Gathering Energy: New Faculty Reflects Changing Needs of Agriculture | Crop and soil sciences


“The dramatic interaction of agriculture and the environment is changing agricultural practices and also forcing us to adapt,” said Jeff Mullahey, director of the department of crop and soil sciences at the State University of North Carolina.

“Climate adaptation and precision technology are the trade winds shaping our agricultural future. To serve current North Carolina farmers and develop the next generation, our programs must be immersed in emerging fields. We are delighted to introduce a cohort of faculty that strengthens our department’s position as an ally in climate-smart agriculture.

In response to these dynamic demands, our department recently welcomed four new professors to expand our teaching, research and outreach capabilities.

We caught up with this brilliant new band to learn more about their background and the impact of their work.

Amanda Cardoso, Assistant Professor of Crop Physiology

Dr. Amanda CardosoWelcome to NC State! What was your previous position before joining the Wolfpack?

I was a visiting professor at Universidade Federal de Alfenas, Brazil, working on plant physiology and evolution, global climate change, photosynthesis, and plant stress physiology.

Your new position is 80% research-based, what is the focus of your work?

My studies target the functioning of plants – including woody and herbaceous crops – during and after harsh climatic conditions, such as drought, waterlogging and high temperatures. My goal is to better understand physiological mechanisms of crop plants to improve field performance in terms of crop yield and quality, with particular focus on climate change.

These studies have major implications for improving crop productivity and predicting ecosystem responses to climate change. This is essential not only for North Carolina agriculture, but for the whole world. And although I am primarily research oriented, I will also be teaching a graduate course in plant physiology.

What motivates you in this role at NC State?

NC State offers an incredible amount of resources, including space, equipment, and a stellar group of faculty to collaborate with. These are key elements for early-career professors to establish a successful research program.

The combination of the campus phytotron, multiple field sites for all important base crops, and the fantastic group of faculty in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences is what excites me the most.

Joe Gage, assistant professor of crop genomics

Dr. Joe GageWelcome aboard! Tell us about your previous work before joining NC State.

I was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University. There, I studied how the sequence of the genome influences the degree of activation or deactivation of a plant’s genes. I also participated in the development of a recent USDA-NIFA grant to create an open source digital ecosystem to integrate agricultural data feeds.

I will continue to advise this project on the analysis of ground vehicle data to understand how canopies develop throughout the season, as well as how this development can change in different environments. We can collect data here at NC State that will complement the Cornell data, which can add to our understanding of how different environments affect crop health and growth.

Your location is also based on research. Tell us about your requests.

Global weather patterns are changing; varieties that worked well in NC are not guaranteed to continue to do so! In order to breed crops that will perform well in the future, breeders need tools to help them decide which varieties will perform best in a given location, which is difficult when weather conditions change quickly.

Growing crops in the face of climate change is a bit like trying to predict the future – some aspects like rising temperatures are certain, but others, like the frequency and intensity of rainfall, are not. . I try to expand our understanding of how crops respond to different environments to help breeders develop resilient varieties that will continue to produce well, feed us, and provide reliable incomes for farmers.

Your office will be in the new Plant Science Pavilion. What impact will this have on your work?

At Plant Science Building, I will be close to other researchers doing both basic and applied science, which is a huge advantage. Additionally, the NC Agriculture Research Service network of research stations provides a valuable resource with many environments in which crops can be grown and evaluated.

NC State has an impressive number of applied breeding programs that produce economically important varieties. My previous work has been mostly done on maize (maize), and I’m excited to expand my research to other crops.

Hui Li, Assistant Professor of Soil Chemistry

Dr. Hui LiWelcome to the pack! Tell us about your past work.

Prior to coming to NC State, I was a postdoctoral research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, conducting research on the role of manganese in regulating soil carbon stock.

You have a dual mission of research and teaching. What is the goal of your program?

The stability of carbon in the soil, which is the largest and most dynamic terrestrial carbon pool, has an important impact on the global climate. Climate change is a key concern in agriculture, which is highly dependent on weather variables. In addition to climate change mitigation, increasing soil carbon stock (a primary energy source) is also beneficial for farmers to increase crop yield.

My studies will improve our understanding of the transport and fate of soil organic matter under various environmental conditions. Areas of focus will include increasing soil carbon sequestration, improving water quality, improving plant nutrient use and fertilizer efficiency, as well as as strategies to manage non-point source contamination issues in order to mitigate pollution.

In addition to my research, I will also be teaching a graduate level course on soil chemistry.

How will this new position expand your impact in this area?

NC State has a unique combination of top scientific peers, diverse field research sites, and diverse soil types to study. The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences has an excellent team of professors working on many interrelated sciences.

I look forward to many collaborative opportunities that will help me establish and advance my research as well as train our next generation of soil experts.

Ekrem Ozlu, Assistant Professor of Soil Management

Dr. Ekrem OzluWelcome to Crop and Soil Science! What attracted you to this position at NC State?

I grew up on my grandparents’ farm in Cihanbeyli province in Turkey, where the farm was my playground and muse. Agricultural research and extension was my childhood dream, so I devoted my studies to soil physics improvement. I am honored to join the NC State Extension family.

Most recently, I was a postdoctoral research associate at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Center, WK Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University. The I have worked to identify and predict nitrous oxide fluxes using soil and environmental variables.

Your post is located at the Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth. Tell us about the work you will be doing.

There is a growing need for research and extension programs to develop site-specific practices to better manage tillage applications and cropping systems. In a world of proliferating technology, the development of spatial and temporal data footprints of carbon management, soil health, and saltwater impacts are great opportunities for higher agricultural profits.

I focus on soil management including tillage, carbon cycle, saltwater intrusion and geographic information systems. I want to figure out how to improve the ground dynamic system to be more productive while keeping his static body healthy. And above all, communicating the results of our research to farmers and agents in the field.

My research and extension work will support research on saltwater intrusion, carbon stability and greenhouse gas emissions from Climate adaptation through agriculture and soil management (CASM).

The Faculty of Crop and Soil Sciences impacts students, businesses, and citizens wherever crops grow. Follow the impact of our innovations on agriculture and environmental sciences by joining our weekly news feed.

If you are a student interested in crop or soil science, study our undergraduate and graduate students study programs. So join us for a e-mail guided tour of our department and our university.

Improving NC’s agricultural and environmental foundations from the ground up is only part of how we develop into the future.

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