Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty Professor—Plant & Soil Nutrition, Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences

Allen Barker
(Not Currently Accepting New Graduate Students)
SERVICE
Head of Department, Plant and Soil Sciences, 1977-1985
Graduate Program Director, 1977-1985
Allen Barker

Program Coordinator for Turfgrass Associate and Bachelor Programs; Applied Plant & Soil Sciences Bachelor Program

Professor of Turfgrass Physiology

A headshot of Michelle DaCosta, with background foliage.
My research program is centered on gaining greater insight into physiological mechanisms of plant adaptation to environmental stresses, using perennial grasses as an experimental system. Our goal is to identify plant traits and stress response pathways associated with tolerance to different environmental stresses that are relevant in terms of global climate change, including temperature extremes and drought. In addition to addressing fundamental questions on mechanisms of abiotic stress resistance, we also conduct applied research to help guide turf industry professionals on the selection of stress-resistant grass species and cultivars, and to aid in the development of best management practices aimed at reduced water, fertilizer, and pesticide use.
A headshot of Michelle DaCosta, with background foliage.

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Molecular Biology, Phytoremediation; Professor

A headshot of Om Parkash Dhankher.
Prof. Om Parkash Dhankher is a plant/agriculture biotechnologist. His research focus is multidisciplinary in nature ranging from crop improvements, environmental remediation to biofuels. Along with strong research in engineering plants for detoxification and phytoremediation of heavy metals, his laboratory is developing arsenic free and arsenic tolerant food crops in order to improve human health using both forward and reverse genetic approaches. Prof. Parkash Dhankher was the first one to develop the transgenic plant based approach for arsenic phytoremediation by combining the expression of two bacterial genes, arsenate reductase- ArsC and γ-glutamylcysteine synthase- γECS, in plants. Further, he characterized the first plant arsenate reductase, AtACR2, from Arabidopsis using the RNAi knockdown approach. His research team is also engineering crops via manipulating key pathways and network of genes responsible for enhanced tolerance to multiple abiotic and oxidative stresses and GSH homeostasis for improving crop yield under changing climate conditions. Additionally, his lab is involved in metabolic engineering of oil seed crops such as Crambe abyssinica, Camelina sativa and Brassica juncea for increased oil yields for biofuels production and specialized biopolymers for industrial uses. Prof. Parkash Dhankher has extensively published his research work in high profile journals including Nature Biotech, PNAS, The Plant Cell etc. and has several patents awarded to him based on his research findings. His research has been widely publicized in numerous leading national and international newspapers (e.g. USA Today, Salt Lake Tribune, The Ottawa Citizen (Canada), Le Monde (France), Indian Express (India) etc.) and science magazines (e.g. The Scientist, National Geography, Science Daily, MIT Technology Review, Geotime, La Recherche (France), Down to Earth, Terragreen etc.). His research has also been featured in headlines on National Geographic Channel, ABC, Reuters, and PBS online project “How we Get to Next” with Steven Johnson etc.
A headshot of Om Parkash Dhankher.

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Sustainable Agriculture, Soil Health, and Sustainability; Extension Professor; Graduate Program Director

A headshot of Masoud Hashemi.
(Not Currently Accepting New Graduate Students)
My research activity is mainly focused on sustainability of farming systems through diversified cropping systems. I am specifically interested in integrating cover crops into farming systems to enhance nutrient recovery and recycling, weed suppression, and improving general soil health. My other research focus is pasture management including grazing systems and strategies to extend grazing season.
A headshot of Masoud Hashemi.

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Sustainable Agriculture, Professor of Agronomy

Stephen Herbert in front of trees and shrubs.
(Not Currently Accepting New Graduate Students)
Stephen Herbert in front of trees and shrubs.

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Plant-Microbe Interactions, Assistant Professor

A headshot of Rachel Hestrin.
I am broadly interested in plant-microbe-soil interactions and ecosystem response to change. Much of my lab’s research focuses on rhizosphere and hyphosphere processes that influence productivity, stress tolerance, organic matter dynamics, and nutrient cycling. Our work spans multiple scales and approaches—from isotope-enabled genomics and cellular imaging to multi-farm field trials. We seek to answer questions such as: How do microbes mediate plant nutrient acquisition and carbon allocation below ground? Do mycorrhizal fungi recruit functionally distinct microbial communities that confer different benefits to their hosts? How are plant- and fungal-derived soil organic matter inputs affected by environmental conditions or agricultural management? Which management practices facilitate beneficial plant-microbe interactions?
A headshot of Rachel Hestrin.

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Turfgrass Pathology, Professor of Turfgrass Pathology and Plant Breeding & Genetics

Geunhwa Jung
Professor Jung's research interests include: Molecular mechanisms of fungicide resistance in Sclerotinia homoeocarpa, structure and dynamics of soil microbes on organic and conventional managed golf courses, management of fungicide resistance in dollar spot on turfgrass, mapping of quantitative disease resistance traits in turfgrass and comparative genomics analysis in Poaceae species, and classical and molecular breeding of disease resistance in turfgrass
Geunhwa Jung

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Soil & Ecosystem Ecology, Assistant Professor

Ashley Keiser
Dr. Keiser is an ecosystem ecologist working at the interface of plant and soil microbial communities across both forested and agricultural systems. Her lab’s approaches integrate local, mechanism-driven questions that help advance ecological theory regarding soil microbial community function (i.e. litter decomposition) and landscape-level biogeochemical inquiries that link ecosystem function with land management decisions. Overall, the lab works to expand our understanding of how soil microbial community function, exhibited through carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics, will change with shifting plant communities, land management regimes, and climate.
Ashley Keiser

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Turfgrass Entomology, Extension Assistant Professor

A headshot of Olga Kostromytska.
Olga Kostromytska is an entomologist working with insect pests of turfgrass (primarily) and landscape plants. Her research expertise spans areas of insect behavior, insecticide toxicology, chemical and biological insect controls, and host-plant resistance strategies.
A headshot of Olga Kostromytska.

Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Soil Biogeochemistry, Assistant Professor

Hannah Naughton
Professional Activities
2022 Session Convener, American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Biogeosciences Division: “Biogeochemical Cycling in the Critical Zone: From Genomes to Ecosystems”
Hannah Naughton

Program Coordinator for Horticulture Associate and Bachelor of Science Programs

Senior Lecturer in Viticulture and Plant Pathology

Elsa Petit looking to the side, holding a bunch of grapes, in front of a red brick wall.
Agriculture is one of the contributor to climate change and diminishing biodiversity. The goal of my research is to better understand plant-microbe interactions to help make agriculture one of the solutions to climate change and increase biodiversity. My model system is grape species and its associated microbes in the Northeast US, one of two grape's biodiversity centers. I contrast cultivated crops and their wild relatives to quantify the impact of human management on microbial dynamics and study disease resistance variations. I lead the Extension program for Grape production in Massachusetts, connecting academic research and grape growers. I also teach General Plant Pathology and Sustainable Grape Production and one large course for senior under-graduate students on Global Issues in Applied Biology.
Elsa Petit looking to the side, holding a bunch of grapes, in front of a red brick wall.

Program Coordinator for Sustainable Food & Farming Associate of Science Program

Extension Professor of Fruit Entomology and Integrated Pest Management

Jaime Piñero in front of a tree.
I hold a three-way appointment that combines research, Extension, and teaching. Applied research needs to be conducted before it can be extended to producers. My research focuses on applied aspects of insect-plant interactions as a basis to develop more sustainable pest management tools and strategies in fruit orchards. More specifically, my research seeks to develop behaviorally-based pest management tools such as attract-and-kill systems that are based on information from insect sensory ecology and behavior. Examples include odor-baited trap trees for plum curculio, mass trapping for Japanese beetles, and bait stations for invasive and native fruit flies. My research also seeks to integrate chemical, behavioral, and biological methods in insect control and a better understanding on the ecology of pests and their natural enemies.

My Extension program delivers timely and relevant research-based IPM information to fruit growers using a variety of methods. Through Extension activities, I seek to increase the level of awareness and adoption of IPM components by growers and to document impacts derived from my Extension activities. Successful adoption of IPM should lower input costs and decrease pesticide use, leading to increases in growers’ profit margins while decreasing the negative environmental impact associated with pesticide misuse and the risk of resistance. A list of grower-oriented articles is presented at the bottom of this page.
Jaime Piñero in front of a tree.

Director and University Distinguished Professor, Undergraduate & Graduate Faculty—Environmental & Soil Chemistry

A headshot of Baoshan Xing.
Our research in Environmental & Soil Chemistry focuses on the protection of our environment through maintaining/improving soil and water quality. Particular interests include: (1) environmental behavior and agricultural application of engineered nanomaterials, (2) analysis and environmental processes of micro(nano)plastics, (3) interactions between organic compounds and carbonaceous materials/mineral particles, (4) characterization and use of organic matter and biochar, and (5) food safety.
A headshot of Baoshan Xing.