Lab Group

Faculty

Chandra Madramootoo, Director

With growing water scarcity and concerns about climate change, new technologies are being developed to conserve limited freshwater supplies and increase crop water productivity. Irrigation systems and techniques are being developed which can apply precise amounts of water while taking spatial field properties, crop type, and growth stage into account. Innovative technologies to predict crop water requirements and the impacts of various water management practices on greenhouse gas emissions are also being investigated. Water table management systems are being designed and field tested to reduce non-point source pollution and algal blooms/cyanobacterial contamination of rivers and lakes. 

☎ 514 398 7834

chandra.madramootoo [at] mcgill.ca

Wendy Ouellette, Administrative Coordinator

☎ 514 398 7833

wendy.ouellette [at] mcgill.ca

Researchers

Naeem Ahmed Abbasi, Ph.D Candidate

I am working on the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP) partnered with a research and development centre in Harrow, Ontario. My area of research is testing greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils under different water and fertilizer management practices as they affect soil moisture and the bio-availability of nutrients. These factors play a vital role in the emissions of N2O and CO2 from soils. The objective of my research is to quantify and model greenhouse gas emissions as a function of water table management and the source of applied soil nutrients. I am also working on calculating a nitrogen balance and carbon sequestration total in agricultural ecosystems. The treatments of the field study include tile drainage (DR) and controlled drainage with sub-irrigation (CDS), each with inorganic fertilizer (IF) and solid cattle manure (SCM). I am hoping my research will allow me to make recommendations to farmers about beneficial management practices for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions without decreasing production. Pictures of the research are available here.

☎ 514 398 7836

✉ naeem.abbasi [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Aidan De Sena, Ph.D Student

As climate change exacerbates, society must seek concrete methods to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.  Agriculture is a significant contributor of carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere through livestock, fossil fuel consumption, deforestation, and even microbial processes triggered by various farm management practices.  However, can agriculture become a carbon (C) sink instead of a source? One such effort is the “4 per mille” initiative, announced at the 2015 UN Climate Summit. In this proposal, it was calculated that if soils globally could increase their soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks by 4 per mille per year, or 0.4%/yr, then future fossil fuel emissions could be countered. Not only would such an initiative sequester carbon but would also improve soil quality and encourage the adoption of best practices for soil management. This is especially appealing to arable soils, where cultivation has significantly reduced SOC stocks.  However, there are issues associated with this program such as the ability to increase SOC in certain soils due to various conditions, as well as a primitive knowledge on the actual stability of these carbon sinks. These gaps in knowledge can be addressed with the use of sensitive and precise carbon isotope analyzers which can determine the source of emissions based on their isotopic signature, or “fingerprint”.  If most emissions from agricultural fields are traced back to the microbial breakdown of this added SOC, then the potential of 4 per mille as an effective solution is arguable. So, is 4 per mille the future or a pipedream? My research can address this. Pictures of the research are available here.

☎ 514 834 5519

✉ aidan.desena [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Kosoluchukwu Ekwunife, Ph.D Candidate

The agricultural sector emits significant quantities of greenhouse gases (GHGs) including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These contribute to the global crisis of climate change. Accounting for about 40% of emissions from the agricultural sector, cropland emissions could be mitigated to reduce the agricultural sector’s carbon footprint. My research aims to better understand the triggers of GHG fluxes and carbon sequestration in agricultural fields. This goal is to be achieved through field studies as well as simulation modelling and future scenario analysis to determine the integrated effects of soil properties and agronomic practices on GHG emissions. If properly understood, the extent to which these factors and practices drive, or limit emissions would result in proper quantification, prediction and modelling of the GHG fluxes and above all, improve mitigation strategies.

☎ 514 623 3851

✉ kosoluchukwu.ekwunife [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Mfon Essien, Ph.D Candidate

The Agricultural Greenhouse Gas emissions Project aims to link the impacts of climate change to the development of water adaptation strategies for Eastern Canada. The focus of my research is to identify and assess beneficial water management practices that have the potential to mitigate GHG emissions in Quebec. If all the co-benefits from water management systems are taken into account, there is usually a far stronger case for climate action. I will be conducting a financial and life cycle analysis at the farm level and will conduct rigorous economic modeling and multi-criteria analysis to evaluate the economic and environmental impact of water management technologies at the regional level. Performing a robust biophysical and socio-economic evaluation of BMPs constitutes a crucial part of developing scientifically informed policy solutions. However, it does not ensure the success of adoption of improved practices and technologies by agricultural producers. With this concern in mind, my research aims to have an active involvement of farmers in the research process. Using a knowledge co-production pathway that will enable the research community to work more closely with the farmers to develop solutions which are better designed.

☎ 514 398 7837

✉ mfon.essien [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Naresh Gaj, Ph.D Candidate

Subsurface drainage systems consist primarily of a network of buried pipes (tile drains), which allow groundwater to enter through finite openings or perforations on the pipe wall. Traditionally, tile drains have been designed to satisfy two main functions: hydraulic and structural. The effects of perforations on the hydraulic performance of tile drains have been studied as early as the 1950s, but perforation effects on the structural performance of buried corrugated pipes have not been adequately addressed. Additionally, there has been a growing interest in using circular holes instead of rectangular slots as perforations in the valleys of corrugated pipes, but very little work has been done to evaluate and compare the effects of the perforation geometry on both the hydraulic and structural performance of corrugated pipes. Therefore, my general research objective is to investigate the effects of perforations on both the hydraulic and structural functions of corrugated high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes used on agricultural lands. Specifically, the effects of the perforation size, shape and configuration will be investigated on selected hydraulic responses such as the entrance resistance (αe), delivery ratio (Q/Q0), drain spacing (S), and water table drawdown (b), and structural responses such as the von Mises effective stress (σe), percent vertical deflection (ΔV/di), and the stress concentration factor (SCF).

The first part of this research focused on the hydraulic function and used a numerical model, calibrated with datasets from sand tank experiments, to simulate the effects of the perforation on αe and Q/Q0. The results show that corrugated pipes with circular holes have twice the αe when compared with corrugated pipes with slots having the same opening area. It is concluded that the use of rectangular slots is hydraulically more advantageous than circular holes in the valleys of corrugate pipes (Gaj and Madramootoo, 2020). The second part of this research deals with the structural function and also used a numerical model to simulate the effects of the perforation on σe and ΔV/di. Preliminary results indicate that corrugated pipes with rectangular slots have a lower σe when compared with corrugated pipes with holes of the same opening area. Finally, the third part of this research will implement the findings of the perforation effects on the hydraulic and structural functions of corrugated HDPE pipes in order to prescribe design guidelines for subsurface drainage of agricultural lands in Eastern Canada. Pictures of the research are available here.

☎ 514 571 8468

✉ naresh.gaj [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Genevieve Grenon, Ph.D Candidate

The Holland Marsh is an intensive organic soil agricultural area whose drainage is artificially managed and which eventually discharges into Lake Simcoe, making the agricultural soils of the marsh a factor in the the Lake's eutrophication, as intensive agricultural production has led to heavy fertilization which in turn induces the release of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the drainage waters. N management has shown to be in effective in the controlling of algal blooms, therefore, a reduction of P is critical to eutrophication management. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for horticultural crops in organic soils, as newly cleared organic soils are low in plant-available P. Nonpoint source P pollution from organic soil agricultural areas is a large problem.

My research project is focused on examining the P dynamic transport in organic soils to mitigate non-point source P pollution and improve water quality. This will be achieved through the assessment of P water quality and soil analysis at multiple organic soil agricultural fields in the Holland Marsh to further the understanding of how the agricultural practices impact the P dynamics and outputs. This will be achieved by: 1) assessing the dynamics of P concentration in tile drainage and the spring P load emitted from these organic soil fields; 2) determining how the initial soil P concentration and saturation, combined with fertilization and simulated rainfall, affects P leaching from organic soils; 3) quantitative analysis of bioavailable P pool (in soil solution, microbial biomass and the crop), and its relationship to the P concentration in the drainage water of organic soils; and 4) parameterize and validate a model for P dynamics in organic soils to optimize fertilizer and water applications that reduce the P concentration in tile drainage. Pictures of the research are available here.

☎ 514 398 8756

✉ genevieve.grenon [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Samuel Ihuoma, Ph.D Candidate

In order to meet the demand for increased global food production under limited water resources, implementation of suitable irrigation scheduling technique is crucial, particularly in irrigated basins experiencing water stress. Conventional irrigation scheduling techniques are either destructive, costly, labour intensive or unsuitable for automation, which make it difficult for irrigators to adopt. Therefore, innovation in the detection of plant health status at various stages of the growing season is vital to minimize crop physiological damage and yield loss. Remotely sensed plant stress indicators, based on the visible and near-infrared spectral regions, have the advantage of high spatial and spectral resolutions, low cost, and quick turnaround time. My current PhD research aims to develop and test a cost-effective and non-invasive approach for measuring crop water requirements of high value vegetable crops based on remote sensing imagery. It would provide farmers with advanced tools for monitoring plant health status to ensure effective use of water and nitrogen, to enhance food security. Pictures of the research are available here. My most recent publication is available here: PDF icon ihuoma.samuel.pdf

☎ 514 865 3917

✉ samuel.ihuoma [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Anshika Jain

With increasing global population, the relationship with food and water becomes more and more evident. Various concerns about climate change have created an imbalance in the ecosystem leading to droughts in some parts of world while flooding in others. From that perspective, proper management of water resources is an issue of major concern and proper measures must be developed to use water efficiently. So, an innovative facet in the field of agriculture is the use of hydrogels which is the topic of my research. Controlled release of nutrients and water by use of super absorbent polymers incorporated with fertilizers have reduced the frequency of irrigation and tend to improve the physical and chemical properties of soil. In addition, the low cost and availability of cellulose for the manufacturing of hydrogels is of advantage to farmers. I am hoping that my research will provide some advancements in the field of hydrogels for efficient water management and increase of crop yields.

anshika.jain [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Naresh Kumar Arumugagounder Thangaraj, M.Sc Candidate

In the prevailing global synopsis, farmers and administrators should be alarmed concerning the global water scarcity. Though, the water utility towards irrigation and other industrial targets should be regulated by appropriate scheduling to enhance its profitability per unit of input. Water productivity or water use efficiency denotes a substantial parameter to conceive how much yield has been generated over the amount of water transpired from the crop field. Consequently, optimizing the water input (irrigation), which has a direct impact on the yield, is inevitable to increase the water use efficiency. The appropriate irrigation depends upon the optimum allocation of available water sources during the crop water demand. Humid and semi-humid regions have adequate rainfall to offset irrigation but, seldom it does not satisfy the crop water demand. Henceforth, irrigation is required to control the yield to counteract the rainfall. Crop Growth models such as AquaCrop are used to simulate the irrigation water requirement, dry yield and biomass, and water productivity of the crops during the growing season. The focus of my research is to predict the irrigation water requirement for the 35- year dry return period for Tomato crops using AquaCrop (V 6.1) under humid climatic conditions. This really helps researchers and farmers in decision making purposes with real-time scheduling of irrigation.

Bhesram Singh, Ph.D Candidate

My research forms part of a larger effort of addressing eutrophication at Lake Simcoe, Ontario, via improved water management practices in the farming area of the Holland Marsh. The Holland Marsh, a major commercial crop-farming area in Ontario, utilizes the presence of the Holland River, which is a tributary to Lake Simcoe, for its drainage and water supply. The aim of my research is to investigate the use of controlled drainage and the application of improved water management strategy to reduce N and P losses from the farmland. To facilitate the research objective, hydrological and water quality models will be applied to evaluate the impacts of water table management on the water quality, both at a field scale and at a sub-catchment scale. The research will provide knowledge advancement in the hydro-dynamics and fate of N and P in rich organic soils. Pictures of the research are available here.

☎ 514 294 0834

✉ bhesram.singh [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Harsimar Singh Sidana, M.Sc Candidate

Histosols or muck soils, which are formed from peat bogs, fens, moors, and muskeg, exist around the globe (Canada, US, Europe, USSR, Finland and Sweden), and cover approximately 342 million hectares of the earth's surface. Organic soils are very productive for crop production, but have many water management limitations. The main objective of my study is to investigate the hydraulic fluxes of water in both the saturated and unsaturated states in these soils, through a column study. A lab experiment will be conducted, to investigate the flow of water through organic soils and to study the impact of wetting and drying cycles on hydraulic fluxes.

harsimar.sidana [at] mail.mcgill.ca

Research Assistant

Rebecca Seltzer, B.Sc (AgEnvSc) Global Food Security

rebecca.seltzer [at] mail.mcgill.ca

 

Former Students

Patrick Handyside, M.Sc. P.Eng

A former student of Dr. Madramootoo, Patrick now serves as a the Senior Water Management Engineer to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, based at Guelph University in Ontario. His areas of expertise are irrigation & drainage Systems, filtration and water treatment systems for agricultural water sources and greenhouse operations, and woodchip bioreactors for treating tile drain affluent.

☎ 226 217 8001

patrick.handyside [at] agr.gc.ca

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