March 18, 2024

Stockbridge sent a large contingent of faculty and students to St. Louis, Missouri to present their latest research at the conjoined annual international conference of three allied professional organizations.  The American Society for Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, jointly host this premier gathering of ideas, solutions, and innovation from across the field of environmental sciences.

The annual conference offers a chance for leading scientists, researchers, educators, policymakers, students, exhibitors, and government institutions to gather to discuss cutting-edge developments, and feature groundbreaking research, in agronomy, crops, and soil science.

Our contingent of faculty and student researchers shared some of the work happening at the #1 agricultural sciences university in the country

WHILE MOST COLLEGES HAVE A TEACHING FACULTY, UMASS PROFESSORS ARE ALSO REQUIRED TO CONDUCT ACTIVE RESEARCH, AND TO PUBLISH THEIR FINDINGS IN PROFESSIONAL JOURNALS.  THIS CREATES RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS, WHILE ALSO KEEPING THE CONTENT OF OUR CLASSES FRESH.

Dhanker lab develops methods for cleaning contamination from soils using specialty plants capable of absorbing toxic metals.  Dr. Om Parkash Dhankher gave two talks: "Strategies for Detoxification and Phytoremediation of Mercury Contaminated Soils and Sediments" and "Bioavailability-based Approaches for Controlling the Transfer of Potentially Toxic Elements in Soils."  Dhanker recently received the highest honor from CSSA who named him a Fellow.

Students in Dhanker lab presented their own research on using plants to clean contaminants from soil.  Sudhir Sharma presented "Evaluation of Soil Amendment with Different Forms of Sulfur and Cadmium Uptake and Accumulation in Wheat."  Josphat Kiunga discussed "Engineering Plants to Remove Arsenic from the Environment and Limit its Accumulation in Agricultural Food Crops.

Dr. Rachel Hestrin's lab focuses on the role of microbes in plants' acquisition of soil nutrients.  She presented on "Mineral-Associated Organic Matter: Integrating Fundamental Concepts to Inform Ecological and Agronomic Applications."  Hestrin also co-convened a symposium for the Soil Biology and Biochemistry Division.

Gabriella Griffen, a graduate student from Hestrin lab, presented her own related research on "Mineral-Associated Organic Nitrogen: Management and Mineralogical Controls on Pool Size and Composition."

Students presenting their research at a conference like this learn important skills including how to organize data, how to respond to professional critiques of their work, and how to communicate science to a non-science public.

Marissa Hanley, now a Plant & Soil Sciences graduate student and mentee of Dr. Hannah Naughton, felt honored to present her undergraduate Environmental Sciences project "Analyzing the Uptake of Toxic Metals in Foraged Edible Mushrooms in New England."

Marissa Hanley standing in front of her research presentation.

"PRESENTING MY RESEARCH, AND VIEWING THE WORK FROM REALLY EXTRAORDINARY SCIENTISTS, WAS AN EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE," SAYS STUDENT MARISSA HANLEY. 

"I'M THRILLED TO BE NETWORKING WITH THIS INCREDIBLE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, ALONGSIDE WHICH I LOOK FORWARD TO GROWING MY CAREER."

Hanley's mentor Dr. Naughton, a biogeochemist who is also our newest professor at Stockbridge, delivered "Testing for Soil Structure Control on Anaerobic Functions in an Upland Meadow."

Xiupei Zhou standing at a podium.

Graduate student Xiupei Zhou presented his related research from Xing lab on "Heteroaggregation of Nanoplastics and Hematite Nanoparticles in Aqueous Phase: pH-Dependent Behaviors and Mechanisms."

From Hashemi lab, focused on agronomy and use of cover crops to provide biomass to soil, graduate student Arthur Siller presented his own research on "Forage Crabgrass Management in the Northeast US: Planting and Harvest Timing, Variety Selection, Nitrogen Fertilization, and Seeding Rate."

Arthur Siller speaking at a podium.

Siller and his mentor Dr. Masoud Hashemi also presented 3 posters summarizing their ongoing research:  "Forage Quality and Yield of Brassica Forage Crops Mixed with Oats and Peas in Mid to Late Fall in the Northeast US" summarizes work done at the UMass Crop and Animal Research Farm in South Deerfield.  The other two topics were "Land Equivalent Ratio and Crop Biomass Evenness in Three Cover Crop Biocultures in Northeastern USA" and "Environmental Conditions Outweighed Seeding Rate Proportions for Cover Crop Mixture Success across the Northeastern US."

Dr. Michelle DaCosta, who coordinates both the Turfgrass Science and Plant & Soil Sciences majors at Stockbridge, served as Chair of the Crop Science Physiology and Metabolism Division.  She presented "Examining the Effects of Temperature and Nitrogen on Seedling Vigor of Creeping Bentgrass" in collaboration with both visiting researcher Masoud Arghavani, and graduate student Jefferson Lu, from her lab.  DaCosta and Arghavani also presented "Evaluation of Freezing Recovery of Creeping Bentgrass Seedlings."

Stockbridge has been conducting scientific research into plants, soil, and agriculture for more than 150 years.  Our faculty come to us from nine different countries, offering research opportunities and classes unparalleled by colleges and universities around the world.  It's no wonder Stockbridge is a top destination for anyone interested in learning and researching the natural world that surrounds us.