Rhizosphere interactions are a main focus area of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences as it is the literal and functional interface between the crops we grow and the soils that support them. The rhizosphere is key for sustainable production of food and fuel to support the rising global population. A highly interdisciplinary, dynamic area of study, the rhizosphere has been established as an important frontier with rapidly growing discoveries and interactions involving chemistry and nutrient dynamics, as well as phenomics, genomics, metabolomics, and transcriptomics. Carbon and nutrient cycling is uniquely influenced by the rhizosphere, which sustains both plant and microbial communities, results in reciprocal community engineering, and maintains ecosystem services at every level.
Located at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, Washington, my research team works on soil fertility and plant nutrient management, including irrigation water needs, for the diverse cropping systems in this region, with an emphasis on specialty crops.
My research focuses on identification and manipulation of mechanisms of genetic resistance to cold and improvement of wheat end use quality, specifically for club and soft white wheat. My research also focuses on statistical methods of identifying, controlling, and exploiting genotype by environment interaction.
My research group is concerned with the soil-plant-microbial interface. We are studying how microorganisms on mineral and root surfaces enhance the weathering of minerals and supply of nutrients to living organisms while inhibiting denudation of the soil. We are also looking at how composts can be designed for use as components in soil remediation and stormwater filtering to sequester toxic metals and metalloids.
Studies are underway to investigate influence of direct root-zone micro-irrigation in wine grapes and its influence on carbon partitioning to above- and below-ground plant parts. Both field and greenhouse studies are being conducted at present.
My program, the Sustainable Seed Systems Lab, is focused on the breeding and agronomy of barley, quinoa, millet, spelt, and perennial wheat. We work closely with farmers on regional to international scales to develop high yielding, nutritionally dense seed crop varieties for a diversity of cropping systems.
I conduct work at the interface between crops and soils at rhizosphere and cropping systems levels the Nutrient Cycling and Rhizosphere Ecology Analytics, Technology and Education (NCREATE) team. We digitally image root rhizospheres and we track nutrient use and cycling of crops in rotations to better inform nutrient management recommendations, which we extend to student and farming communities.
My research program focuses on the molecular genetic and genomic cues that govern root development in grasses. We use B. distachyon as a model as well as wheat to study how roots grow in their native and diverse soil environments. In addition, we study how the plant cell well and hormones mediate morphogenesis in the root.
My research emphasizes linking the function and phylogeny of the soil microbiome, specifically with regard to interactions with plant roots and impacts on metal bioavailability and plant uptake. The soil microbiome is key in the biotransformations of many micronutrients and metals in the rhizosphere; these consortia and the mechanisms involved, drives my work.