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Matt Ricker

Assoc Professor


Williams Hall 3228


I am interested in research that helps produce coastal zone soil management strategies and interpretations. I am interested in collaboration regarding coastal blue carbon, subaqueous soils, coastal septic system functionality, and soil salinization issues in agriculture/forestry.


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Date: 09/01/20 - 8/31/25
Amount: $473,871.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

The proposed project will use a chronosequence technique to evaluate changes in soil carbon storage and soil health indicators that occur over a 20 yr period from transition from conventional to organic management. Soil samples will be taken from on-farm sites that have been in organic management for a range of time and ensure and event distribution from year 0 to year 20. Soils from nearby abandoned or re-forested sites will be used as the regions maximum potential carbon accrual, while sites in year 0 or 1 of transition will be the theoretical starting point for carbon stock buildup. In addition to the on-farm trials, two intensive field experiments will be established at research stations on the coastal plains. These experiments will focus on carbon stock accrual within the first 3 years of transition from conventional to organic. Treatments will fall along a spectrum on management intensity, ranging from high intensity carbon building with organic amendments to business as usual production systems. This complementary study will allow inferences to be made around if active soil carbon building during transition can push the system further in the chronoseqenece and derive the potential benefits of increased soil health.

Date: 02/01/23 - 1/31/25
Amount: $32,588.00
Funding Agencies: NC Soybean Producers Association, Inc.

Soil salinization due to salt-water intrusion is an increasing problem in agricultural fields along the coast of North Carolina (NC). Farmers these regions are changing cropping systems and even abandoning fields due to the advancement of this issue. This research aims to quantify the reduction of soybean yields with the increase in the soluble salts index (SS-I) measured within the soil. We propose to create a simple method by which the farmer can measure the SS-I in their soil and predict the potential yield loss, thus helping guide management decisions specific to the value of soybeans grown in salt affected fields. This scale will be developed for both salt-tolerant and sensitive soybean varieties. A greenhouse trial will also be setup to determine the tolerance of soybeans to soils saturated with salts driven by coastal flooding and storm surge commonly associated with hurricanes. The trial will test the impact that salt water concentration and duration of exposure have on plant survival. This information will help growers better understand where, and to what extent, to expect soybean damage resulting from storm surge and flooding from canals. As part of this proposed research we have secured funding for stipend and tuition of a M.S. student. The student is fully sponsored by a Fulbright Program and the NC State Crop and Soil Sciences Department for a total of $62,000 over two years. To cover the expenses with the research activities, we are requesting from the NC Soybean Producers Association $17,294 in year 1, and $15,294 in year 2 to cover costs with supplies associated with the field and greenhouse trials, travel, technician support, and soil/plant analysis.

Date: 09/16/21 - 9/01/23
Amount: $25,000.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Due to COVID restrictions and a surge in soil samples from national and regional projects such as Dynamic Soil Properties and the EPA - National Wetland Condition Assessment, the Kellogg Soil Survey Lab is currently has no additional capacity to receive additional soil samples for laboratory analysis. To the address the future workload of incoming Coastal Zone Soil Survey (CZSS) samples, the CZSS Team has reached out to NCSU in hopes of sending time-sensitive and project-specific soil samples to their lab for analysis through a Testing Service Agreement.

Date: 09/16/20 - 8/31/23
Amount: $136,350.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Coastal tidal marshes are important landscapes for soil carbon sequestration. To date little research has been done on the soils in these systems. Our proposed research will quantify soil organic carbon stocks in commonly mapped marsh soils across the Atlantic coastal zone.

Date: 09/20/19 - 3/31/23
Amount: $159,155.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Blue carbon represents terrestrial storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide in coastal regions. This carbon stock is an important component of the global carbon cycle, yet relatively little study has occurred in coastal soil systems. This study will quantify stocks of soil organic carbon in mineral and organic soil systems of the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

Date: 09/25/18 - 9/30/22
Amount: $249,313.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Ecological sites and state-and-transition models (STMs) are rapidly becoming the preferred tool to understand and manage ecosystems in the US and around the world. STMs linked to ecological sites relate plant community dynamics to external drivers as a function of inherent properties of the soil and vegetation. Rangeland health has been linked to the ESD-STM framework for some time; however, as the ESD initiative expands to the more humid ecosystems of the eastern U.S., a complimentary assessment is needed to quantify soil health and general ecosystem function for these landscapes. Many of the rangeland health indicators are also applicable to other ecosystems and can be categorized as dynamic soil properties (DSPs). DSPs change quickly in response to management activities and can serve as indicators of soil health and general ecosystem function. STMs are the backbone of interpreting ESDs, but they are limited by a lack of site-specific information relevant to management. Linkages between STMs and DSPs can improve the development of ESDs and broaden their potential applications. The project team will develop and test ecological site descriptions for three unique southeastern ecosystems and explore the relationships between ecological sites and dynamic soil properties important for quantifying soil health. We will then scale measured soil properties from field measurements to larger spatial extent (e.g., regional extent) using the existing structure of soil survey and the land resource hierarchy. Products generated will include 1) new ecological site descriptions, 2) a ????????????????Rapid Assessment Tool??????????????? for evaluating ecological state identification, 3) models of dynamic soil properties for specific ecological sites, and 4) selected maps of dynamic soil properties for areas in the southeastern US along with peer-reviewed manuscripts and presentations.

Date: 08/01/17 - 9/30/20
Amount: $200,000.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Soil health has become an increasingly important area of emphasis in land management, particularly agricultural land management, within NRCS, in the larger scientific community and with the general public. As interest in soil health management continues to increase, so does the need for consistent, replicable, scientifically sound indicators and associated data that will allow for the assessment of how agricultural management practices are affecting soil health over time. Any robust set of indicators and associated data collection, sometimes referred to as a ????????????????soil health monitoring network??????????????? must also provide usefulness and compatibility across multiple regions, soils and management systems. Soil health metrics should also capitalize on the strengths of existing NRCS activities, especially the soil survey program, including sampling design, field sampling protocols and linking research to soil map units. The purpose of this agreement is to enable NRCS and NC State University, Crop and Soil Sciences Department to work cooperatively to assess the accuracy, repeatability and usefulness of a standard set proposed soil health metrics in the Eastern region across a specific soils and land management systems. This information will enhance the science behind soil health management within NRCS and in the wider agricultural community and support continued NRCS involvement in this area.

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