The Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial was the vision of Dr. Joshua Posner. Founded in 1989, WICST was established in response to farmer demand for long-term research about low-input agriculture. Josh and others felt there was an urgent need to address questions of agricultural sustainability in Wisconsin as “honest brokers” investigating both the benefits and limitations of alternative production strategies. From its inception, researchers at WICST explored questions about whether Midwestern agricultural systems were capable of being highly productive and profitable while conserving natural resources and providing ecosystem services such as clean water and healthy soils. To this end, WICST is a large-scale (24 ha), randomized, and replicated experiment on highly productive prairie-derived soils (Mollisols) that evaluates conventional and organic cropping systems found throughout the upper Midwest.
The world has changed over 33 years! There is growing awareness that sustainable, resilient farming systems are necessary to feed a growing population in the face of increasingly extreme weather and diminishing resources. WICST is no longer just an innovative idea and approach to evaluating our current farming systems. WICST is an invaluable resource with which to implement and evaluate novel management strategies intended to help meet our food needs while protecting and improving our the world around us.
WICST is a collaborative effort among farmers, industry, nonprofit organizations, and academics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS), a long- term project partner, provides the administrative home for WICST and Dr. Randy Jackson (UW Agronomy) is the WICST Director. Dr. Gregg Sanford (UW Agronomy) is the systems agronomist that oversees the farming and experimental operations for the trial. Activities at WICST are guided by a UW-Madison Executive Committee charged with maintaining the integrity of the long-term experiment and a Stakeholder Engagement Group that includes farmers, crop consultants, UW-Extension, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).