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Plant Root Biology Lab

Plant Root Biology Lab


Given the complexity of edaphic systems - root structure, function, and rhizosphere interactions are understudied components of horticultural sciences. This is even more important in Florida, where many soils possess significant challenges to achieving sustainable and effective fruit production due to low natural fertility and organic matter. In addition to challenging soil conditions, maintaining proper nutrition for citrus is further exacerbated by citrus greening (huanglongbing, HLB), which damages the root system first. There is no cure for HLB, and no commercial varieties or scion-rootstock combinations are resistant to the disease. Maintaining a healthy root system is vital for keeping the Florida horticulture industry productive and profitable. The goal of our laboratory is to increase yield and quality of horticultural crop commodities by developing sustainable, environmentally sound, and effective management practices that improve and restore plant, root, and rhizosphere health.

Members of the Plant Root Biology Lab


The long-term goal of our laboratory is to improve sustainable agricultural practices, with an emphasis on citrus, while improving and developing research and teaching tools to monitor plant root health and structure. The obtained results facilitate the development of healthy agroecosystems, profitable agricultural production systems, and food security with tangible benefits to the community and improved living standards locally, nationally, and internationally.

Our research program strives to increase yield and quality of horticultural crop commodities by:

  • Developing new nutritional guidelines for HLB-affected citrus.
  • Implementing cultural practices that reduce agricultural inputs for fruit trees while increasing root and soil health (g., oak mulch, cover crops, fabric mulch ground covers, etc.).
  • Studying and improving root system architecture of fruit tree rootstocks for different Florida soils (in collaboration with plant breeders).
  • Identifying and quantifying the potential impact of abiotic stresses (salinity, heavy metals, and emerging pollutants) on rhizosphere dynamics, root physiology, and root anatomy.
  • Assessing the viability and practicality of potential alternative crops for Florida’s agriculture producers (e., peach, pongamia, olive, coffee).