students in the field

Water Quality and Environmental Systems

Water Quality and Environmental Systems

The science of improving air, water, and soil quality while sustainably growing food and fuel sources.

This area of research is important because it can reduce the amount of air, water, and soil pollutants—ultimately improving the health of the planet and all living organisms on it.

Research Areas

  • Agroecology
  • Nutrient Management
  • Water Quality

Current Research

Current research in water quality and nutrient loss reduction identifies growing solutions for producers that reduce the movement of nutrients through soil and water.

Water Quality Research

Current research in water quality identifies in-field and edge-of-field practices that reduce the movement of nitrogen and phosphorus to downstream waters. We are evaluating the combined effects of recommended practices on tile drainage nutrient loss, nutrient use efficiency, and crop yield.

We’re at the forefront of research on denitrifying bioreactors (or, woodchip bioreactors) to take nitrogen out of tile drainage water. We collaborate with international researchers to demonstrate the amount of nitrogen removed by a bioreactor depends on environmental factors like temperature as well as good bioreactor design. Exciting questions remain: How can we make bioreactors remove more nitrate from drainage? Make them cheaper? Smaller?

Having a better understanding of the extent of nutrients in our tile drainage systems underpins our efforts to develop solutions to reduce the loss of these nutrients. We’re working on synthesis projects to answer questions about how and why nutrients, in particular, phosphorus, are transported in tile drainage water. Our research will better inform farmers, agricultural advisors, and scientists about controllable and uncontrollable factors impacting drainage nutrient loss.

Environmental Systems

Faculty working in environmental systems aim to find new ways for producers to increase crop production while reducing environmental impacts. Our research focuses on understanding how changes in soil health brought about by agronomic practices relate to ecosystem services of carbon and nutrient cycling, crop production, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Related Research Programs