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?

Environmental Systems

Faculty working in environmental systems aim to find new ways for producers to increase crop production while reducing environmental impacts. For example, 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.

Other areas of emphasis include multi-criteria cropping systems analysis. Soil and water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water use efficiency, and a variety of ecosystem services contribute to the environmental footprint of farming systems. Balancing these metrics with crop production and economic outcomes is challenging, as important tradeoffs may exist within and between indicators. Our research focuses on conducting integrated assessments to optimize outcomes across a holistic range of sustainability indicators.

Related Research Programs