Managing the soil community to promote inclusive plant health and improve crop resilience
The International Year of Plant Health highlights the importance of protecting crops against the onslaught of pest and disease in a sustainable manner. Meaningful progress towards this objective will require not just replacing environmentally disruptive pesticides with ones that are less so. Required is a fundamental understanding of the ecological drivers that make our agroecosystems so susceptible to biotic and abiotic stressors. We need to then redesign crop management, moving away from the sole goal of maximizing production. Rather, a more holistic production system is required that also promotes crop resistance to pests and resilience to unfavorable weather events. Illustrating the importance of a systems perspective for crop production is the growth in our understanding of the central role potentially played by the soil community in mediating inclusive plant health. The concept of biological buffering asserts that the increased biocomplexity associated with organic matter inputs and a carbon-based food web modulates abiotic and biotic variability while evading conditions favorable to pest outbreaks and plant stress. As such, the concept extends the capacity of soil organic matter to buffer physicochemical soil parameters to higher‐order buffering of biological interactions, both below ground and above ground. In this seminar, I shall review studies that test biological buffering and its underlying mechanisms, while demonstrating how we can employ the soil community to promote plant health by suppressing insects and weeds.
Trained as a chemical ecologist, most of my research now focuses on organic farming and the ecosystem services provided by the soil community.
University of California, Riverside, CA. Ph.D. in Entomology, 1984.
Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI. M.S. in Entomology, 1981.
The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH. B.A. in Biology, 1976.
1998-present: Professor, Dept. of Entomology, OARDC/The Ohio State University.
1991-1998: Assoc. Professor, Dept. of Entomology, OARDC/The Ohio State University.
1986-1991: Asst. Professor, Dept. of Entomology, OARDC/The Ohio State University.
1984-1985: Postdoctoral Researcher, Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of California, Riverside.