Lab news

08/04/2021: Congratulations to Leah on publishing the last chapter fo her thesis in Environmental Research Letter! "Long-term crop rotation diversification enhances maize drought resistance through soil organic matter". Check it out here. Long awaited evidence that soil organic matter buffers against drought effects on maize yield and water status. More work needs to be done to elucidate the mechanisms, and we are on it! 

07/22/2021: Wonderful work by Vanessa Brisson publishing her research on how P shifts root exudate composition and microbial community in teosinte and modern maize in Phytobiomes Journal. Hopefully we will be able to explore more genetic diversity soon. Pre print available here

06/18/2021: I have now finalized recruitment and welcome 4 new lab members this summer/fall! Welcome everyone and looking forward to our lab retreat in September. 

  • Dr. Andrea Leptin, Project Scientist. We will be investigating regulation of plant microbes interactions by grasses root functional traits and impacts on N cycling and acquisition in low input systems. Funded by DOE, see more here
  • Dr Daniel Ortiz, Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow. We will be working on developing and testing cost-effective methods to detect, classify and monitor sustainability outcomes of agroforestry systems in Latin America and maybe CA! 
  • Thomas Fetzner, incoming PhD student in GGHA. Tommy will be working on integrated sheep vineyard systems and build on Kelsey's research to conduct system level analysis across the landscape. Funded by Ecdysis
  • Peter Goeghan, incoming PhD student in SBG/GGE. Peter will support the development of activities associated with the endowment and conduct research at the Century Experiment

06/11/2021: I am pleased and truly honored to have been selected as Endowed Chair in Agroecology at UC Davis. We have big plans to organize our community into a Research Working Group in Agroecology to catalyze collaborative and transdisciplinary research in Agroecology across CA and setup a Fellowship program for Undergraduates. 

06/08/2021: Well it's a wrap for PLS150! What a great cohort of engaged and passionate students: I want to thank students for showing up, doing the work and pulling through the quarter. Although the virtual teaching environment has challenged all of us, I am proud of the class we put together with my amazing TAs and looking forward to next year!  

05/05/2021: It has been very insightful, stimulating and an honor to contribute to the upcoming IPCC 6th Assessment Report (Chapter 5, ‘Food, fibre and other services from managed ecosystems’ for working group II) under the leadership of Rachel Bezner Kerr and Toshihiro Hasegawa. Thank you to Sequoia and Alex for their invaluable help reviewing the literature for the feasibility assessments of organic agriculture and landscape scale approaches to production. 

03/30/2021: I connected with researchers in New Zealand today when giving a virtual keynote at Plant & Food Research, a government-owned Crown Research Institute. Thanks for the invitation and I hope it will prime some innovative interdisciplinary collaborations between our institutions to better understand the role and potential of biodiversity for resilience. 

03/19/2021: Getting ready to teach PLS150 - Sustainable Agroecosystem Management. Complete course redesign this year; I am looking forward to trying the new approaches and case studies we have been developing for online teaching. Hopefully it will be smoother than last year! Grateful for my talented TAs Alex, Kelsey and Krista

03/18/2021: First virtual field day to outreach research and best management practices for cover cropping in orchard systems with Vivian and Kat Jarvis-Shean. Thanks you to Kamyar Aram (UCCE, Contra Costa & Alameda Counties) and the local RCD for putting this together! 

03/03/2021: What a pleasure to host Dr. Sieglinde Snapp for our departmental Seminar Series. She shared example of diversity driving sustainable outcomes in Malawi farming systems and her insight on Participatory Action Research got us all inspired to do more. I am also looking forward to working with her and the team on the DRIVES (Diverse Rotation Induce Valuable Ecosystem Services) project we have been dreaming about for so long! 

03/01/2021: There is no doubt that quantifying the water footprint of diversification practices, in particular cover crop, is of prime importance to enhance adoption and tackle a major knowledge gap in our irrigated landscape. I am thrilled to be working with Kosana Suvocarev and Jon Lundgren at Ecdysis with funding from General Mills to do just that in Almond systems! 

02/26/2021: Fantastic day in the field looking at some cover crops in orchards with Vivian. How I miss having more time to talk and learn from growers...Thanks to Ben King for hosting us! 

02/20/2021: New year, new website! Thanks to Mariana for her precious help. 

02/09/2021: Great opportunity today to share results on Soil Health outcomes we observe at the Century experiment at Russell Ranch with a vibrant community of practitioners and researchers during the WSU Soil health conference. Great panel of experts and always glad to meet and touch base with colleagues.  

02/04/2021: Today I gave an interview to a wonderful group of Professor for the Future Fellows. I am so impressed by their creativity, organization and excellence. I shared my own challenges and practical knowledge to help prepare graduate students and postdoctoral scholars for the next stages of their career. More than anything, I hope all will appreciate the beauty of being an educator and mentor and the importance of compassion and considering/fostering diverse perspectives and experiences. 

02/25/2021: This week marks the third year that I am teaching a 1 week module titled Agroecology in the United States to graduate students in the Agroecology program at Agrocampus Ouest in France. We spent some time exploring Agroforestry and designing systems for different objectives in California. Very interesting exchanges with students and professors and I really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Agroecology as a practice, science and movement in Europe. 

02/20/2021: Congratulations to Lindsay Dahlen on her MSc! Lindsay is starting an exciting job in the industry with Valent Biosciences. I am wishing you all the best! 

02/03/2021: Yes! Sequoia successfully transferred from an MSc to a PhD degree in Soils and Biogeochemistry. I love when this happens and glad to see her hard work and original contribution recognized. 

01/04/2021: Congratulation to Pedro and team on publishing our exploration of a 16-year dataset from an integrated soybean-beef cattle experiment to measure the impacts of grazing on the stability of key crop, pasture, animal and whole-system. Our various stability metrics show that livestock integration into soybean systems improves long-term system stability and profits without compromising crop yields. Read more here. It has been pleasure to host Pedro in the lab and work with Emilio Laca and my Brazilian colleagues on this important research. 


11/16/2020: What a great experience was our Tri society meeting this year, although I missed reconnecting and chatting with colleagues in the hallways. I enjoyed watching talks at my own pace and participating to panels and roundtables. I am looking forward to leading the Sustainable Intensification Community in 2021. 

11/02/2020: Congratulations to Dr Leah Renwick and Dr Caitlin Peterson, two former PhD students, on publishing their thesis work in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems this month. Also congratulations to Joshua Garcia, undergrad McNair Scholar in the lab 2016-2018: we finally published his research in Journal of Plant Nutrition! Great examples of independent research and collaborative work! So (so) proud.

  • Renwick et al: “Maize-pigeonpea intercropping outperforms monocultures under drought” in a special issue on “Diversifying Farming Systems for Adaptive Capacity”
  • Peterson et al: “Resilience of an integrated crop-livestock system to climate change: a simulation analysis of cover crop grazing in southern Brazil”
  • Garcia et al: “Impact of an Antarctic Rhizobacterium on Root Traits and Productivity of Soybean” 

10/20/2020: Now I am really excited! Our proposal ““Enhancing ecosystem services from cover crops in Almond systems” to the USDA-AFRI Foundational Program: Foundational Knowledge of Agricultural Production Systems and recommended for funding. Third time is the charm. Thrilled to be able to retain Vivian for 4 more years. 

10/05/2020: We got awarded a 5 year project to study plant microbes interactions in the grass rhizosphere and potential to improve NUE with a great team of scientists at LBNL, USDA and UCSD! Looking for a project Scientist to lead this project. Apply here !

09/30/2020: First day of class and thrilled to be back teaching HRT200A to a new cohort of graduate students. Despite the circumstances, it remains my favorite time of the year. We have also resumed lab meetings and group reflections to enhance equity and inclusiveness of practicing, researching and teaching Agroecology. Let’s keep going and continue supporting each others.

09/25/2020: Had a great time talking about our research at the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminar Series at the University of Pennsylvania today. I shared insight from the work lead by Vanessa Brisson and Jen Schmidt to better understand the potential of plant-microbes interactions to enhance N cycling and acquisition in maize. Our extended virtual world has some advantages, reducing the horrendous carbon footprint associated with flying around the country to give a lecture/seminar!

09/15/2020: Kelsey published his first manuscript in SBG conceptualizing his research: “Potential of crop-livestock integration to enhance carbon sequestration and agroecosystem functioning in semi-arid croplands”. Very well done! 

09/08/2020: Congratulations to Leah Renwick on graduating! Well deserved PhD in Hort and Ag and MSc in International Ag Development. It has been such a joy to work with Leah over these last 5 years, lot’s to be proud of, stay tuned for the papers! She will be moving to Chile, pursuing new original research in Agroecology. We will also both be participating to the development and teaching of a new Master program in Agroecologia at the Universidad de Chile. Knowing that I’ll continue working with Leah makes this moment less bitter sweet for sure!

08/o3/2020: We are thrilled to welcome Dr Vivian Wauters to our team. Vivian will be working on participatory development of a set of best management practices for cover crops in Almond systems (and much more in the future!). This work, funded by the Almond Board of California, will integrate past efforts to understand barriers to adoption and potential benefits of winter cover crop on soil and bee and environmental health to propose best management guidelines relevant to growers. From research to practices! 

07/13/2020: Go silvopastures! Liz Carlisle and Niki Mazaroli, in collaboration with many others, will be leveraging existing efforts to “identify, document, and distribute information about silvopasture systems and producers in California”. Looking forward to build on Kelsey and Krista‘s research and advance agroforestry in CA!

07/07/2020: We got awarded a grant from USDA to support a multi-state investigation of the potential benefits of livestock integration through cover-crop grazing in vegetable systems, including effects on soil health and potential food safety issues. This work builds on the research we have done at RR and is lead by Alda Pires at the School of veterinary medicine and myself in partnership with The Organic Center, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and the University of Minnesota. Sequoia will be actively working on this project!

06/12/2020: We are now able to ramp up activities in the lab at reduced capacity (one person/day/room) and following general guidelines for PPE  and distancing established by UCD.  This is a good news but longing to go back to the office and coffee with the team!

06/01/2020: Out of the vacuum of online teaching! Thank you students and TA for your patience and hard work. 

Other updates and good news:

03/30/2020: Here we go, first day of online teaching…..thanks to KristaKelsey and Alex for being amazing TAs and helping with converting this hands-on active learning course to an online platform. Finger crossed. 

03/20/2020: Congrats to Emad, Meng, Caity and Jen who got papers accepted/published this week! Some good news in these stressful times.

03/13/2020: I have decided to close the lab and offices and not wait for official closure of the University – be safe and keep healthy.

02/14/2020: TENURED!! A very big thank to my team for the support and hard work!  

02/10/2020: And a third place for Best poster – well done Krista. 

02/03/2020: We are ready for the California Plant and soil Conference in Fresno! First time attending for all of us: Sequoia and Kelsey will be sharing some of their results on impacts of integrated crop livestock system on soil health metrics and nutrient cycling, Krista and Leah will focus on soil health potential in Almond systems and drought adaption in tomato system respectively. I’ll share, once again, a summary of impacts of cover crops in Almond orchard systems. 

01/25/2020: It’s always a great experience to attend the EcoFarm conference. Valerie Eviner and I co-presented our work and thoughts on the opportunities and challenges in managing agroecosystems for resilience under a changing climate to organic farmers. 

01/07/2020: I am grateful for the opportunity to participate to the “Farming in the new Normal” workshop . Very diverse full-day program for growers and ranchers put together by multiple stakeholders to share  adaptation strategies. I presented an overview of how adopting cover crops in Almond orchard systems might help.   


12/15/2019: Vacations! Let’s recharge to make 2020 a success with lot’s of transitioning ahead of us: graduations, new team members and research….it will be about finding the right balance/integration to do it all while keeping the stress at bay and enjoying life, friends and family. See you all in 2020 and thank you for 2019! 

12/11/2019: I presented a summary of our research on Cover Crop in Almond system at the California Almond Conference — we are grateful for grower support of this research and the increasing interest it is receiving. Let’s bust myths and work toward making this practice a reality across the Central Valley! 

12/10/2019: My HRT200A Principles of Agronomy and Horticulture class is over: Bitter sweet, it was really fun this year to discuss the linkages between agricultural systems design, management and outcomes with an engaged cohort of graduate students. The lens we used (GxExM) was insightful for students to appreciate their role as researchers and the complexities and interdisciplinarity needed to develop effective solutions to current and future socio-ecological challenges agriculture is facing. 

11/25/2019: Congratulations to Jennifer and Vanessa on publishing their work on rhizosphere assembly across ag systems and genotypes in Microbiome and Scientific reports respectively. Well done! 

11/14/2019: What a successful Tri Societies conference! Outstanding representation from my students. 

  • Leah came home with 2nd place in the SSSA society-wide student presentation competition!
  • Lindsay gave her first poster presentation and we reconnected with Dr Caity Peterson who synthesized 5 years of PhD research very effectively. 
  • As for myself, I got great feedback and new ideas after my invited talk “Toward harnessing the potential of plant-soil microbe interactions to enhance maize N cycling and acquisition”. 

11/04/2019: Well, I did my first Radio Show in Spanish on KDVS yesterday. Talking about my passions, Agriculture and Ecology! Listen here. More than anything, I was very impressed by the energy, ideas and dedication at this student/volunteer-led radio despite the clear lack of resources and support from UCD -…very shameful for a university advocating inclusive environments and student engagement. 

10/24/2019: Demystifying on farm beneficial microbes! Glad to have been part of a Farmer Spotlight outreach event put together by Margaret Loyd (UCCE Farm Advisor) where I shared, along with Farmers and other UCD profs, some insights on “the ins and outs of managing on-farm soil microbes”. Joint panels where academics and farmers are contributing are so much more effective (not that we know a lot about it though!).  

10/22/2019. Jen and I gave a joined seminar as part of our Plant Science Fall series: “Conducting the rhizosphere symphony:How do plants change their tune?”. It was a very rewarding experience and great mentoring opportunity to co-present with my talented PhD student! 

10/11/2019: Fortunate to have had an opportunity to join a field tour organized by CalCAN to demonstrate climate solutions offered through sustainable agricultural practices to Governor Newsom’s advisors and highlight the importance of soils to both adapt to and mitigate climate change.  Hopefully it will result in more funding for technical assistance and research! 

09/16/2019: First lab blog post from Krista available! She is sharing reflections about her first season of field work. Give it a read

09/11/2019: Tenure talk today – you can see my slides here and I hope to post the recording soon.  It’s been very rewarding to put all of this together and THANK YOU to my team for making this possible. 

09/06/2019: I was at our departmental teaching retreat this week: I am thrilled to see that Agroecology will get a front seat in the new Plant Science major and be coupled with the current crop production curriculum. Much awaited changes and thanks to all my colleagues and students for supporting this endeavor!  

08/19/2019: Presented at Weed School @ UCD today an overview of the impacts of weeds and their management on Soil Health – I spent way too much time preparing for this but the topic is fascinating and an area I would like to explore in the future. It is also very rewarding to see professional advisors interested in this and the difference one lecture might make…..

08/14/2019: Glad to be joining the Western Cover Crop Council to advance coordinated efforts regarding cover crop testing, optimization and adoption in CA cropping systems, and especially Almonds. 

08/10/2019: Congrats to Meng on publishing her analysis of yield trends and yield stability in different tomato cropping systems of the Century Experiment at Russell Ranch in Scientific Reports – more to come on this dataset!  

07/12/2019: Jen Meng and I presented at the Rhizosphere 5 conference. Came back energized with new research projects in mind thanks to stimulating presentations and conversations with colleagues. Congrats to Jen on her Travel Award and Meng on her Best Poster Award! 

06/12/2019: The Russell Ranch field day was a success- Great showcase of agroecology in action for a sustainable and multifunctional agriculture in California. 

06/03/2019: Congratulations to Jen and the Casteel and Vannette labs for publishing our work on management control of rhizosphere communities in tomatoes in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Thanks CTRI for the support. 

05/30/2019: Caity graduated! Dr.Peterson….First PhD student from the lab! I have had such a great time working with Caity on this project. we will miss here dearly. 

05/21/2019: Outstanding presentation from Kelsey of our work on integrated sheep vineyard systems at the World Agroforestry Congress in Montpellier. Very well done. 

05/16/2019: Can’t believe it’s been 6 months already: Pedro AA Nunes, PhD visiting Scholar from Brazilwith Paulo Carvalho at UFRGS  is going back – it was a very productive stay and we made great progress in better understanding the stability and resilience outcomes of livestock integration in these systems. Stay tunes for the paper! 

04/29/2019: Congratulations to Krista for being awarded an FFAR fellowship (2019-2022)! This program will give her an opportunity to develop a professional development project and connect with mentors across the US.

04/02/2019: Kelsey and I presented our collaborative teamwork on sheep grazing in vineyard at a workshop in Napa. Thank you Napa RCD for putting such an informative program together, this practice is definitively gaining momentum. Always good to hang out with Kaos Sheep Outfit as well and watch them grow as contract grazers.

03/25/2019: Launching of our website compiling 10 years of research on whole orchard recycling. Webinar is posted as well. Excellent work from UC SAREP. I have learned a great deal about outreach in the process.

03/21/2019: We organized our first field day to share results of our work on cover cropping in Almond – Well attended, interesting questions and refreshing to feel so much interest from stakeholders! thank you team

03/07/2019: Congrats to Caity on publishing her article “Winter grazing does not affect soybean yield despite lower soil water content in a subtropical crop-livestock system.” in Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Well done.  

03/07/2019: We are thrilled to have Sequoia transition from a Junior Specialist to MSc student in the lab starting September. Sequoia will be taking the lead in investigating whether grazing cover crops add benefits to soil ecosystems and system productivity at Russell Ranch.

03/07/2019: Congrats to Vanessa and Jen on publishing their article “A New Method to Correct for Habitat Filtering in Microbial Correlation Networks. ” in Frontiers in Microbiology!

03/06/2019: CalCAN climate summit was a success. Thanks you to Caity and Valerie Eviner for helping conceptualizing our session and putting together a though provoking talk around opportunities and challenges of managing for resilience in both intensive and more extensively managed systems. Always good to meet and get feedback from colleagues and stakeholders!

02/13/2019: Cover crops are growing, sheep are grazing, students are sampling and lab is buzzing — what a great time. 

02/12/2019: I shared our results on soil health as a building block of resilience as part of the NRCS webinar series. You can watch it here. Thanks to the ~372 participants for their great questions and engagement!

02/05/2019: Thank you to Angela Kent at University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for her invitation to give a cross department seminar on Rhizosphere Ecology and Agricultural Sustainability. Insightful feedback, stimulating discussions and new connections for future research always make it worth flying across the country. The high carbon footprint of flying has made me reluctant to travel far for 20-50 minutes talks, especially since we now have new ways of connecting! 

02/01/2019: Leah is now off to Tanzania for 6 months as part of her IAD double major to test drought resilience of intercrops schemes in maize in collaboration with Todd Rosenstock and others at ICRAF. Exciting to see Leah taking so much leadership in empirically testing the “climate-smartiness” of these practices (is that a word?). 

01/29/2019: Kick off of our soil health in Almond project. We are prospecting for growers orchards and having very interesting discussions with practitioners around the perceived benefits and research needs. More info here

01/18/2019: Had a great visit with NRCS staff and Xerces at the Lockfort Plant Material Center. An impressive amount of plant species are being evaluated as summer cover crops. Lots’ of potential, I hope we’ll be able to conduct some research there soon.   

01/10/2019: Well, the annual SSSA meeting was a success. Three posters presented by the team and one talk in a dream session around soils as drivers of multifunctionality organized by Tim Bowles and his colleagues. Lots to process. Looking forward to a reunited Tri society meeting next year

01/03/2019: We welcome Pedro AA Nunes, PhD visiting Scholar for Brazil working on ICLS with Paulo Carvalho at UFRGS. Pedro will be working in close collaboration with Emilio Laca to explore resilience and stability outcomes of re-integrating beef/pasture phase in corn-soybean systems in Brazil. 

01/02/2019: After some well deserved vacations, we are now starting this new year full of energy, with exciting new collaborations and discoveries. Looking forward to working with you all and thank you team for your hard work! Lot’s of accomplishments to be proud of. 


12/04/2018: Another successful Almond Board conference this year – Lot’s of interest in cover crop and soil health. Thank you to the students from all labs for developing such great outreach material and activities. 

11/23/2018: Travelled to France to visit Agrocampus Ouest in Rennes to develop new collaborations around ecosystem services assessments in diversified systems across scales and rhizosphere ecology. My goals was also to champion a new MOU between our two institutions to promote student and faculty mobility and teach a small module in their new master program in Agroecology. Needless to say, it is also always good to be home! 

11/13/2018: Glad to share here a wonderful video sponsored by Fibershed explaining a bit more about our collective work on integrated sheep vineyard systems in California.  

11/10/2018: Presented our work on integrated sheep vineyard systems at the Wool Symposium (Fibershed) yesterday. Truly enjoyed exchanging with the grazer community and discussing ways to better integrate our work with the Climate Beneficial Wool initiative. 

11/09/2018:  Welcome to Sequoia Williams, new Junior Specialist in the lab. Sequoia will be supporting our Almond projects and manage the lab. Glad to have you! 

11/01/2018:  I am glad to serve as an Associate Editor for Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems with Claire Kremen as Chief Editor. My editorial services will be to the Sustainable Intensification and Ecosystem Services section. 

10/26/2018: Spent a week in New Zealand with researchers from Ag ResearchRachael Garrett (BU) and Meredith Niles (UVM) learning about livestock reintegration into vineyards, which is the norm in New Zealand, and exploring modeling approaches to quantify benefits and tradeoffs. I came back full of ideas and motivated to work toward optimizing this practice for CA. It can be done!  

10/11/2018: We successfully obtained a new CDFA SCBG to study sheep integration into vineyards and setup a replicated trial at Napa RCD demonstration Vineyards in collaboration with Kaos Sheep Outfit and Fibershed. Kelsey’s research is now funded!

09/24/2018: Quarter has started! glad to be teaching HRT200A to our new graduate student cohort.

09/11/2018: Congratulations to Vanessa for getting a “real job” at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab! Fortunately for us, she will still dedicate some time to her current project.  These have been productive two years and I have truly enjoyed working with her. Wishing you the best of luck. 

09/06/2018: Participated to writing the CalCAN recommendations to the incoming California Governor. Our cover crop project is featured p 35. I hope that California will continue to lead the way in adapting to climate change and scale up agroecological approaches.  

09/05/2018:Welcome to our two new graduate students Krista Marshall (PhD) and Lindsay Dahlen (MsC)!

09/02/2018: Congrats to our team on publishing a timely review on shifts in N dynamics with climate change in Nature Sustainability!  

07/28/2018: Met this week at Iowa State university with all my colleagues involved in managing long-term trials of corn cropping systems. Russell Ranch is so unique! We hope to be working toward developing more integrated data mining efforts to measure the impacts of diversification on ecosystem services, multi-functionality and sustainability outcomes of corn cropping systems. We will also aim to improve coordination of our research projects.  

07/02/2018: Vanessa will be presenting a short talk + poster at ISME. She will share a novel approach to analyzing microbial co-occurence networks and how to tease apart habitat filtering effects when samples are combined. 

06/11/2018: One more successful field day at Russell Ranch this year. Meng and I presented our work on the impacts of management on root systems and their associated microbes and out investigations of water stress resilience in conventional vs organic tomato production systems. Thank you to all who attended! More here on the Plant Sc. blog.  

06/05/2018: Appointed as Section Chief for Annals of Botany Plants (AoBP, Oxford press) to be re-launched in July under the expert chief edition of Tom Buckley here at UCD. I will be in charge of the Agroecology and Environment section. 

06/01/2018: Talked to Tom Willey on the radio show Down On the Farm at KFCF (88.1FM Fresno) about crop roots in Agroecosystems . Podcast here along with some other very interesting conversations Tom has had with various scientists over the years. This was really fun! 

05/20/2018: Congrats to Jen for getting her meta analysis of efficacy of bio fertilizers on maize yields published in FEMS microbiology letters.   

05/09/2018: Welcome to our two new graduate students Krista Marshall (PhD) and Lindsay Dahlen (MsC), both in Hort&Agronomy. Kelsey, currently Junior Specialist in the lab, will also start his MsC this fall (Soil BioGeochemistry) building on his current research on sheep grazing in vineyard. More about their projects soon. Looking forward to the Fall! 

05/01/2018: We were awarded a CDFA Healthy soil demonstration grant to boost outreach and carbon sequestration measurements in our Almond cover crop project – Thanks Cynthia and Xia for your precious help in putting this together! 

04/20/2018: Congratulations to Cynthia for obtaining a Western SARE Graduate Student Award and Annie Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship to support her cover crop in Almond project. Very well done. 

04/05/2018: Ready for panel discussion today, talking about GHG mitigating potential of healthy soils at the Coalition for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Meeting in Sacramento. Thanks for the invitation. Always a pleasure to team up with Kate Scow (UCD) and Karen Lowell (NRCS)! 

03/10/2018: Kick start of PLS150! 16 sheep grazing half of our orchard grass/clover cover crop in our long term class experiment. Spring quarter will be fun. 

02/28/2018: Congratulations to Caity and Jen on new papers published:

02/22/2018:  Gave seminar at UC Berkeley/USDA-ARS upon invitation from Devin Colemann Derr. Thank you, great discussions with researchers and grad students on rhizosphere ecology and plant-microbes interactions.

01/25/2018: Presented some insight on soil health in integrated crop livestock systems in California at the 9th Annual Agroforestry Symposium  held at the University of Missouri.

01/09/2018: The lab joined the PABGAP program. This program seeks to provide University undergraduates from underrepresented minorities with experience that will prepare them for graduate study in plant agricultural biology.  We will be hosting and mentoring Zakiyah Brannen-Buxton this summer.

01/04/2018: Great article covering our work exploring the impacts of domestication and breeding on maize micorbiome and functions. Jen was interviewed while presenting her work at AGU. Read more here 

01/02/2018: Ready for the new year. A big thank you to all the lab for their hard work! Also getting ready to teach ECL216 Ecology and Agriculture this quarter. 


11/28/2017: Thanks to Mike Kolomiet for the invitation to present our work as part of the Texas A&M seminar series in the PLPM Department. Talked about our work toward developing integrated root ideotypes to build sustainability and resilience. Great input to move forward. 

11/15/2017: Great interactions at the Soil Health Summit in Sacramento with growers, RCDs and members of the private industry. I discussed the services provided by healthier soils, from resilience to drought (Leah’s work) to insect pests (Jen and others in the casteel and Vannette lab). 

09/22/2017: Welcome to Cynthia Creze, a new PhD student in the lab. Cynthia will be conducting both mechanistic studies and system-wide evaluations of the ecosystem benefits and tradeoffs of different cover crop mixtures in Almond production systems. Her work also includes a grower survey to better understand barrier to adoption and develop a coherent and relevant research agenda. Next step: integrate sheep to terminate the cover crop!  

09/08/2017: Spent a lot of time talking to growers and farm advisors in California over the last two weeks. Came back with a sense that most production problems I heard off are linked to poor soil health. Looking forward to build up on this momentum to engage them in our cover crop and integrated crop livestock system research! 

08/31/2017: Lot’s of achievements this quarter. First student to graduate from the lab: congrats Emily on a well-deserved MSc., first qualifying exams for PhD students as well! Congratulations to Josh as well who obtained an NSF fellowship to start his graduate studies at Cornell. Very proud of you all.

Meanwhile, we are wrapping up summer experiments and looking forward to sharing results at the following conferences:

  • ASA, Tampa Florida: Does soil health drives increased irrigation water productivity in tomato cropping systems? Poster
  • ISHS International Symposium on Almond and Pistachios. Adelaide Australia, 11/05/2017: Potential of whole orchard recycling to increase resiliency of almond production to water shortages. Poster
  • Soil Health in Diverse Cropping System event at the 9th Agroforestry Symposium. U of Missouri, 01/25/2018. Capitalizing on the soil health movement to promote multi-functional agricultural systems: insight from California. Keynote 

07/18/2017: New projects funded by the Almond Board of California to quantify ecosystem services provided by various cover crop mixtures in Almond orchards across a soil/rainfall gradient. Can we optimize mixes to enhance benefits and multifunctionality of almond orchards?  This large collaborative effort will evaluate multiple aspects of more biodiverse floor management, from water conservation and shift in weed pressure to soil health, soil food web and pollinator services. 

06/09/2017: Russell Ranch field day coming up! Will be talking about 1) integrated fertility and pest management and how healthier soil can help decrease plant attractiveness to leafhoppers and decrease the impact of the virus they vector. we will also be presenting a poster balancing benefits and tradeoffs of conversion to drip irrigation in organic systems. 

06/08/2017: Part of the lab attended the SES annual meeting and soil health summit – inspiration and lot’s to chew on! 

05/30/2017: New paper setting the stage of our research in integrated crop livestock system published. Congrats team. 

04/06/2017: Welcome to Meng Li, our new postdoctoral fellow in the lab. Meng will be investigating linkages between rhizosphere mechanisms and productivity under optimal/stress conditions. Megan Machmullerfrom CSU will also join us to perform key experiments on maize rhizosphere as affected by breeding. Welcome!

04/05/2017: Caitlin wrote a very nice article sharing her experience in the Brazilian soybean field this summer in the GGE Aggie Brickyard. Check it out (p17-18) Here

03/06/2017: Congrats to Joshua who made it into a PhD program at Cornell with an NSF fellowship! well deserved. 

03/06/2017: New paper in Trends in Plant Science on root ideotypes for irrigated Ag. Congrats Jen!

02/24/2017: Very excited about upcoming presentations and seminars:

02/24/2017: Welcome to Emad Jahanzad, our new postdoctoral fellow who will lead the lab research program on the importance of diversification and soil health to building sustainable and resilient Almond orchards.  Emad will join in May. Welcome! 

02/13/2017: Presented today a Policy Brief to the California Senate “Leveraging research to build climate smart agricultural systems in California”. Thanks to CalCAN for the opportunity, I truly enjoyed the exercise.

02/01/2017: Our continuing CTRI grant was approved to dig deeper into beneficial impacts of soil health management practices on insect suppressiveness in tomato and the underlying mechanisms (rhizosphere ecology –Vannette Lab– and defense compounds – Casteel Lab-). 

01/21/2017: Welcome to Vanessa Brisson, our new postdoctoral fellow who will work with John Vogel and I on exploring the impacts of maize improvement on recruitment of beneficial microbes. Vanessa brings tremendous experience in bioinformatics to the lab! 



11/09/2016: Our work with Scott Park and funded by OFRF aiming at developing integrated irrigation management strategies to improve water and nutrient use efficiency of organic processing tomato in California was featured in nice video! Check it out!

11/21/2016: POST DOC POSITION AVAILABLE – To apply, please visit

11/09/2016: Video of our project monitoring the long-term impact of drip irrigation on soil health and fertility management in organic tomato systems at Russell Ranch was presented at ASA this year. See 5-minute video here. 

10/20/2016: The EcoFAB project is off the ground! Looking forward to collaborating with the LBNL to monitor the ecological outcome of potentially lost or gained plant-microbe interactions during domestication and breeding. 

10/10/2016: I am very honored to be the recipient of the 2016 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Award from the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR). The award will help fund our work on improving root functions to transform soil health into yield! See story here 

09/20/2016: New funding from the CDFA-Specialty crop block grant program and the Almond Board of California to investigate how adoption of cover crop and whole orchard recycling can help build resilience of Almond production to water shortage.  Lot’s of exciting new projects!

08/10/2016: Congratulation to Leah for her Jastro fellowship to support her field research on the impact of crop diversity and tillage on drought resilience of corn-soybean systems.

08/01/2016: Glad to join the CalCAN Science & Technical Advisory Council and assist this coalition in their important mission! CalCAN advocates for a “widespread transition of CA agriculture toward increasingly resilient and environmentally sound farming systems that provide climate benefits protect our natural resources, sustain our food security, provide for economically vibrant agricultural communities and maintain our finite agricultural lands”. More here 

08/01/2016: Welcome to Kelsey Brewer! Kelsey will be working on quantifying C sequestration potential of various cropping/rangeland/integrated systems in California and monitor the impact of carbon farming practices and other co-benefits provided by reintegration of livestock into cropland.  Looking forward to working with Fibershed producers! 

07/14/2016: Congratulations to Caitlin for a well deserved NSF-GRFP Grow scholarship to conduct her thesis work on characterizing field scale resilience of Integrated Crop Livestock Systems in Brazil in collaboration with Paulo Cesar de Faccio Carvalho at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. 

06/27/2016: Check out the new webpage on Integrated Crop Livestock System from our collaborator R.Garrett (BU) and M.Niles (U of Vermont) featuring Caitlin’s work on Field level resilience and ecosystem services provided by livestock integration in Brazil. Click HERE

06/07/2016: Research results on optimizing drip irrigation to reach multiple sustainability goals in organic tomato production  presented at Russell Ranch field day. The theme was ” Farm water management in times of Scarcity” Check out our handout. See press release about pros and cons of drip irrigation here 

05/24/2016: New grant from OFRF to work on developing integrated irrigation management strategies to improve water and nutrient use efficiency of organic tomato processing in California. See MorningAg clip Press Release

05/12/2016: A Junior Specialist position is currently open in the lab to study the ecological outcomes of Integrated Crop Livestock Systems of California

04/07/2016: Interview posted on UC ANR website about agroecology.  See the post here

04/01/2016: Feature of the lab, our research objectives (and my shovel) as part of ASI promotional video 🙂 – check out the video 

03/29/2016: Way to go Leah! Congrats on your NSF fellowship!

03/05/2016: First paper from the Lab in Frontiers in Plant Science. Congrats Jen!

02/15/2016: I became a shared faculty member of the JGI (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab), great new collaboration and projects in the work to better understand co-evolution of host and their rhizosphere microbiome as affected by selection and management.

01/05/2016: We received seed funding from the CAES College to characterize shifts in rhizosphere processes with breeding and improve synergies between rhizosphere functioning and soil health building management practices. Congrats Jen!


12/04/2015: Thanks to the California Tomato Research Institute for supporting our research of how soil health building management strategies can help decrease tomato attractiveness to beet leafhoppers and the BCTV virus they vector: new generation of IPM! 

12/01/2015: The lab hosted Miguel Altieri’s visit to UCDavis. M.Altieri is a professor of Agroecology at UC Berkley. Link to his seminar talk to the Departement of Plant Science here

10/26/2015: New grant from USDA-AFRI to investigate how manure amendments increase drought resilience via microbial communities in integrated dairy-forage cropping systems with Kate Scow and Jorge Rodriguez. Awesome!

09/24/2015: Congratulation to Joshua Garcia, an undergraduate student in the lab, for getting the McNair scholarship for 2015-2016. This fellowship will allow Joshua to develop an independent project on a novel rhizobacteria. Congrats! 

08/21/2015: First grant awarded today by the Almond Board of California to study the potential of mycorrhizae and soil health to mitigate water stress in Almond crops. Exciting! 

07/06/15: Lauching of a new collaboration with The International Potato Center as part of on-going efforts to develop integrated systems for the Humid Tropics. Our goal is to use ecological principles to sustainably intensify food production, improve food security and build natural capital of Kenya humid tropic agroecosystems. In particular, we will explore the potential of diversification with alternative food crops such as onion and potato to break disease cycle and decrease dependence on maize. 

06/29/15: Congratulation to Caitlin and Emily for obtaining a JASTRO scholarship to support their field research, way to go! 

05/27/15: Welcome to Emily Webster. Emily will be doing her MsC research in Columbia and Nicaragua in collaboration with CIAT and Steve Fonte. Emily will study how pasture management systems affects soil health, C sequestration and long-term productivity. More info here 

05/19/15: New paper from the lab in Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment: Wheat increases nitrogen use efficiency of corn and soybean-based cropping systems.

04/05/15: Come join us at ASI Russel Ranch Sustainable Ag Field Day on May 21st. The lab will be presenting results on cover crops for integrated N management (more info Here). 

04/03/15: Congratulations to Jennifer Schmidt and Leah Renwick on receiving Plant Science Graduate Student Research awards for 4 and 2 years respectively! Jennifer was also awarded a 1-year campus wide Graduate Scholars Fellowship. Good going!

03/24/15: Leah Renwick (MsC) will also be joining us in the Fall. In collaboration with the University of Guelph, Leah will study the potential of crop diversification and no till to mitigate the impact of drought on corn and soybean yields. 

03/23/15: Jennifer Schmidt (PhD) will be joining the lab in the Fall. She will be looking at how maize domestication and breeding have shaped rhizosphere microbes and processes and the impact on crop ability to capture soil resources.

03/02/15: New paper from the lab in Plos one: Increasing crop diversity mitigates weather variations and improves yield stability.

02/15/15: Will be speaking at the Agriculture and Climate Change Elsevier Conference in Amsterdam on “Agroecological approaches to help mitigate increasing limitation of corn yields by water availability”. 

01/29/15: I am honored to now be a Fellow of the UCD Agricultural Sustainability Institute. ASI is a great hub that connects initatives  in sustainable agriculture and food system and we are looking forward to engage and contribute to ASI research, education and outreach activities.

01/25/15: News release:

I met with Jeff Mitchell and Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) farmer members last Friday to learn about conservation practices, ongoing efforts to improve crop production systems in the San Joaquin Valley and foster future collaborations. Thanks to Jeff Mitchell, Michael and Adam Crowell of Turlock, Darrell Cordova of Denair, and Scott Schmidt of Five Points for their time and dedication to conservation agriculture! 

01/10/15: Welcome to Caity, the first member of the Gaudin’s lab. See here for more info about her research interests.

01/09/15: USDA undergraduate, pre and post doctoral fellowships available. Deadline: pre and post doctoral February 11, 2015, undergraduate February 18, 2015, with full applications due May 6, 2015. Contact me if you are interested in applying! 

More info:

01/05/15: The lab officially kicked off!