Environmental Conservation

Complete profiles of the multiple research interests of many faculty and senior academics can be found in the Faculty and Senior Academics Directory. To search for faculty in specific disciplinary areas, see lists in the various Graduate Field Concentrations.

Environmental Conservation

Sustainable agroecosystems that can mitigate climate change

Research Area:

Develop sustainable agroecosytems that improve soil health and provide forage, fuel, and fiber.  Read more below about some of the specific research themes in this area.


Enhance soil health and productivity by maximizing bioavailable nitrogen and other nutrients and minimizing air and soil contamination

Plants are dependent upon nitrogen for their growth, but excess nitrogen in soil and water has negative consequences for the environment.  Several SIPS researchers are focused on better understanding the many variables that impact nitrogen cycles in agriculture and the environment

  • Laurie Drinkwater’s research program focuses on the role of variables such as cover crops and agricultural practices (organic/conventional) on retention of soil nitrogen
  • Quirine Ketterings’ program characterizes the nutrient status of New York dairy farms and the impact of organic soil amendments (dairy or poultry manure), cover crops, and the macronutrient inputs (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) on crop yield and weed growth
  • Jeffrey Melkonian’s work focuses on development of simulation models to improve recommendations to maize growers and investigation of how different agricultural practices influence emission of the greenhouse gas, N2O

Assessment and management of micronutrients and toxic soil contaminants for improved plant and human health

Trace elements such as heavy metals can have highly detrimental impact on crop yield and human health.  Several SIPS researchers are engaged in understanding the variables influencing availability of both toxic trace elements and essential micronutrients, and how these variables can be manipulated to the benefit of both plants and people.

  • Murray McBride’s research group investigates the presence and uptake of heavy metals in urban garden settings and former orchard sites
  • Julie Lauren’s work focuses on arsenic contamination in rice growing regions and alleviation of micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries
  • Michael Rutzke’s work centers on the chemistry of quantifying mineral concentrations in biological materials. Applications include quantification of iron absorption from food and characterization of differential micronutrient uptake for the purpose of identifying genetic sources

Development of plant-based biofuels

Plant-based biofuels represent an important renewable energy source. Several SIPS researchers are involved in optimizing different plant species for use as sources of bioenergy

  • Larry Smart’s research group investigates cultivation of willow and the genetics of biomass and yield to maximize its potential as a source of bioenergy
  • Jerome Cherney investigates the profitable and sustainable production of forage crops for use as biofuels and livestock feed
  • Julie Hanson’s work is focused on enhancing the potential of switchgrass and other perennial grasses as biofuels by breeding for biomass yield, low seed dormancy, and pest resistance
  • Don Viands’ research focuses on genetics of perennial, herbaceous plant species for both feedstock and biofuels

Strategies for grower adaptation to climate change
 

  • Matt Ryan's research program is focuses on enhancing sustainability of agroecosystems through improved management of cover crops, ecological weed management, and conservation agriculture
  • David Wolfe's research includes improved accounting of soil carbon and greenhouses gasses and prediction of climate change impact on agriculture