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New greenhouse manager transitions focus to research

Holly Little, a biology lecturer, is taking over as the SVSU’s Boutell Memorial Greenhouse manager and steering it in a research-oriented direction.

Fellow biology lecturer Edward Meisel previously held the position.

Little earned her doctorate from Michigan State University’s plant breeding and genetics program. She also completed a post-doctoral project focusing on the nutritional benefits of plants and their benefit on people. She has previously worked with students in a lab environment, and she said she looks forward to doing so again.

“I really enjoyed working with students in a research-type environment,” Little said. “I saw this as an opportunity to go more in that direction.”

In the past, the greenhouse has focused on outreach and interacting with local public schools. Now, Little will use the greenhouse to research how different factors in a hydroponic system affect crop yields. She will begin using lettuce and basil, and she will later extend the research to explore the effects on more produce.

Little’s current research focuses on comparing yields of different plants in three hydroponic systems to see how the systems’ production yields vary.

“We’re going to compare the different systems using the vermicompost that’s being produce in one system, using the turtles
and fish that are in another set -up and using commercially available materials so that we can see how they really compare,” Little said.

Little said she hopes the produce grown in the greenhouse can be given back to the campus.

“Students will hopefully be able to see the availability of some fresh produce,” she said.

“If we’re able to grow food, we’re obviously going to be able to share that with the population here,” she said.

The research on hydroponics and crop yield will be facilitated by Little with assistance from the two greenhouse student workers and one student volunteer who currently work at the greenhouse. She is in the process of hiring a third worker to help collect data and maintain the plants.

Little said the greenhouse is in the transition phase, as they need to sanitize and prepare the space before plants can be grown.

“We’re really trying to get everything refocused and moving forward,” Little said. “We have to tear down a lot and sanitize everything so we can really have everything set up.”

Little’s long-term goal is to expand on hydroponic research, such as exploring the different types of plants it can affect and ways plants can be started in a hydroponic system and then transferred to a field.

“As we continue to understand what we can grow with the hydroponic system, we can continue those evaluations and figure out what some of the needs of hydroponic growers are in this area of Michigan,” Little said.

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