From root-microorganism interactions to ecosystem assessments, we are committed to finding ecologically-based soil management strategies that will reduce the environmental footprint of agricultural production while satisfying the nutritional needs of the increasing world population.

Our lab investigates how ecological interactions between soil organisms and their physical environment drive ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and decomposition, driving agricultural productivity, crop nutrition and environmental quality (i.e. emissions of greenhouse gases, carbon sequestration and water quality) .

Our research integrates different methodologies, including soil physical, biological, and chemical assays, as well as a range of techniques used to investigate the interaction of soils with other ecological compartments such as analysis of trace gas emissions, plant physiological measures, and stable isotopes.

Experiments are carried out at different scales from lab incubations to a greenhouse or in the field and across different ecosystems from agricultural, forest, and grasslands.

Awarded grants

Potential for Organic Amendments to Promote Soil Health and Crop Productivity in Urban Agriculture. University of California Office of the President, Postdoctoral Fellowship. (2023-2024) Joshua Garcia (PI), Mallika Nocco, Cristina Lazcano.

Vermicompost application to improve soil health and mitigate climate change. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Conservation-Innovation Grant. $2,395,154. (2023-2028). Cristina Lazcano (PI), Sangeeta Bansal, Aaron Smith, Sabina Dore, Jorge Dominguez.

Assessing the potential of regenerative agriculture to support vineyard soil health. Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Seeding Solutions Program. $999,093 (2022-2026). Cristina Lazcano (PI), Kerri Steenwerth, Mallika Nocco, Amelie Gaudin, Patricia Skinkis, Charlotte Decock, Kris Covey.

Assessing the potential of regenerative agriculture to support soil health and Carbon sequestration. California Department of Food and Agriculture. $1,004,522 (2022-2024). Cristina Lazcano (PI), Kerri Steenwerth, Mallika Nocco, Amelie Gaudin, Elisabeth Forrestell, Ellen Bruno, Charlotte Decock, Kris Covey.

Climate-smart irrigation for drought, energy, & structural resilience in almond systems. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). $1,849,558 (2022-2027). Mallika Nocco (PI), Cristina Lazcano (co-PI).

Sustaining Groundwater and Irrigated Agriculture in the Southwestern United States under a Changing Climate. USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), $9,999,987 (2021-2026). Role: collaborators (lead for soil health objective).

Optimizing irrigation innovation, soil health, and salinity management in California processing tomato systems. California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Mallika Nocco (PI), Kate Scow (co-PI).

Assessment of the variability in soil health indicators and incorporating healthy soil management practices in Paso Robles, Napa Valley and Lodi regions. American Vineyard Foundation. American Vineyard Foundation 2020- 2022.

Investigating the effects of winter cover crops on evapotranspiration, water productivity and soil-water functions of mature micro-irrigated pistachio orchards in the water-limited context of the San Joaquin Valley. California Pistachio Research Board. 2020-2021.

Effects of herbaceous cover management through grazing on soil C and greenhouse emissions in wine grape production. California State University Agricultural Research Institute. 2018-2021.

Assessment of no-till and compost on soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions in wine grape production on the Central Coast. California Department of Food and Agriculture, 2017-2020.

Survey of Soil Health Characteristics Necessary to Support Native Plant Species at the Santa Susana Field Site. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 2019.

Using soil biological indicators and foodweb analysis to assess the effects of sustainable vineyard management practices on soil health.  California State University Research Scholarly and Creative Activities 2017- 2018. 

Investigating plant-soil microbial interactions and host resistance in commercial strawberry cultivars for low input soil borne disease control. California State University Agricultural Research Institute. 2017-2020.

Closing the loop: Evaluating the availability and suitability of agricultural organic waste materials as fertilizers in San Luis Obispo County. California State University Agricultural Research Institute. 2016-2017.

Using agricultural processing residues to combat diseases in organic and conventional vegetable production systems. California State University Agricultural Research Institute. 2017-2020.

Our collaborators

Jackson Family Wines