PSM and the International Year of the Soils
The Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences (PSM) has numerous soil scientists who conduct cutting edge soil science research ranging from the micro to the global level, addressing issues of soil biology, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil management, soil productivity, soil structure, soil as a mechanism of environmental cleanup and much more. Read more about this important work in PSM.
Plant Soil Microbial Science Faculty Members and the research they are doing towards the goals set out in the International Year of the Soils.
Dr. Lisa Tiemann’s Research on Soil Biology
The Soil Biology Laboratory in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University works globally to promote our understanding of soil microorganisms’ contributions to soil organic matter and healthy, fertile soils. Dr. Tiemann’s research is conducted in a variety of agroecosystems across the U.S. and in Africa as she explores aspects of climate and land use change that alter microbial community dynamics with consequences for soil fertility and soil health. The ultimate goal of her research is to determine how we can manage agroecosystems to sustain the critical ecosystem services soil organic matter provides, thereby promoting soil sustainability and food security. Dr. Tiemann’s work will help us realize the International Year of Soils slogan of “healthy soils for a healthy life.”
Dr. Wei Zhang’s Research on Emerging Contaminants in the Soil and Water Environment
Dr. Zhang’s laboratory researches the movement of emerging contaminants in the soil and water environment including veterinary antibiotics, engineered nanoparticles, and emerging microbial pathogens. He is focusing on fundamental contaminant transport processes. Three of his current research foci are listed below:
1. Use of biochar as a soil amendment to reduce the adverse impact of environmental contaminants.
Biochar is a carbon-rich porous materials that can be made from manure, crop residue, and other biomass. Dr. Zhang is studying how to use biochar to sequester antibiotics and thus reduce the transport and bioavailability of antibiotics. This research is related to the International year of soils in term of maintaining the soil’s function for cleansing water.
2. Novel study on filtration of greenhouse irrigation water for removal of plant pathogens
Plant pathogen outbreak in greenhouses can cause enormous crop losses. The spread of pathogens is exacerbated by recycling irrigation water that is increasingly practiced by greenhouse growers. Working with plant pathologist Dr. Mary Hausbeck, Dr. Zhang’s lab is studying how to remove plant pathogens by filtration so as to avoid the fungicide resistance development commonly experienced by fungicide application.
3. Cutting-edge research on engineered nanoparticles
Dr. Alvin Smucker’s research into suburface water retention technologies SWRT and root image processing.
The Soil Biophysics lab is researching and developing subsurface water retention technologies (SWRT) that will allow cultivation of crops in semi arid and arid regions and will reduce quantities of supplemental irrigation required, protect potable groundwater supplies, and enable more efficient use and control of fertilizers and pesticides.
In a recent interview, Smucker indicated, “This technology has the potential to change lives and regional landscapes domestically and internationally where highly permeable, sandy soils have prohibited the sustainable production of food,”
Undoubtedly, this technology will be one more weapon in the arsenal against the future impact of global climate change.
Soil Biophysics Lab Website https://www.msu.edu/~smucker/
Also of note Dr. Smucker oversaw the development of the MR and WR —RIPL (Root Image Processing Laboratory) software. The purpose of the RIPL software is to quantify 16 morphological parameters that are indicators of plant health, growth and death rates.
Other Soil Scientists in the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences
- Dr. Stephen Boyd
- Dr. James Crum
- Dr. Sasha Kravchenko
- Dr. Hui Li
- Dr. Kurt Steinke
- Dr. Brian Teppen
- Dr. James Tiedje
National and International Soil Science Societies and/or Organizations
- Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
- United Nations International Year of the Soils
- International Union of Soil Science (IUSS)
- International Society of Root Research (ISRR)
- FAO 2015 International Year of Soils
- United Nations University
- United Nations News Centre
- U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service
Youtube videos and other information from Soil Science Societies and the USDA NRCS: