Crop Systems

Global and national food security is one the greatest challenges we face. Here in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) we are working on many fronts to develop strategies for increased food production. Many of these activities are focused on developing cropping systems where plant varieties and inputs are precisely matched to the environment to maximize sustainable productivity.

Enhanced productivity and sustainability by optimizing nutrients and other environmental variables

  • Harold van Es's research group is looking at how environmental factors and management practices influence soil health. The van Es group has developed the Adapt-N program which growers can use to guide precision application of fertilizer, reducing costs minimizing environmental impact
  • Robert Howarth’s research group studies how land use and land management practices influence nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
  • David Wolfe’s research group examines the contributions of agroecosystems to global warming and advises growers on adaptation to climate change
  • Justine Vanden Heuvel’s group researches how light and temperature influence flavor and aroma in wine grapes and how these environmental variables can be optimized during vineyard management to improve fruit quality

Genetic sources of tolerance to drought and other abiotic stress

Our future food security will depend on enhancing agricultural productivity in marginal environments.  A key strategy for doing so involves identifying the genetic sources of tolerance to drought and other abiotic stresses so that new plant varieties with these characteristics can be developed. 

  • Tim Setter’s research group looks at the genetic sources of drought tolerance in cassava and maize with the goal of developing cultivars better able to grow in drought-prone parts of the world
  • Jason Londo’s research group looks to genetic sources of drought and cold tolerance in wild grapes species for use in breeding with cultivated grapes to produce no varieties that can be grown in more diverse environments. 
  • Leon Kochian’s research group investigates genetic sources of stress tolerance to acid soils and associated aluminum toxicity.

Imaging technology for environmental analysis, resource management, and precision agriculture

The tools of global positional system (GPS), geographic information systems (GIS), and remote sensing (RS) provide data on patterns and correlations that exist for a wide range of environmental variables.  These technologies are an important foundation for precision agriculture and site-specific crop management

  • Stephen DeGloria, Director of IRIS (Institute for Resource Information Management, is focused on development and application of advanced imaging technology to model how environmental resources affect agricultural productivity.
  • Susan Hoskins, RS Program Leader at IRIS, is focused on collecting and summarizing information on the type and location of land use and land cover, as well as on other renewable and non-renewable resources
  • Stephen Smith, GIS Program Leader at IRIS, is focused on methods of spatial analysis, statistics and cartography, and their many applications to environmental analysis