is working to implement an organic no-till cropping system for corn integrated with squash, beans, and other crops.  These crops will be planted in the first year of this project, and will be expanded in the second year.

Greg Johnson will plant shorter season corn and squash on the Lac du Flabmeau reservation with a two-wheel tractor.

Participation Summary
3 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Workshops were not able to be held in 2020 due to COVID. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.