John Biernbaum

John Biernbaum

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Professor Emeritus
Department of Horticulture



Quick links: Education    Teaching    Publications    Extension    Research

Joined Department

August 1, 1985


Ph.D., Horticultural Science, Michigan State University, 1985
M.S., Horticultural Science, The Pennsylvania State University, 1981
B.S., Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, 1979

Honors and Awards

  • Michigan State University "Be Spartan Green"  2015 Outstanding Faculty Award
  • Michigan Organic Food and Farming Alliance (MOFFA) 2004 Public Service Award
  • Honorary State Future Farmers of America Degree, 2003
  • Member of Floriculture Team that received the 2002 John Hannah Award for Program Excellence in Extension
  • Bedding Plants International 1998 Futura Award for Outstanding Teaching and Research
  • College of Agri. and Nat. Res. Student Senate Outstanding Academic Advisor  1997
  • Ohio Florists' Assoc. 1994 and 1996 Alex Laurie Award for Outstanding Research Paper
  • Professional Plant Growers Association National Publications Award 1992 and 1993
  • MSU Senior Student Council Outstanding Teaching Faculty Award for 1992
  • Michigan Floral Association, National Service Award for 1989


  • Waldman, Kurt, David Conner, John Biernbaum, Michael Hamm and Adam Montri.  2012.  Determinants of Hoophouse Profitability:  A Case Study of 12 Novice Michigan Farmers.  HortTechnology 22(2) 215-223.
  • Fisher, P.R., W.R. Argo, and J.A. Biernbaum. 2014. Validation of a fertilizer potential acidity model to predict the effects of water soluble fertilizer on substrate-pH. HortScience 49(8):1061-1066.
  • Biernbaum, J. 2011.  Four Season Farming and Learning.  In Fields of Learning: The student farm movement in North America. Ed Laura Sayre and Sean Clark. University Press of KY, 378 pgs.
  • Nair, A., M. Ngouajio, and J. A. Biernbaum. 2011. Alfalfa-based organic amendment in peat-compost growing medium for organic tomato transplant production. HortScience 46(2):253-259.
  • Montri, A. and J. Biernbaum. 2009. Management of the soil environment in high tunnels.  HortTechnology 19:34-36.
  • Biernbaum, J.A., Thorp, L. and Ngouajio, M. 2006. Development of a Year-round Student Organic Farm and Organic Farming Curriculum at Michigan State University.  HortTechnology 16(3):20-24.
  • Kelley, Kathleen M., Author Cameron, John A. Biernbaum, and Kenneth L. Poff. 2003. Effect of storage temperature on the quality of edible flowers. Postharvest Biology and Technology 27:341-344.
  • Kelley, Kathleen M., Bridget K. Behe, John A. Biernbaum, and Kenneth L. Poff. 2002. Combinations of Colors and Species of Containerized Edible Flowers: Effect on Consumer Preferences. HortScience 37(1):218-221.



During his time at MSU, Dr. Biernbaum taught an average of two courses per semester including 20 different courses and over 50 independent studies over 30 years.


During his time at MSU, Dr. Biernbaum's most recently focused on production and use of compost for fertility, transplant media and water extracts (tea) for managing soil and plant health. 

Extension & Outreach

Dr. Biernbaum's most recent focus was on providing educational programs and technical assistance for small-scale organic farmers through the MSU Student Organic Farm and MSU Extension. Key topic areas included season extension/hoophouses, compost production, organic transplants, intensive vegetable production including urban agriculture, and organic soil management.   

Publications & Presentations for Download

Important: These materials are intended for use by students, educators, farmers and gardeners.  They are not intended for publication or distribution without permission of the author.

Closing the MSU Food Cycle Loop - Bailey GREENhouse and Urban Farm

MSU Student Organic Farm at the Horticulture Teaching and Research Center

Organic Farming 

Themophillic or "Hot" Compost

Worm or "Vermi" composting

Recommendations for Worm Composting for small scale intensive farming and gardening based on five years of research (2010-2014) with vermicomposting kitchen preparation residue in a passive solar greenhouse or high tunnel.

Hoophouses & High Tunnels

Organic Transplant Production

Vegetables and Season Extension including Cold Cellars


Permaculture and Edible Forest Gardening


Urban Agriculture


Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center (UPREC)

Launching a new teaching and incubator farm at the UPREC North Farm has been an important new effort for 2014.  Hiring a farm manager and assistant farm manager, developing a starting farm plan, and ordering and construction a hoophouse were completed by June 1.  The crew at the farm has made great progress since then.



Program Areas


Greenhouse production of organic vegetable transplants, edible flowers and culinary herbs.

Organic and Sustainable Agriculture

Organic transplant production, winter production and harvesting of baby salad greens, year-round organic vegetable production. Production and use of compost for fertility, transplant media and water extracts (tea) for managing soil and plant health. Effect of irrigation method and water quality on nutrient management in peat-based media; fertilization methods for peat-based media.