Soil Properties and Impact

In the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) we are making breakthroughs in understanding properties of soils and the basis for soil impact on plant productivity and microbial communities. Essentially, we are unraveling the complex network of interactions occurring within the soil so they can be optimized optimizing for the long term health and benefit of plants. The following examples illustrate some of the many ways in which SIPS faculty are advancing these goals.

Characterization and manipulation of soil microbes for enhanced soil and plant health
 

  • Jenny Kao-Kniffin's group investigates how soil microbes can be used to confer selective growth benefits to plants, providing a potential strategy for promoting growth of desirable plants and suppressing weeds without the use of chemicals
  • Dan Buckley's research group characterizes the soil microbial processes involved in decomposition, in order to better understand soil geochemical cycles and identify novel microbes with useful digestive capabilities
  • Anthony Hay's group is focuses on identification and genetic analysis of soil microbes capable of degrading toxic compounds with potential applications for environmental restoration

Water quality, availability, and its influence on other soil factors
 

  • Tammo Steenhuis's research group investigates the fate of agricultural nutrients and sediment transport in local and African watersheds to improve and protect water resources
  • Susan Riha's group investigates the the impact of shale gas drilling and climate change on water resources, providing predictive models to inform public policy

Understanding and manipulating nutrient cycling in the soil to optimize plant nutrition
 

  • Johannes Lehmann's group investigates how biochar can be used as a soil amendment to enhances soil and sequester carbon
  • Janice Thies's research group looks at the fate of insecticidal Bt-toxin in the soil, its impact on plant physiology, and how different agricultural practices alter soil properties.
  • Carmen Enid Martinez's research group focuses on the movement of major, trace, and toxic elements through plants and soil
  • Christine Goodale's research group investigates how nitrogen is cycled through a forest environment and how its presence impacts soil decomposition and the fitness of different tree species
  • Tim Fahey's group investigates how acid rain changes the chemistry of elements in the soil and how this influences growth of different plant species.