Heather Karsten, Ph.D.

Heather Karsten, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor of Crop Production / Ecology
251 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802

Areas of Expertise

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


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

Responsibilities and Interests

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

  • AGECO 134N - Sustainable Agriculture Science and Policy
  • AGECO 144 - Principles and Practices of Organic Agriculture
  • PLANT 461 - Emerging Issues in the Plant Sciences
  • AGRO 510 - Ecology of Agricultural Systems
  • AGRO 489 - Supervised Experience in College Teaching

Research: I'm interested in advancing agroecological research to design sustainable cropping systems. My interdisciplinary cropping systems research seeks to develop conservation cropping systems to sustain long-term farm productivity and profitability while reducing environmental impacts. The cropping system strategies include crop rotations with double, cover, and perennial crops; reduced tillage, nutrient management, and integrated pest management with the goals of enhancing: crop productivity, soil health and fertility, beneficial organisms, farm profitability, and resilience to climate change while reducing: soil and nutrient losses, pest populations, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. I have also researched pasture ecology and grazing management, and the influence of pasture-based diets on the fatty acid profile and vitamin content of pasture-based livestock products. 


  • 40% Research
  • 50% Teaching
  • 10% Extension


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

Ponce de León, M.A., C. J. Dell, H.D. Karsten. 2021. Nitrous oxide emission from manured, no-till corn system. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. 119 (3): 405-421. DOI:10.1007/s10705-021-10131-y

Frame, S.T., K. A. Pearsons, K.R. Elkin, L.S. Saporito, H.E. Preisendanz, H.D.Karsten and J. F. Tooker. 2021 Assessing surface and subsurface transport of neonicotinoid insecticides from no-till crop fields. J. Environ. Qual. 2021;1–9. DOI:10.1002/jeq2.20185

Dillon, J. A., C. A. Rotz, and H.D. Karsten. 2020. Management characteristics of Northeast US grassfed beef production systems. Applied Animal Science 36:715–730. https://doi.org/10.15232/aas.2020-01992

Binder, J., H. D. Karsten, D. B. Beegle, and C. J.  Dell. 2020. Manure injection and rye double cropping increase nutrient recovery and forage production. Agronomy J. published online. DOI:10.1002/agj2.20181

Busch, A., Douglas, M., Malcolm, G., Karsten, H. D., & Tooker, J. F. (2020). A high-diversity/IPM cropping system fosters beneficial arthropod populations, limits invertebrate pests, and produces competitive maize yields. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 292. 15 April 2020, 106812. doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2019.106812

Amin, M.G. M. T. Veith, J. Shortle; H. D. Karsten, and P. J.A. Kleinman. 2019.  Addressing the spatial disconnect between national-scale total maximum daily loads and localized land management decisions. J. Environ. Qual. doi.org/10.1002/jeq2.20051

Reed, H.K., H. D. Karsten, W. S. Curran, J.F. Tooker and S. W. Duiker. 2019. Planting Green Effects on Corn and Soybean Production. Agron. J. 111:1-12. doi:10.2134/agronj2018.11.0711

Milliron, R.A., H. D. Karsten, and D. B. Beegle. 2019. Influence of Dairy Slurry Manure Application Method, Fall Application-Timing, and Winter Rye Management on Nitrogen Conservation. Agron. J. 111:1–15. doi:10.2134/agronj2017.12.0743

Jahanzad, E., L. S. Saporito, H.D. Karsten and P. J.A. Kleinman. 2019. Varying Influence of Dairy Manure Injection on Phosphorus Loss in Runoff over Four Years J. Environ. Qual. doi:10.2134/jeq2018.05.0206

Amin, M. G., H. D. Karsten, T. L. Veith, D. B. Beegle, P. J. Kleinman, 2018. Conservation dairy farming impact on water quality in a karst watershed in northeastern US. Agricultural Systems. 165: 187-196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2018.06.010 

Prasad, R. S. K. Gunn, C.A. Rotz, H.D.Karsten, G, Roth 2018. A. Buda, A. M. K. Stoner. Projected climate and agronomic implications for corn production in the Northeastern United States. PLOSone https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.019862

Amin , M.G. Mostofa, T. L. Veith, A. S. Collick, H. D. Karsten, A. R. Buda. 2016. Simulating hydrological and nonpoint source pollution processes in a karst watershed: A variable source area hydrology model evaluation. Agricultural Water Management. 180.B:212-223. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2016.07.011

Snyder, Elina. M., Heather D. Karsten, William S. Curran, Glenna M. Malcolm, and Jeffrey A. Hyde. 2016. Green Manure comparison between winter wheat and corn: weeds, yields and economics. 2016. Agronomy J. 108:1-11. doi: 10.2134/agronj2016.02.0084.

Snyder, Elina M., William S. Curran, Heather D. Karsten, Glenna. N. Malcolm, Sjoerd W. Duiker, and Jeffrey A. Hyde. 2016. Assessment of an integrated weed management system in no-till soybean (Glycine max L.) and corn (Zea mays L.). Weed Science. 64(4):712-726. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1614/WS-D-16-00021.1

Malcolm, Glenna M., Gustavo.G.T. Camargo, Virginia. A. Ishler, Thomas.L. Richard, and Heather D. Karsten. 2015. Energy and Greenhouse Gas Analysis of Northeast US Dairy Cropping Systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems, and Environment. 199:407417.

Sanchez, E.S. and H.D. Karsten. 2011. Development and Evaluation of a Training Program on Whole Farm Nutrient Planning for Organic Farms. HortTechnology

Barbercheck, M., N. Kiernan, A. G. Hulting S. Duiker, J. Hyde, H.D. Karsten, and E. Sanchez. 2011.  Meeting the 'Multi'-Requirements in Organic Agriculture Research; Successes, Challenges, and Recommendations for Multifunctional, Multidisciplinary Participatory Projects. doi:10.1017/S1742170511000214

Karsten, H.D., P. H. Patterson, R. Stout, and G. Crews. 2010. Vitamins A, E, and Fatty Acid Composition of the Eggs of Caged and Pastured Hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 25(1):45-54.

Grover, K. K., H. D. Karsten, and G. W. Roth. 2009. Corn Grain Yields and Yield Stability in Four Long-Term Cropping Systems. Agronomy Journal 101: 940–946

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.  

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. Forage and Grazinglands. 19.1094/FG-2008-0212-01-RS.

Rotz, C. A., G. H. Kamphuis, H. D. Karsten, and R. D. Weaver. 2007. Organic Dairy Production Systems in Pennsylvania: A Case Study Evaluation. J. Dairy Sci. 90:3961-3979. 

Zhai, T., R. Mohtar, H.D. Karsten, and M. Carlassare. 2004. Modeling Growth and Competition of Multi-Species Pasture System. American Society of Agricultural Engineering, 47(2):617-27.

Karsten, H.D. and M. Risius. 2003. Development of an Interdisciplinary Agroecology Major with Input from Surveys of Students, Graduates, and Employers. NACTA, March 2003: 58-64.

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. Vol. 4: 174-184.

Carlassare, M. C. and H. D. Karsten. 2003. Species Population Dynamics in a Mixed Pasture under Two Rotational Grazing Regimes. Agronomy Journal. 85: 844-854.

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.

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.

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

Karsten, H. D. and R. E. O'Connor. 2002. Lessons Learned from Teaching an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Course on Sustainable Agriculture Science and Policy J. Natural Resources & Life Sciences Education. 31:111-116.

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

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.