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Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences

Contact Information:

Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2339
Moscow, Idaho 83844-2339

Phone: (208) 885-6274

Email: pses@uidaho.edu

Current Research

Conduct research alongside your professors. Current faculty research interests include:

  • Effects of Brassica meals on weeds, soilborne plant diseases and soil dwelling insects
  • Efficient, sustainable uses of animal wastes as nutrient sources for commercial crops and urban landscapes
  • Impacts of manure on soil microbe communities and soilborne plant diseases
  • Biologically based assessments of water quality, using such parameters as species diversity and community structure
  • Palouse Prairie ecosystem, including the newly rediscovered Giant Palouse Earthworm and nitrogen dynamics in Kentucky bluegrass seed production systems
  • Interactions between volcanic soils and land-management practices
  • Control of soilborne plant disease organisms using antagonistic bacteria and fungi
  • Bioremediation of soil pollutants
  • Soil-plant relationships and crop responses to fertilizer
  • Degradation and transformation processes in soils, especially nutrient cycling and the fate of agricultural chemicals


Activities

The Soil Stewards operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription program and offer opportunities to learn sustainable/organic production and marketing methods.

Gain leadership, organizational and communications skills with the Graduate and Professional Student Association. Or, advise our undergraduate soil judging team as it competes – usually quite successfully – at the state, regional and national levels.


Hands-On Experience

You’ll learn skills representing the breadth of the soil science discipline in your labs and enjoy the opportunity to collaborate with on- and off-campus faculty at their statewide research sites. But the highlight of your graduate experience will be the thesis or dissertation research that you design, conduct, analyze and write. Current and recent topics selected by our students include:

  • Studying the effects of Brassica seed meals on soil nitrogen and plant growth
  • Modeling and mapping volcanic ash in Idaho soils
  • Determining biogeochemical patterns of soils of Costa Rica’s Talamanca Foothills
  • Studying the pedogenesis of soils on 6,000-year-old lavas at Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • Examining how fertility and irrigation practices affect movement of phosphorous into groundwater
  • Researching carbon cycling and earthworm populations in Palouse grasslands
  • Assessing the risks of pesticide use in a Costa Rican watershed
  • Using molecular ecological methods to quantify biological control of the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotium by the nematode Trichoderma harzianum
  • Analyzing iron-reducing bacteria communities in wetland soils along the Coeur d’Alene River

The Inland Northwest Research Alliance, Idaho National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories enhance opportunities for research involvement. Our students have studied heavy metal-contaminated sediments due to mining in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Others have focused on selenium cycling or on the shrinkage and swelling of clay soils.


Breakthroughs & Discoveries

Our scientists have unlocked secrets of Brassica plants, discovering that specific chemicals in meals of rapeseed, canola and mustard can control weeds and soilborne pests. Next: development of a commercial product for agricultural uses.
 
They’ve also conducted research in environmental chemistry – specifically, the interaction of manganese with clay minerals – using a German-owned beamline at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France.


Facilities

Our collection of more than 240 soil monoliths – some up to 20 inches wide and others more than six feet deep – is the largest in the Western U.S. It allows students to compare side-by-side the various structures of soils representing all 12 orders. Our Analytical Sciences Laboratory is another key resource, conducting a wide variety of soil analyses for students and faculty.

Our campus-area plant science farms and off-campus research and extension centers offer excellent opportunities to learn about diverse soils in diverse cropping systems – from northern huckleberry plots to southwestern surface-irrigated onion fields to southeastern sprinkler-irrigated potatoes. You may also work alongside those studying the Panhandle’s woods or south central Idaho’s starkly beautiful lava rock craters. You might be particularly intrigued by a major study of the hydrology of the local Palouse, including soil erosion and subsurface movement of water, nutrients and contaminants.