This website is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2019-68012-29888, "Increasing Water Productivity, Nutrient Efficiency and Soil Health in Rainfed Food Systems of Semi-Arid Southern Great Plains."

Research Experience for Undergraduates

This program is designed to provide future engineers and scientists with the skills and perspective necessary to address some of the world’s future food and fiber needs. Ten selected students each year will be paired with a faculty advisor and a graduate student mentor at the team institutions. The students will perform research on adaptive management, attend seminars on topics related to sustainability and professional development, and work on a project related to water-limited crop and animal production systems. Summer 2020 REU research projects are listed below.

Program Dates

May 26 - July 31, 2020

Application Deadline

February 10, 2020


Participants will receive

  • $9000 stipend (inclusive of travel and room and board), paid in several installments over the summer

  • Hands-on research experience in a transdisciplinary team

  • Mentorship by a RAIN team faculty member


  • Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents.

  • Applicants should have a 2.5 or greater undergraduate GPA.

  • Graduating seniors are not eligible for the program.


Research Projects Available

The RAIN REU is a competitive program. Accepted participants will be matched with a research mentor and project based on their interests. Projects available for the 2020 RAIN REU program are listed below.


Soil Water Management

Kansas State University

This project aims to convert field-scale soil moisture information into actionable in-season farming decisions. Use state-of-the-art soil moisture instrumentation, gain exposure to field data collection of soil moisture data, learn multiple laboratory methods for analyzing soil physical properties, and an opportunity to expand your skills in geospatial data analysis.

Agricultural Technology & Rural Communities

Oklahoma State University

Substantially reduced farm labor requirements due to technologies and mechanization have enabled out-migration of young people from rural communities. This project will examine how increases in agricultural mechanization and automation influence soil health, agricultural employment, and rural demographics as well as rural citizens’ perceptions of the linkages between agricultural technology and quality of life.

Remote Sensing for Precision Agriculture

This project will entail conducting routine in unmanned aerial systems (UAS) flights, image processing, and/or geographical analysis such as object-based image analysis (OBIA) and raster-based analysis.

USDA Grazinglands Research Laboratory

Plant Genetics and Physiology

USDA Grazinglands Research Laboratory

As the climate becomes more variable and rainfall more erratic, seedling establishment will become more crucial in determining the success of summer cover crops. This project will use a lab/greenhouse experiment to quantify and compare germination responses to available moisture and include computer algorithm development.

Cover Crop Weed Suppression

Kansas State University

Study the impacts of cover crops on reducing weed populations, minimizing the impact of weeds on crop yields. Using ecology studies, we will explore how cover crop species mixtures and biomass production minimize the impact of important weed species on crops in the region.

Weed-Crop Interactions

Kansas State University

How do weed species grow and reproduce when in mixture with different crop canopies? Does this impact their future seed production? Through documenting the weed species that emerge and occur across several field studies with different crops, we will document changes in plant growth and biomass, and predict seed production, to know what their future impact will be.

Fertilization and Weed Control

Kansas State University

Do different amounts of fertilizer impact the number and size of weeds that grow with the crop? Do these weeds respond differently to weed control such as herbicides?  We will evaluate the impact of this aspect of crop management on weeds that will need to be managed in order to gain the most crop yield.

Soil Health in Dryland Cropping Systems

Kansas State University

Conduct research on soil health and nutrient dynamics in dryland cropping systems. Evaluate the effect of cover crops and no-tillage in the soil microbial community composition, enzyme activity, and aggregate stability. Identify the microbial mechanisms driving soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics. Help to provide technical assistance that will help growers and their advisors make decisions that will result in positive changes for the profitability of their operations and the sustainability of the soil.

Soil Evaporation

Kansas State University

Work with novel instrumentation to quantify soil evaporation. The student will have opportunity to build, test and deploy dual heat pulse probes to quantify soil moisture near the soil surface. He/she will also learn about microprocessors and data acquisition systems, heat pulse probe data processing and algorithms to estimate soil evaporation.

Forage Systems

Oklahoma State University

Reduced-lignin alfalfa cultivars are a promising alternative for maximizing forage yield while maintaining forage quality. The objectives are to i) quantify the effects of cutting management in conventional and reduced-lignin alfalfa cultivars on forage yield, forage quality, and water-use efficiency. The student involved in this research will be exposed to forage yield sampling techniques (destructive and non-destructive methods), soil water measurements, forage sampling, processing, and analysis for quality.

Soil Testing & Nutrient Management

Kansas State University

Evaluate soil testing methods for fertilizer recommendations for different soil types and production systems. Determine how the different soil analysis methods in the laboratory are correlated to crop response in the field and how these values can be used to make fertilizer recommendations.

Nitrogen Management for Conservation Tillage

Kansas State University

Long-term conservation tillage are characterized by high soil organic matter, and therefore affecting the nitrogen cycling when compared to conventional tillage system. The student involved in this project will evaluate nitrogen response for contrasting tillage systems and evaluate key parameters of nitrogen use efficiency in corn, and the need for adjustments in nitrogen fertilization under conservation tillage.

Remote Sensing Data Processing

Kansas State University

Explore the utilization/implementation of technology (e.g., drones, satellite, modeling) on agricultural research. Gain knowledge on the precision agriculture technologies used for collecting relevant agricultural data layers and utilization of different technologies such as satellite and working in learning how to process satellite data from different fields.

Field Research and Crop Simulation

Kansas State University

Learn about field production of major crops (e.g., legumes and cereals). This research project will involve analysis of plant growth and development to better understand the effect of soil and weather on plant processes and yield formation with the goal integrating the data into crop simulation models.