Anna Cates


University of Wiscosnin, Madison
3120 Wisconsin Energy Institute
1552 University Ave.
Madison, WI 53726


Current Projects

Net ecosystem carbon balance and litterbag decomposition with rye and bluegrass cover crops in no-till corn.

Decomposition processes when ants are excluded from a restored prairie (collaboration with Tania Kim and the Gratton Lab).

Incubation of 10 corn genotypes to evaluate decomposability under varying traits.

Research and Professional Interests

I’m interested in how cropping systems, in particular adding cover crops to a corn system, affects the accumulation of soil organic matter. Cover crops add biomass in addition to the corn system, and also change the temperature and moisture regime at the soil surface, so decomposition rates and conversion of litter to soil organic matter may be affected. We’ll be creating a net ecosystem carbon balance for rye and bluegrass cover crop systems, and investigating decomposition via lab incubation and field litterbag experiments.

Previously, I worked with Matt Ruark in the Department of Soil Science on fractions of soil organic matter after more than 20 years of crop management in the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial.


  • B.A. History, Dartmouth College 2006
  • M.S. Soil Science and Agroecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014


Cates, A. M. & Ruark, M. D. Soil aggregate and particulate C and N under corn rotations: Responses to management and correlations with yield. Accepted by Plant and Soil.
Cates, A. M., Ruark, M. D., Hedtcke, J. L., & Posner, J. L. (2016). Long-term tillage, rotation and perennialization effects on particulate and aggregate soil organic matter. Soil and Tillage Research, 155, 371-380.

Presentations and Lectures

  • Where does soil carbon come from, why does it stick around, and what we can do, Agroecoystems and Global Change lectures, Department of Agronomy, Dec 2015.
  • Long-term Tillage, Rotation, and Perennialization Effects on Particulate and Aggregate Organic Matter, SSA/ASA/CSSA Annual Meetings, Long Beach, CA, Nov. 2014.
  • Labile and Physically Protected Organic Matter in Long-Term Cropping Systems, SSSA/ASA/CSSA Annual Meetings, Tampa, FL, Nov. 2013
  • Perennial Possibilities: A vision for a new Agroecosystem, Soil Science Seminar, Jan. 2013

Abstracts and Posters

  • Investigating the effects of long-term management on particulate and aggregate organic matter and their correlations with corn yield, SOM6 Workshop, Kiawah Island, SC, Oct. 2014
  • Can managing to increase aggregate-protected and particulate organic matter reduce the need for nitrogen?, Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Crop & Livestock Production Systems, Kansas City, MO, Aug. 2012
  • Can managing to increase particulate organic matter (POM) reduce the need for nitrogen?, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services, Feb. 2013

Professional Positions and Responsibilities

  • Editor, the Rolling Holon blog:
  • Renaissance Farms, farming and paperwork for GAP certification, 2011-present

Honors, Grants and Fellowships

D.C Smith Family Wisconsin Distinguished Fellowship, 2016-2017.

Department of Agronomy O.N. Allen Award, 2016-2017.

Memberships, Clubs and Committees

2016 GLBRC Retreat Planning Committee