Ph.D., Ruminant Nutrition, University of Florida, 1999
M.S., Forage Agronomy, Virginia Tech, 1995
B.S., Science Education, Wake Forest University, 1988
2006 - Present - Associate Professor, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech
2000 - Assistant Professor, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech
1995 - 1999 - Research Assistant, Dairy and Poultry Sciences, University of Florida
1992 - 1995 - Research Assistant, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech
My research efforts have two distinct focus areas:
Biofuel cropping research currently is focused on testing the aboveground primary productivity of different potential feedstock candidates and their environmental suitability. Management effects (including fertility and harvest timing) on productivity and downstream processing are critical issues to the value of these fuels and central to our efforts. We are also exploring ways to utilize bio-energy process co-products to improve soils and increase both system output and economic viability. Forage livestock research is directed toward understanding soil-plant-animal interactions in forage-livestock production systems. The bulk of this work has placed emphasis on measures of pasture system performance (e.g., forage production and nutritive value and animal output). Incorporating trees into forage-livestock systems offers great opportunities to improve animal well-being, bolster environmental quality, increase system output, and strengthen farm economies. These efforts reflect my current and long-term goals of finding production methods for pasture systems that are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.
Graduate students are the heart of my research program. Two Ph.D. students currently are working in the bioenergy arena. Xiaojun Liu is exploring the potential to use waste products (in this case, biosolids) to sustainably produce feedstocks for the biorefinery. Chris Fields-Johnson is investigating the value of biochar for improving soil quality and its potential impact on feedstock production in dystrophic and reclaimed mine soils. An MS student, Lele Kimball, will begin work this fall exploring tree management effects on forage and tree interactions in silvopasture systems.
Future research will focus more on the potential environmental impacts and benefits of a coming bioenergy industry. With a colleague in biological systems engineering, I have recently put in biofuel plots to compare effects of bioenergy crops vs. traditional land use (pasture) in terms of the volume and quality of water runoff. Additional efforts in the bioenergy arena will focus on crop system management and the impacts on carbon cycling. For silvopasture research, our challenge and goal is to find new tree-forage combinations that support high forage production and quality while also increasing land equivalency ratio.
Although I have no extension program, I routinely have spoken with agency personnel and producer groups about silvopasture systems as well as about bioenergy system potential. I also serve as an academic adviser to the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council. I greatly enjoy these activities; the exchange of ideas gives me new insights for enquiry and furthers my understanding of the challenges facing producers.