Heather Karsten, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Crop Production / Ecology
Heather Karsten, Ph.D.
251 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802
Work Phone: 814-863-3179

Areas of Expertise

  • Agroecology
  • Conservation & Dairy Cropping Systems
  • Soil & nutrient conservation, perennials, cover crops
  • Pasture ecology and grazing management


  1. Ph.D., Agronomy, Cornell University, 1996
  2. M.S. Agronomy, Cornell University, 1992
  3. B.S. Environmental Biology, Yale University, 1989

Responsibilities and Interests:

Teaching responsibilities: teaching, advising, and developing courses for the Agroecology Major. I am also the Program Coordinator for the Agronomy Minor. The courses I currently teach are:

Research: I’m interested in advancing agroecological research to design sustainable cropping systems. I have a particular interest in the role of perennials in cropping system sustainability.

My cropping systems research has focused the influence of cropping systems and fertility management on crop productivity, soil health, and fertility. I also study the influence of pasture-based diets on the fatty acid profile and vitamin content of pasture-based livestock products. My earlier research focused on pasture ecology.


  • 30% Research
  • 70% Teaching


Professional Background:

  • Fulbright fellowship study and research at Massey University and AgResearch Grasslands, Palmersto North, New Zealand, 1992
  • Teaching Assistant, University of California Education Abroad Program, Las Cruces, Biological Research Station, Costa Rica, spring 1996
  • Post-doctoral Research Associate, Department of Plants, Soils, and Biometeorology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah; 1996–1997
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Agronomy, The Pennsylvania State University, 1998–2003.
  • Associate Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, 2003–present.

Selected Publications:

  1. H. D. Karsten, P. H. Patterson, R. Stout, and G. Crews. Vitamins A, E, and Fatty Acid Composition of the Eggs of Caged Hens and Pastured Hens. In press, 2010. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
  2. Grover, K. K. and H. D. Karsten. 2009 Corn Grain Yields and Yield Stability in Four Long-Term Cropping Systems. Agronomy Journal 101: 940–946.
  3. Karsten, H.D. and D. J. Baer. 2009. Grass and Human Nutrition. In Grassland: Quietness and Strength for a New American Agriculture. Ed. Walter F. Wedin and Steven L. Fales. ASA-CSSA-SSSA, Madison, WI.
  4. Rotz C. A., H. D. Karsten, and R. D. Weaver. 2008. Grass-based dairy production provides a viable option for producing organic milk in Pennsylvania. Online. Forage and Grazinglands doi:10.1094/FG-2008-0212-01-RS.
  5. Rotz C. A., G. H. Kamphuis, H. D. Karsten, and R. D. Weaver. Organic Dairy Production Systems in Pennsylvania: A Case Study Evaluation. J. Dairy Science. 90:3961–3979.
  6. A. Clark, H. D. Karsten, W. M. Murphy, and B. F. Tracy. 2006. Ecology of Plant Communities in Forage-Livestock Systems. Chapter 2. p.10–31. In Forage Production for Pasture-Based Livestock Production. Ed. Edward B. Rayburn. NRAES- 172. Ithaca, NY.
  7. Karsten, H.D. and M. Risius. 2004. Development of an Interdisciplinary Agroecology Major with Input from Surveys of Students, Graduates, and Employers. March 2004. 58–64.
  8. Carnes, L. M. and H. D. Karsten. 2003. Building diverse community networks for sustainable food systems: Guiding philosophies of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture (December 2003; Vol. 18, No. 4: 173–184).
  9. Carlassare, M.C. and H. D. Karsten. 2003. Species population dynamics in a mixed pasture under two rotational grazing regimes. Agronomy Journal. 95: 844–854
  10. Karsten, H. D., G. W. Roth, and L.D. Muller. 2003. Evaluation of corn hybrids at two stages of development for cattle grazing. Agronomy Journal. 95:870–877.
  11. Carlassare, M. and H.D. Karsten. 2002. Species contribution to seasonal productivity of a mixed pasture under two sward grazing height regimes. Agronomy Journal. 94:840–50.
  12. Karsten, H.D., and M. Carlassare. 2002. Describing the botanical composition of a mixed species northeastern U.S. pasture rotationally-grazed by cattle. Crop Science. 42:882–889
  13. Karsten, H. D. and R. E. O'Connor. 2002. Lessons Learned from Teaching an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Course on Sustainable Agriculture Science and Policy. Journal of Natural Resources & Life Science Education. 31:111–116.
  14. Karsten, H.D. and J. W. MacAdam. 2001. Effect of Autumn Drought Conditions on Growth, Carbohydrate Use, and Soil Moisture Use of Irrigated Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue, and White Clover in the Semiarid Intermountain West. Crop Science. 41:156–166
  15. Karsten, H.D. and G.W. Fick. 1999. Seasonal growth of white clover in a rotationally-stocked dairy pasture in New York. Grass and Forage Science 54:174 183.