Impact of Brassinosteroids and Biostimulants on Greenhouse and Field Performance of
Instructor: Tim Durham, Ph.D.
Students with a background or interest in agriculture, horticulture, plant/microbe
interactions and ecology, plant hormones, plant physiology, field and/or greenhouse
cropping, ecological and alternative/organic farming, or biostimulants.
Long relegated to the annals of plant physiology as a curiosity and footnote, brassinosteroids
are now touted as a 6th class of plant hormones with a suite of positive growth effects
reported in the literature. A veritable workhorse in the plant, these compounds are
involved in varied activities such as cell expansion, elongation, cell division, and
stress tolerance. Most importantly, brassinosteroids can potentially enhance yields
without the negative externalities associated with synthetic fertilizers. In addition
to brassinosteroids, a number of biostimulants have been introduced to the market.
These are similarly reported to enhance yields through a proprietary blend of soil
microorganisms and organic fertilizers. The microorganisms represent a soil "probiotic"
of sorts that enhances nutrient cycling and uptake by the plant.
The goal of this project is to evaluate the potential benefits of brassinosteroids
and biostimulants in the greenhouse and field. How do they perform independently?
Are there synergistic effects when used together? What is the optimal method to administer
these products? What is the cost/benefit analysis? Are there other intangible benefits
like enhanced disease resistance? This is an exciting opportunity for a Freshman
Scholar (or scholars) to consider these questions within the broader context of ecological
farming, environmental quality, and food security.
Tim Durham, Ph.D.
Tim is a lifelong agriculturist. His family operates Deer Run Farm -- a 30-acre vegetable
farm on Long Island, New York. As one of a handful of farms in the area, it faces
unique challenges, especially those associated with urban-edge agriculture. As a result,
Tim has a keen interest in the interplay between science, sustainable farming, and
policy-making. In 2004, Tim was awarded a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship
for agricultural study at Lincoln University, New Zealand. The Department of Homeland
Security awarded Tim a graduate fellowship in 2005. In the summer of 2006, he was
a visiting fellow at Los Alamos National Lab, working with tunable diode laser spectroscopy
and crop biosecurity. In 2007, Tim was awarded an NSF sponsored travel grant to participate
in the Rice: Research to Production Course at the International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) in the Philippines. Between 2006 and 2009, Tim traveled to Costa Rica and Honduras
as part of a delegation of students and professors examining sustainable agriculture
and plant health management in the field. In 2008, Tim graduated from the University
of Florida with a degree in Plant Medicine, the equivalent of a "plant M.D."
If you have specific questions about this project, please contact Dr. Durham directly