Jennifer Blesh

Assistant Professor


PhD, Cornell University (Soil and Crop Sciences)
MS, Cornell University (Soil and Crop Sciences)
BS, University of Georgia (Ecology)

(734) 763-2470


As a broadly trained agroecologist, Jennifer Blesh, PhD, uses interdisciplinary research approaches to understand how different agrifood systems impact ecological and social processes. Her ecological research focuses on soil nitrogen and carbon biogeochemical cycles, agroecosystem nutrient management, and legume nitrogen fixation. Blesh’s research program pays particular attention to alternative production-consumption relations, and is guided by a pragmatic motivation to support development of more ecologically sustainable and equitable food systems. Previous to her position at SEAS, Blesh served as a post-doctoral fellow with the National Science Foundation International Research Fellowship Program at the Federal University of Mato Grosso in Brazil. Current projects include assessing the socioecological resilience of family farms in Brazil, and research in the U.S. centered on cropping system diversification through winter cover crops and improving nitrogen retention in farm fields.

  • Understanding variation in legume nitrogen fixation in agroecosystems
  • Managing plant diversity in agroecosystems to increase soil carbon storage, enhance internal nutrient cycling capacity, and reduce the environmental costs of agriculture
  • Identifying social and ecological factors that support or constrain ecosystem-based management and social-ecological resilience of food systems
  • Understanding linkages between agrobiodiversity, dietary diversity, and human and ecosystem health

  • NSF International Research Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship, Portuguese, U.S. Department of Education
  • NSF IGERT Fellowship, Biogeochemistry, Cornell University

Select publications: 
  • Blesh, J. Hoey, L., Jones, A.D., Perfecto, I. and H. Friedmann. 2019. Development pathways toward “zero hunger.” World Development 118: 1-14. 
  • Valencia, V., Wittman, H., and J. Blesh. 2019. Structuring markets for resilient farming systems. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 39: 25. 
  • Blesh, J., VanDusen, B.M., and D.C. Brainard. 2018. Managing ecosystem services with cover crop mixtures. Agronomy Journal 111: 826-840. doi:10.2134/agronj2018.06.0365
  • Vandermeer, J., Aga, A., Allgeier, J.E., Badgley, C., Baucom, R., Blesh, J., Fink Shapiro, L., Jones, A.D., Hoey, L., Jain, M., Perfecto, I., and M.L. Wilson. 2018. Feeding Prometheus: An interdisciplinary approach for solving the global food crisis. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 2:39. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2018.00039.
  • King, A.E. and J. Blesh. 2017. Crop rotations for increased soil carbon: perenniality as a guiding principle. Ecological Applications. doi: 10.1002/eap.1648.
  • Blesh, J. 2017. Functional traits in cover crop mixtures: biological nitrogen fixation and multifunctionality. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13011.
  • Guerra, J., Blesh, J., Schmitt, A., and H. Wittman. (In Press). Pathways to agroecology through mediated markets in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.
  • Schipanski, M.E., MacDonald, G.K., Rosenzweig, S., Chappell, M.J., Bennett, E.M., Bezner-Kerr, R., Blesh, J., Crews, T., Drinkwater, L.E., Lundgren, J., and C. Schnarr. 2016. Realizing resilient food systemsBioScience. doi:10.1093/biosci/biw052.
  • Crews, T.E., Blesh, J., Culman, S.W., Hayes, R.C., Jensen, E.S., Mack, M.C., Peoples, M.B., and M.E. Schipanski. 2016. Going where no grains have gone before: from early to mid-succession. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 223:223-238.  doi:10.1016/j.agee.2016.03.012.
  • Blesh, J. and H. Wittman. 2015. “Brasilience”: Assessing resilience in land reform settlements in the Brazilian Cerrado. Human Ecology 43:4. doi:10.1007/s10745-015-9770-0.
  • Blesh, J. and S.A. Wolf. 2014. Transitions to agroecological farming systems in the Mississippi River Basin: Toward an integrated socioecological analysisAgriculture and Human Values 31:621-635. doi: 10.1007/s10460-014-9517-3.
  • Blesh, J. and L.E. Drinkwater. 2013. The impact of nitrogen source and crop rotation on nitrogen mass balances in the Mississippi River Basin. Ecological Applications 23(5):1017-1035. doi:10.1890/12-0132.1.