Agricultural Microbiology

Current Research

Biostimulant Practices for Mitigating Herbicide Drift

This project aims to examine microbial responses to the class 4 herbicide, 2, 4-D. We will be using a type of functional analysis called “community level physiological profiling” to examine how soil microbes are responding to the herbicide alone, and the herbicide in the presence of various biostimulants. The overall goal is to find combinations of nutrients and biostimulants that mitigate damage caused by pesticide drift.

Early Research.

Dr. Mary Lucero has been conducting research in agricultural microbiology and biochemical ecology for over 30 years. As a pioneer in the study of endophytic fungi (fungi that live inside plants), she used DNA technologies to validate observations by Dr. Jerry Barrow that endophytic communities are a universal feature of plants. Endophytes add genetic diversity and help plants adapt to changing environments.

Mary conducted greenhouse and field research evaluating the potential for endophytes to improve primary (ie: “plant”) production on arid rangelands. Observing that endophytes could improve plant drought and heat tolerance, she worked with other USDA-ARS scientists to transfer these endophytes to crop plants and rangeland grasses.

Other Research Experiences

Other areas of research have included natural product chemistry (capsaicins, fatty acids, phenolics, and essential oils), plant tissue culture, and bioremediation. Her natural product chemistry was tied to larger questions, including how plants respond to stress, degrade toxic substances, or deter pests and herbivores (including livestock). She has experience with gas and liquid chromatography, mass spectroscopy, community level physiological profiling (CLPP), microscopy, genetic and phylogentic analysis, and field experience with vegetation analysis and soil food web analysis.

Do You Have Research Questions?

We collaborate on projects that utilize our research capabilities to help growers. We can run small analyses in house. For larger projects, we collaborate with universities, producers, and/or independent scientists who can benefit from our

  • greenhouse and microbial bioassays
  • microbial physiological profiling (CLPP)
  • microscopy
  • genetic and phylogenetic data analysis
  • field studies in our grazing pastures and fruit orchard.

We can collaborate on grants and grant writing. We are most interested in research and outreach efforts that help growers embrace regenerative agriculture with confidence.

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