Investigating the soil microbiome to understand mechanisms driving soil ecosystem services

March 26, 2019

Dr. Kari Dunfield
Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology of Agro-Ecosystems, University of Guelph

The global population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, putting demands on agricultural systems to maintain high levels of production. However, intensive agriculture can cause major environmental challenges. Healthy and diverse communities of soil organisms play a key role in agro-ecosystems because they influence the quality and quantity of crop production and are the drivers of key ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water quality protection, climate regulation and nutrient cycling. Agricultural soils provide a unique system because they can be managed to facilitate the conservation of soil biodiversity and the functions it provides. My research group uses metagenomic and metatranscriptome based methods to evaluate how sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop residue removal, tillage, shifting from annual to perennial cropping systems and stabilized N-fertilizers influence the diversity of bacterial communities associated with soil nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Findings from this research program will inform policies that promote sustainable agricultural management practices, which ensure levels of agricultural production necessary to meet society’s demands for plant biomass for food, feed, and biofuels, while minimizing the impact on soil ecosystem services.

photo of Dr. Kari Dunfield