Research topics in our lab combine fundamental and applied science across the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. Specifically, research in the lab addresses the coupled biogeochemistry of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in the soil; plant processes like growth, water use, determination of water use efficiency, and the response to abiotic stresses with emphasis on climate change and climate extremes; the application of models to improve agroecosystem management (climate-smart agriculture, agricultural intensification, sustainable agriculture, organic agriculture, precision agriculture and precision conservation, bioenergy); and broader issues of ecosystem functioning at field, watershed, and planetary scale.

Felipe Montes and Maria Laura Cangiano installing eddy covariance towers to measure carbon dioxide and water fluxes in the soil-plant-atmosphere system.

Felipe Montes and Maria Laura Cangiano installing eddy covariance towers to measure carbon dioxide and water fluxes in the soil-plant-atmosphere system.

Agricultural and Natural Systems Modeling

Our diverse field and in silico research is integrated through a conceptual and quantitative framework: the simulation model. Models are simplifications of a system designed to provide insights into the system functioning.

Watershed and landscape modeling

We are engaged in several projects that seek to combine the detailed one-dimensional modeling of plant growth, nutrient cycling, and land management simulation capabilities in Cycles with the hydrologic model PIHM. The resulting product is Cycles-L, a landscape level.

Sustainable grain, pasture, and bioenergy systems (landscape design)

We have research projects in several aspects of sustainability of production systems management and landscape design.

Soil carbon and nitrogen cycling with stable isotopes and models

We are interested in understanding and modeling the coupled cycling of carbon and other elements in the soil.

Nitrous oxide emission modeling and measurements

The nitrous oxide emission from soils is a major component of the carbon-equivalent footprint of many production systems. The emission of nitrous oxide, mostly from denitrification and nitrification, is difficult to measure and model.

Carbon and water flux in energy crops with eddy covariance

The change in soil carbon storage is an important component of the carbon benefits of biomass production systems for energy and bioproducts.

Nitrogen cycling in perennial energy crops with stable isotopes

We are studying the uptake and internal recycling of nitrogen in perennial crops using 15N labeled N sources.

Plant competition

We are testing a model of competition of water uptake by measuring plants of two species growing alone, competing with plants of the same species, and competing with plants of the other species.

Water use and water use efficiency

In our vegetation simulation models growth is simulated in two ways: (1) with a detailed coupled canopy-transpiration model that follows Farquhar supply/demand for CO2 modeling approach, or (2) with a lumped approach that computes growth as the minimum of a radiation based growth or transpiration based growth.

Modeling plant growth and grain yield

The growth module of the simulation model CropSyst and Cycles is based on the concept of resource capture and resource use efficiency.

Physiology of C4 grasses

In collaboration with Phil Fay, and ecologist from the USDA-ARS we study the response of C4 grasses to different carbon dioxide levels. Phil and I are interested in all things C4, particularly the ecophysiology and biogeography of these diverse set of grasses.