Scan a well-stocked famers market or grocery store and it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer variety of produce. Look, shape, aroma, flavor—produce is proof that Mother Nature excels at diversity. For Antoinette Machado, that diversity is one of the reasons she’s so passionate about produce.
“I like how raw produce is in itself—it’s the bare bones of where food comes from,” says Machado, who is currently earning a master’s degree in the college’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. “I just like the diversity that’s in produce and all the different cultivars and varieties that have developed.”
After joining CSU in January, Machado was quick to find her seat at the table when she was included in a national research project involving 12 top agricultural research universities titled “Stop the Rot.” The mission of the research project is to address onion bacterial diseases and how they affect the crop differently across the nation. With an economic impact that has the potential to cause $60 million in annual losses within the onion industry, onion bacterial rot is a real concern for farmers.
“This campaign is huge and nationally we will be sequencing different bacterial genomes—infecting onions in the field and then curing them,” says Machado. “We’re looking at a holistic approach, and at chemicals that aren’t as harmful to our soils. We’re trying to establish beneficial bacteria instead. We’re interested in being innovative in agriculture and having the ability to look at our soil and how we can encourage growth instead of killing things off.”
While onion bacterial rot isn’t harmful to humans, Machado believes the research ties into an overall goal of getting people to trust food systems.
“My background is primarily food safety,” says Machado. “I don’t believe people should be skeptical of their food. I believe produce is something that should be celebrated and trusted. That’s why I do what I do. I just want people to trust that what farmers have worked so hard to produce is safe and will nourish their body.”