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Microbial Ecology of N2O Production in Agricultural Soils

Nitrous oxide (N2O) has been identified as the third major greenhouse gas and it is therefore of great importance to understand its sources.  Agricultural activities, namely fertilizing with inorganic nitrogen fertilizers has been attributed to as much as 70% of the annual N2O emissions. The objective of this project is to investigate the relationship between nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils and the bacteria that can produce nitrous oxide.  Nitrification, the oxidation of ammonium to nitrate, and denitrification, the reduction of nitrate to dinitrogen, are the two main processes that are known to produce nitrous oxide in the environment.  For this project we are determining the denitrifier community profile in agricultural soils that have been fertilized.  In order to determine the profile of the denitrifier community we use quantitative(Q)PCR to quantify the copies of denitrification functional genes directly in environmental samples.  We also characterize the diversity of these genes by cloning in sequencing.

The main goal of this project will be to correlate this denitrifier community profile with N2O fluxes measured at a nearby almond orchard, Nickels Ranch, in Arbuckle, CA.  This project is a collaboration with Professor David Smart and his group in the Viticulture Department here at UCD and is funded by the Kearney Foundation of Soil Science.