Ph.D., Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, 1996
B.S., Agricultural, Food and Environmental Chemistry, University of Glasgow, Scotland, 1992
2010 - Present - Associate Professor, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech. 75% Extension, 25% Research
2006 - 2010 - Assistant Professor, Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech. 75% Extension, 25% Research
2003 - 2006 - Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University
1998 - 2003 - Post Doctoral Research Associate August, University of Delaware
Farming activities, especially animal production, have been coming under increasing regulatory pressures for many years, due to concerns over excessive losses of nutrients that can harm water quality. My research and extension activities revolve around improving the efficiency of manure nutrient management, using innovative approaches to protect the environment while enhancing the profitability and sustainability of farming systems. This involves several approaches, from changing how we land apply manure, chemically treating manure to change its characteristics and alternate uses such as manure to energy.
Graduate students are central to my research program. I do primarily field based, applied research and my graduate students maintain field plots where they collect their research samples. I think it is very important for graduate students to build their resume, so not only do they publish their research results, but I include them in extension activities that revolve around field days at their field sites. All of my graduate students travel to national meetings and present their work, which helps their professional development and lets them network with other scientists.
I have several projects that aim to improve the efficiency of manure management. These include using new technologies to inject liquid or dry manures under the soil surface. This dramatically decreases nutrient losses in runoff during rain storms, and helps prevent ammonia volatilization so that more nitrogen is available to crops. I will be comparing these injection technologies to standard surface applications, and measuring nutrient losses in runoff, ammonia volatilization and response of crops to the nitrogen we are keeping in the soil system. I also have ongoing projects looking at converting manure into biochar, which is a beneficial soil amendment, and looking into technologies to prevent ammonia losses from poultry houses.
I am supervisor of the Soil Testing Laboratory at Virginia Tech (www.soiltest.vt.edu), and also conduct training for nutrient management planners, who must become certified before they can write nutrient management plans for regulated farms. The rest of my Extension program is closely linked to my research program, as I use my field sites to demonstrate new technologies to farmers and other stakeholders.
Extension is a balance of teaching what we already know, which is what we do through the Soil Testing Laboratory, and testing new technologies. Before farmers change their practices and adopt new technologies, it is essential that they can see these new technologies working locally. Hearing that a new technology works half way across the county in different climatic zones, soils and cropping systems is not sufficient, so local testing and demonstrations are essential. Therefore I use new technologies to establish research plots on local farms. The research from these plots shows whether or not the new technology works in the local situation, and the plots also serve for practical demonstrations at field days to teach stakeholders about how the technologies work.