Department Profile

 

School of Plant, Environmental & Soil Sciences Office
104 M.B. Sturgis Hall, LSU campus

Phone: 225-578-2110
Fax: 225-578-1403

Office Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Monday-Friday

Don R. Labonte, Ph.D.
Director/Professor
email

Website:
www.spess.lsu.edu

For more information about the School of Plant, Environmental & Soil Sciences, view our video.


About Us

The faculty of the School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences (SPESS) are engaged in teaching, research and extension activities in the areas of agronomy, environmental management, horticulture and weed science. We offer undergraduate degree programs in plant and soil systems and environmental management and graduate degree programs in agronomy and horticulture. In the spirit of the land-grant university system, the school offers unique opportunities for students to gain valuable work experience by working with our diversified research faculty on projects that cover a broad range of plant, environmental and soils topics. Our extension faculty, with specializations in agronomy, horticulture and weed science, work with parish extension agents to deliver the latest science-based information to Louisiana citizens.


Academic Focus:

The school provides a solid foundation and prepares students for successful professional careers in the study of sciences related to agronomy, horticulture and environmental management.


Research Focus:

Through research the school enhances, develops and delivers expertise that anticipates and responds to society’s changing needs.


Extension Focus:

Develop educational opportunities for professional and consumer clientele through field days, variety trials, workshops, extension publications and mass media.


Academic/Research/Extension Highlights

Extension faculty work with research and teaching faculty to assist parish county agents in delivering the latest research-based information to Louisiana citizens in both rural and metropolitan settings.

Evaluation and development of new sweet potato varieties include the recently released Evangeline – a deep-orange-flesh variety with unusually high sucrose content. The breeding program also recently released the popular Murasaki-29 – a purple-skinned, white-flesh variety. This specialty variety represents a small but growing segment of the industry.

Extension efforts include sustainable agriculture production, environmental awareness and improved quality of life. The youth component provides career exploration and personal development through 4-H programming and FFA contests.

To capture USDA-NRCS parish soil survey information, faculty from the school are digitizing this data for dissemination on the Web.

Graduate students have opportunities to work with Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station personnel in the areas of plant breeding and genetics, weed science, biotechnology, plant nutrition, plant growth and development, and plant propagation in areas of agronomy and horticulture.

The school offers a variety of soil, plant tissue and water tests to the general public and research community. They include soil testing and plant analysis, cotton fiber testing and coastal wetlands characterization.


Significance of Programs

The Environmental Management Systems program provides students with the knowledge and skills to work as part of the environmental community in many areas, including air permitting, environmental enforcement, soil permitting, environmental compliance, coastal restoration, and risk assessment and management.

  • The Plant & Soil Systems program prepares students for careers in turfgrass management, landscape management and ornamental horticulture.
  • Sustainable Cropping Systems, a new area of concentration, is a blend of horticulture, agronomy and economics and prepares students for careers in crop consulting and agricultural sales.

School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences Facts

The school has 14 professors, 6 associate professors, 3 assistant professors and 5 instructors.

  • Over 100 students study in program offerings in the school.
  • The school has been one of the most successful in securing grants from state and federal agencies and private industry, with a grant portfolio of more than $10 million.
  • Research is conducted to address horticulture problems through fundamental and applied approaches.
  • The school has a premiere wheat and oat breeding program which serves producers in the state and those in the southeast U.S.

Future Plans

Researchers in the School of Plant, Environmental & Soil Sciences have recently developed a technique for rapidly quantifying the amount of total petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in soils-on-site. The technique utilizes visible near infrared diffuse reflective spectroscopy to detect contaminated soils. The technique has put a powerful tool in the hands of first responders working with oil spill cleanup from the recent Deepwater Horizon spill who need on-site information of contaminant levels. The technology also can be used to quickly assess the spatial extent of contamination plumes or to document the effectiveness of remediation methods employed. Research from the initial study was selected for the cover of the July/August 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality .

The Louisiana coastline is disappearing at a rate of up to 35 square miles a year. A School of Plant, Environmental & Soil Sciences faculty member, who is the only sea oats breeder in the nation, has been identifying sea oat lines with proven performance in natural beach environments after major hurricanes. Through her work, four lines of sea oats have been have been identified. She also is investigating methods to produce sea oats on a commercial scale and is using vegetable float systems as her model for restoration.

SPESS Profile PDF