Towards a better understanding of the soil-plant-atmosphere- water continuum

Anthropogenic climate change remains a formidable issue and is a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions, like N2O and CO2, by various industrial agents. The agriculture sector persists to be a significant contributor of these emissions through the suite of soil microbial reactions such as the oxidation of organic matter and respiration. However, the triggers and specific sources of these reactions have been difficult to elucidate fully, specifically the manifestation of hotspots. To develop a better understanding of these dynamics, research must determine the isotope signature of these gases, which fingerprints the specific source. This supplemented with an experimental design focused on “trigger events” like spring thaw, irrigation, fertilizer application, and rainfall will permit a comprehensive analysis on emission hotspots in agricultural fields.

Though isotopic analyzers are rare in most conventional laboratories, the Water Innovation Lab is equipped with the Picarro G2201-i CO2 and CH4 and G5141-i N2O cavity ring down spectrometers, pioneering technology with precision up to 0.06-0.5 permil. Thus, greater insight into the dynamics of agricultural greenhouse gases in relation to both triggers and the microbiome is possible. 

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