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Each student with their graduate advisory committee will develop a program of study including coursework and a research project in one of the following areas:

 Agroecosystems Management

Graduate research opportunities exist in the area of agroecosystems management, with an emphasis on a systems approach to research that incorporates the interactions of the ecosystem with soil and crop management. Research extends across all the major ecosystems of Colorado including prairie and mountain environments, dryland and irrigated agroecosystems in the semi-arid plains, and rangelands.

Major research emphases are precision crop and nutrient management and management systems that improve efficiency of crop water use. Additional research emphases include soil carbon and nutrient dynamics in cropping systems, beneficial use of manures, biosolids, and other wastes, crop variety development, forage management, and development of biofuel and other alternative crops.

Local studies are integrated to the global scale including efforts focused on global climate change and carbon cycling. Emphasis is on understanding processes and mechanisms controlling the interaction of soils, plants, nutrients, and climate. Research opportunities in agroecology include field studies, state of the art analytical laboratories, and computer simulation modeling. Students will gain a broad perspective of the soil, plant, and environmental interactions as well as specialized training in their area of interest.

Plant Breeding and Genetics

Major efforts are expended on the breeding, development, and/or testing of improved cultivars and genetic materials of wheat, dry beans, barley, oilseed crops, and corn. Special limitations due to high elevations, short growing seasons, and unpredictable rainfall impose unique demands on crop cultivars in the major growing areas of the state. The Department has a comprehensive crop molecular genetics program involving molecular mapping and characterization of agronomically important traits in wheat, beans, and barley.

In an interdisciplinary fashion, research programs investigate plant breeding methodologies (commonly involving biotechnologies such as molecular marker mapping, quantitative trait locus analysis, and marker-assisted selection), cytogenetics, quantitative and population genetics, physiological and statistical genetics, disease and insect resistance, and improving the nutritional value of crops. Genetic engineering of crops offers both potential benefits and risks, and both aspects of this technology are being investigated in the department.

Soil Science

The Department has comprehensive research programs in Soil Science, which address a variety of topics including biogeochemical cycling of nutrients; land application of animal, municipal and industrial wastes; transport and fate of inorganic and organic contaminants in soils and water; soil microbial structural and functional diversity; movement of water, solutes, and gases through soil; soil formation processes; soil fertility and precision nutrient management; soil and water quality; and global climate change.

Because of Colorado’s exciting and diverse landscapes, a variety of soil systems (agricultural, forest and rangeland) are available for study by graduate students in the department. The Colorado Front Range also presents a unique opportunity to study the effects of urbanization on rural soil and water environments.

The Faculty has a strong history of collaboration, both within and outside the Department, and encourages Graduate Students to conduct their work in a cross-disciplinary fashion. With connections to Engineering, Natural Resources, Natural Sciences, and more, the Department provides a creative and dynamic learning experience for Graduate Students committed to the study and application of soil science.

Find out how to apply to our graduate programs.

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