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Research Programs

Research in Soil and Crop Sciences


Research programs of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State reflect the concerns of the people of Colorado associated with food production and the growth and utilization of feed and forage for livestock. The programs take into account the most efficient use of Colorado’s limited land and water resources and are directed toward the maintenance of high-quality agricultural, residential, industrial, and natural environments. To meet the broad-based requirements of these objectives, much of the department’s research involves cooperation with other segments of the University, as well as with other state, federal and private agencies.

The Department is responsible for the program coordination of four Research Centers located in distinct agro-climatic areas of the State. Their programs are designed to meet specific needs of farmers and ranchers in their respective areas. The Centers also offer students unique off-campus learning and research opportunities.

Agroecosystems Management

Graduate research opportunities exist in the area of agroecosystems management, with an emphasis on a systems approach to research that incorporates the interactions of the ecosystem with soil and crop management. Research extends across all the major ecosystems of Colorado including prairie and mountain environments, dry-land and irrigated agroecosystems in the semi-arid plains, and rangelands.

Major research emphases are precision crop and nutrient management and management systems that improve efficiency of crop water use. Additional research emphases include soil carbon and nutrient dynamics in cropping systems, beneficial use of manures, biosolids, and other wastes, crop variety development, forage management, and development of biofuel and other alternative crops.

Local studies are integrated to the global scale including efforts focused on global climate change and carbon cycling. Emphasis is on understanding processes and mechanisms controlling the interaction of soils, plants, nutrients, and climate. Research opportunities in agroecology include field studies, state of the art analytical laboratories, and computer simulation modeling. Students will gain a broad perspective of the soil, plant, and environmental interactions as well as specialized training in their area of interest.

For more information:

Soil Ecology and Global Climate Change- Keith Paustian

Irrigation and Water Science- Allan Andales

Forage Production and Range Management- Joe Brummer

Cropping Systems and Nutrient Cycling- Meagan Schipanski

Agroecosystem Ecology- Steve Fonte

Agricultural Climatology- Jay Ham

Crop Production, Alternative Crop Development- Jerry Johnson

Precision Agriculture and Applied Information Technology- Raj Khosla

Pedology and Forest/Range Soils- Suellen Melzer

Soil Science and Biosolids Management- Jim Ippolito

Environmental Soil Quality and Soil Fertility- Jim Ippolito


Plant Breeding and Genetics

Major efforts are expended on the breeding, development, and/or testing of improved cultivars and genetic materials of wheat, dry beans, barley, oilseed crops, and corn. Special limitations due to high elevations, short growing seasons, and unpredictable rainfall impose unique demands on crop cultivars in the major growing areas of the state. The Department has a comprehensive crop molecular genetics program involving molecular mapping and characterization of agronomically important traits in wheat, beans, and barley.

In an interdisciplinary fashion, research programs investigate plant breeding methodologies – commonly involving biotechnologies such as molecular marker mapping, quantitative trait locus analysis, and marker-assisted selection –  cytogenetics, quantitative and population genetics, physiological and statistical genetics, disease and insect resistance, and improving the nutritional value of crops. Genetic engineering of crops offers both potential benefits and risks, and both aspects of this technology are being investigated in the department.

For more information:

Wheat Breeding- Scott Haley

Wheat Genetics and Genomics- Stephen Pearce

Molecular and Quantitative Genetics in Wheat and Dry Beans- Pat Byrne

Oilseeds and Other Crops- Jerry Johnson

Population Genetics and Genetic Diversity- Sarah Ward

Soil Science

The Department has comprehensive research programs in Soil Science, which address a variety of topics including biogeochemical cycling of nutrients; land application of animal, municipal and industrial wastes; transport and fate of inorganic and organic contaminants in soils and water; soil microbial structural and functional diversity; movement of water, solutes, and gases through soil; soil formation processes; soil fertility and precision nutrient management; soil and water quality; and global climate change.

Because of Colorado’s exciting and diverse landscapes, a variety of soil systems: agricultural, forest and rangeland, are available for study by graduate students in the department. The Colorado Front Range also presents a unique opportunity to study the effects of urbanization on rural soil and water environments.

The Faculty has a strong history of collaboration, both within and outside the department, and encourages Graduate Students to conduct their work in a cross-disciplinary fashion. With connections to Engineering, Natural Resources, Natural Sciences, and more, the department provides a creative and dynamic learning experience for Graduate Students committed to the study and application of soil science.

For more information:

Soil Science and Biosolids Management- Jim Ippolito

Soil Physics- Greg Butters

Environmental Soil Quality and Soil Fertility- Jim Ippolito

Soil Ecology and Global Climate Change- Keith Paustian

Pedology and Forest/Range Soils- Suellen Melzer

Environmental Soil Chemistry- Thomas Borch

Soil Ecology- Francesca Cotrufo/Steve Fonte

Cropping Systems and Nutrient Cycling- Meagan Schipanski

Precision Agriculture and Applied Information Technology- Raj Khosla

Environmental Soil Microbiology- Kelly Wrighton 

Geomicrobiology- Mike Wilkins

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