The Section of Soil and Crop Sciences addresses the challenge of developing environmentally sustainable agricultural systems to produce food on regional, national, and international scales through three major program areas: Soil Science, Crop Science, and Environmental Information Systems.

Program Areas

Soil Biogeochemistry

Advance our understanding of biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrient elements in soil, providing important insight into regional and global element cycles which provide the basis for sustainable soil and land use management. Stabilization mechanisms of organic matter in soil nano-structures and the development of a biochar soil management technology that improves soil fertility, sequesters carbon and reduces off-site pollution. Research topics include: carbon sequestration in the context of climate change and black carbon dynamics; using synchrotron-based NEXAFS and FTIR for the micro- and nano-scale observation of biogeochemical cycles in soils; and the study of so-called Terra Preta de Indio (Amazonian Dark Earths), anthropogenic soils. Recent efforts include the combination of bio-energy and biochar applications to soil, which offer the opportunity to develop a carbon-negative energy technology which at the same time improves the environment.

Faculty Programs: Lehmann, Solomon

Soil Chemistry

Behavior of contaminants such as heavy metals at the soil-water interface in the environment, and soil health, as it is impacted by the contamination of soils by various waste materials, commercial fertilizers and manures. Protecting food crops from toxic metal contaminants, minimizing trace element deficiencies, and developing methods for testing and remediating contaminated soils. Use process-based measurements and state-of-the-art spectroscopic (e.g., XAS, FTIR, NMR), microscopic (e.g., TEM, SEM) and diffraction (e.g., XRD) methods to understand ecosystem element cycles and processes from the molecular to the field scale.

Faculty Programs: Martinez, McBride, Rutzke

Soil Fertility/Plant Nutrition

Assessment of nitrogen and phosphorus cycle processes in agricultural soils with respect to enhancing plant nutrient uptake. Specific research topics include: improve fertilizer N recovery by crops; the functions and dynamics of soil organic matter; appropriate practices for management of soil organic matter.

Faculty Programs: Lehmann

Soil Genesis/Classification/Pedology

Examination of the spatial distribution and variability of soil characteristics in urban and human influenced environments.

Faculty Programs: Russell-Anelli

Soil Ecology, Waste Management & Environmental Microbiology

Assessment of pathogens in composting systems; microbial diversity, and relationships between microbial diversity, environmental characteristics, and ecosystem processes; methods to assess soil biological quality, remediate degraded soils, and improve soil management practices.

Faculty Programs: Buckley, Thies, Bonhotal, Grantham

Soil Microbial Genomics & Evolutionary Biology

Examine the effects of agricultural management practices on soil ecology and soil microbial processes. Microbial diversity, and relationships between microbial diversity, environmental characteristics, and ecosystems processes; the development of soil health diagnostics; the impact of soil microbial diversity and community composition on agroecological function; and the use of environmental genomics to identify factors which impact bacterial population structure in soils at landscape and regional scales.

Faculty Programs: Buckley, Thies

Soil Physics/Environmental Biophysics

Examination of physical soil characteristics that contribute to soil fertility, soil quality, transport and exchange processes in soils. Research topics include: soil physical tests to determine soil health; examination of natural porous media; transport theories; the exchange processes in soils.

Faculty Programs: van Es

Crop Management: Grain, Seed, Forage and Bioenergy

Field experiments to develop management practices that improve forage quality, production, profitability and animal performance; best management practices for corn, soybeans, and other grain crops. Development of grass production and processing for a profitable and environmentally sound source of bioenergy. Evaluation of environmental, biotic, and management interactions that influence the growth, development, yield, and quality of crops. Management of crops for maximum economic returns and minimum soil erosion and nitrate losses with environmentally safe management practices.

Faculty Programs: Cherney, Ryan

Cropping Systems

Development of cover crops by identifying management strategies that maximize their benefits and minimize obstacles to their adoption. Diversifying crop rotations, exploring the impacts of conservation agriculture on soil health, and water management.

Faculty Programs: McDonald, Ryan, Hobbs

Crop Physiology and Molecular Biology

Mechanisms by which drought and other environmental stresses arrest sink-organ development (especially kernels and other storage organs), alter phytohormone levels and modify the expression of gene products involved in stress response and floral/seed set. Mechanisms used to detoxify heavy metals; genes involved in uptake, transport and sequestration of metals and interacting pathways.

Faculty Programs: Setter, Vatamaniuk

Weed Science

Integrated weed management involving ways that biotic and abiotic factors affect weed population and community dynamics, and seed dormancy. Invasive weed biology and biological control measures. Weed control recommendations, herbicide residues and resistant biotypes.

Faculty Programs: DiTommaso

Geospatial Sciences

Processes governing land-atmosphere interactions

Faculty Programs: Sun

Resource Inventory & Analysis

Inventory, spatial analysis, and digital map finishing capabilities for expediting the publication of modern soil surveys and environmental resource inventories in New York and northeastern USA.

Faculty Programs: Grantham, Hoskins

Environmental Modeling & Impact Assessment

Integration and analysis of resource inventory data for use in spatially-explicit models and risk assessments of environmental contamination in mixed use landscapes.

Faculty Programs: Woodbury

Space-Time Statistics

Examination of agronomic and environmental measurements at varying scales through the use of advanced statistical methods, including geostatistics and data mining.

Faculty Programs: van Es