Research Activities

My research background has been in soil-plant relations, and physical processes in soils that affect root growth. That has led me to work on soil tillage, land drainage, nitrate leaching, and nutrient balances. My current research program is listed below.

Manure Management Issues

This is a major area of my research
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    Development of a decision support system for manure management. 
    This project integrates information from studies in livestock nutrition, gaseous losses of nitrogen from barns and manure stores, and from soils during and after manure applications, organic matter transformations in the soil, losses of nutrients to water resources, the availability of nutrients to arable crops and the nutrient content in the resulting feed. It also deals with bacteriological contamination of water resources. Adrian Unc completed a M.Sc. project looking at the transport of nitrogen and bacteria to ground water following land application of animal manure. 
    Identification of indicator bacteria for contamination of rural wells by livestock manures, and stratigraphies conducive to bacterial transport. 
    This project was the subject of a Ph.D. thesis by Mary Jane Conboy. We selected a series of indicators: total coliforms, faecal coliforms, faecal streptococci, and Clostridium perfringens. We investigated their presence in 300 rural domestic drinking water wells. Mary Jane also demonstrated that the presence of  Clostridium perfringens was a good indicator of animal manure being the source of bacterial contamination in domestic farm wells. 
    Evaluation of extraction techniques for estimating potentially available nitrogen in soils and manures for crops.
    Farmers have little confidence in the nutrient credit from manure applications. With the increased expectation that nutrient management planning will help to overcome the deterioration in the quality of surface and ground water, Peter Smith and I are investigating the use of different extractants for soils and manures that will provide an index of the plant available N, including the organic fraction that will become available in the season immediately following land application. This project is supported by Ontario Corn Producers and Ontario Pork. 

Best Management Practice

I am working with farmers, provincial ministry officials, local municipality representatives, and other researchers  to help farmers identify the benefits and disbenefits of adopting best management practices.


Farming Systems

Current Supporting Agencies

  1. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
  2. Ontario Corn Producers
  3. Ontario Pork
  4. Dairy Farmers of Ontario
Current Research Associates
Dean Barry
Sigen Chen
Peter Smith