Active Projects – Dr. Hoagland Soil Microbial Ecology Lab

Active Projects

Arequipa NEXUS Institute

I am currently the Co-Director and lead PI of the Arequipa NEXUS Institute. The mission of "the NEXUS" is to build capacity and strategic, long-term collaborations needed to address key environmental, agroeconomic, and social challenges to support development of adaptive, profitable and sustainable food-energy-water systems in the Arequipa region of southern Peru. More information about the NEXUS can be found on the following website:


Vegetables growing along the Chili River near Arequipa, Peru

Tomato Organic Management and Improvement Project (TOMI)

Tomatoes are one of the most important vegetable crops in the world, but they are susceptible to a wide range of disease-causing pathogens that reduce the yield and quality of this crop. This large multistate, multidisciplinary project aims to overcome this challenge by: 1) identifying soil management practices that promote populations of native soil microbes with pathogen suppressive activity, 2) identifying factors that can better support the survival and efficacy of biopesticides which contain live cultures of pathogen suppressive microbes under field conditions, 3) developing new open-pollinated tomato varieties that have genetic resistance to the most virulent pathogen strains and produce fruit with exceptional flavor, 4) identifying mechanisms mediating differences in responsiveness among tomato germplasm to beneficial microbes that induce systemic resistance to pathogens, and 5) developing new tools and breeding strategies to integrate selection for beneficial plant-soil-microbial relationships into tomato breeding programs. Our team is also conducting outreach activities that help organic growers better manage diseases use multiple tools, learn how to conduct on-farm trials to identify practices best suited to their farms, participate in breeding programs, and save pathogen-free seed. Other institutions involved in this project include The Organic Seed Alliance, North Carolina A&T University, the University of North Carolina, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Oregon State University. Additional information about this project and resources for growers can be found at the following website: This project is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Organic Research and Extension Imitative (NIFA-OREI) #2014-51300-22267; #2019-51300-30245.

Organic tomato production in a high tunnel near Malaga, Spain

Dig-it: connecting soil health with productivity and food safety in Indiana’s urban agriculture sector

Urban agriculture can provide many benefits, yet soils are often degraded in urban centers which can reduce the productivity and quality of produce and make crops more susceptible to pests. In some cases, soils in urban and peri-urban areas can also be contaminated with heavy metals and other contaminants which further threaten plant as well human and environmental health. This project aims to address these challenges by: 1) collaborating with urban growers across the state to identify the most effective soil-building and heavy metal remediation strategies, 2) determining how soil, environmental and crop management practices on urban farms interact to influence the survival and virulence of plant and food-borne pathogens and nutritional quality of vegetable crops, 3) identifying additional research needs in urban agriculture, and 4) strengthening networks between urban farmers, Extension educators and researchers. This project is supported by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture through a Specialty Crop Block Grant (ISDA-SCBG).

Urban farm in Indianapolis growing a diverse assortment of vegetable crops

Best management practices for reducing heavy metal contamination in carrots and quinoa

Carrot and quinoa are highly nutritious and profitable crops, but they are prone to taking up high concentrations of toxic heavy metals like cadmium, lead and arsenic, which can negatively affect human health. The goal of this project is to help overcome this challenge by identifying: 1) sources of heavy metal contaminants in these crop production systems, 2) opportunities to reduce bioavailability of heavy metals in soil and accumulation of these elements in edible plant tissues via soil management and crop genetics, and 3) post-harvest practices that can effectively reduce concentrations in edible plant tissues. The research is funded by a joint initiative between the Environmental Defense Fund and the Healthy Babies Bright Futures Program.

Greenhouse trial quantifying differences in cadmium uptake among a diverse set of carrot genotypes

Identifying new approaches to leverage hyperspectral imaging to detect cadmium stress and predict uptake into edible plant tissues

Hyperspectral images of basil plants grown in 0 and 5 ppm cadmium

A participatory approach to conserving soil biodiversity and promoting sustainable agricultural development in Colombia

Peri-urban farm near Medellin, Colombia growing vegetables in containers due to soil contamination

Legacy effects of contaminated biosolids on soil microbial composition and functional interactions with plants

Urban compost being delivered to Purdue's student farm in West Lafayette for a research trial

Carrot improvement for organic agriculture (CIOA)

Advanced breeding lines from our breeding project grown in an on-farm trial in Indiana

Biological approaches to sustainable mint production

Mint field in Indiana infected with Verticillium wilt

Healthy transplants for healthy crops: developing a protocol for organic transplant production

Tomato transplants subject to different microbial treatments before transplant at Purdue's student farm

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