Benjamin F. Tracy


1996 Ph.D. Syracuse University. Ecology.
1988 M.S. Penn State University. Environmental Pollution Control.
1986 B.A. Rutgers University. Biology.


2007- present. Associate Professor of Grassland Ecosystem Management, Virginia Tech
2007. Associate Professor of Agroecology , University of Illinois
2000-2006. Assistant Professor of Agroecology, University of Illinois -
1997-2000. Ecologist (Post-doctoral Associate), USDA-ARS  

Link to curriculum vita

Courses Taught

  • CSES 2444 - Agronomic Crops
  • CSES 4354 - Advanced Agronomic Crops
  • CSES 5214 - Soil Plant Relationships

Other Teaching and Advising
Coordinating Counselor, Crop and Soil Sciences

Program Focus

My long-term research goal is to find ways that optimize the use of plant diversity in agricultural systems to improve farm productivity and environmental quality.  Most of my research has focused on plant communities in pasture systems, but I have also studied integrated crop-livestock systems.  In pastures, I have been studying whether increased forage species diversity can help improve forage yield, reduce weed invasion and boost animal performance.  Studies have been conducted using common cool-season pasture communities (e.g., tall fescue, white clover), and more recently with native prairie plants. Other current research  projects include work related to grass-fed beef production systems in the Mid-Atlantic region and the ecology of native warm-season grasses in forage-livestock systems.

Role of Graduate Students

Graduate students play a vital role in my research program.  They carry out field experiments, analyze data, prepare manuscripts and present their research at national and regional meetings.  While each graduate student has his or her own research project, students in my program are expected to work together.  Collective activities not only help reduce work load, but they provide students with valuable learning experiences.  My role as advisor is to provide guidance and support for graduate students so they will be successful – not only in graduate school but in future careers.  That level of guidance varies with the individual, and I try to adjust my advisory role based on student needs.

Future Research

Although there are many predictions about future food demand, even the most optimistic scenarios require increases in food production of at least 50% in the next half century.  Much of this demand will likely be for more meat and dairy products.  Providing this amount of “new” food with minimal impacts on the environment will be a great challenge.  To do this, it seems clear that we will have to manage existing land more intensively. Better management of hay and pastureland and use of intensive, crop-livestock systems will likely become increasingly important in coming years.  

 Extension Program

My extension program focuses on grassland and pasture ecosystem management with emphasis on grazing systems and ecosystem services provided by these systems.  I help conduct workshops, short courses, and Extension in-service trainings related to this area.  Dissemination of research findings though extension bulletins, popular press articles and presentations to producer groups also make up a large part of my Extension activities. 

Extension philosophy

My role as an Extension Specialist is primarily to serve and support county/regional Extension Agents in the Commonwealth who need assistance with grassland/forage programs or need information about these systems to aid local producers.


Dr. Ben Tracy
  • (540) 231-8259
  • 185 Ag Quad Lane
    335 Smyth Hall
    Blacksburg, Virginia