Research Topics

The research topics in our lab integrate multiple scales and include the dynamics of coupled carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil, crop growth, water use and water use efficiency, water uptake, the representation of plant stress in simulation models, the responses to climate factors including temperature, humidity, and radiation, the responses of plant to carbon dioxide concentration, understanding plant competition, and the application of models to practical, local issues of crop management (tillage, N fertilizer management, cover crop modeling, bioenergy) and broader issues of ecosystem functioning at watershed or other landscape scales.
Felipe Montes and Maria Laura Cangiano installing eddy covariance towers.

Felipe Montes and Maria Laura Cangiano installing eddy covariance towers.

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.

In partnership with Chris Duffy, 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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.