Soil animal communities are composed of a rich assemblage of decomposers, predators, and plant pests. As assistant professor of Soil Arthropod Ecology and Turfgrass Entomology, I am interested in improving our basic knowledge of soil invertebrates and applying this knowledge to help minimize damage by root-feeding pests while simultaneously preserving the biodiversity and function of beneficial soil organisms.
My research strives to understand the interactions between arthropods, microbes, and soil organic matter, and how these interactions may be modified to improve plant protection in the rhizosphere. One of my research goals is to identify underlying characteristics of soil organic matter (quantity, quality, and composition) which influence root herbivore populations. This knowledge could improve our ability to predict pest outbreaks and may ultimately be used to develop soil amendments which suppress root-feeding pests. I am also interested in understanding the role that soil microbes play in the nutritional ecology of root-feeding arthropods. My previous research demonstrates that soil arthropods interact closely with microbes during feeding, and it is well known that soil arthropods form diverse external and internal associations with microbes. My research at Cornell will continue in this area to improve our understanding of the role of microbes in root herbivore nutrition and the potential for managing root-feeding pests by influencing the soil microbial community.
Outreach and Extension Focus
My extension responsibilities entail working with a diverse body of stakeholders in turfgrass and other commodities in New York State to solve problems involving soil-dwelling plant pests. I believe that a successful extension program in soil arthropod ecology must be highly interdisciplinary, and should be equally receptive to basic ecological research on soil arthropods as well as the knowledge and needs of stakeholders. The overall goal of my extension program is to enhance the sustainability of pest management programs for turfgrass by identifying or developing practices that not only meet stakeholder needs but also preserve or promote soil biological functioning.
- Helmberger, M. S., Shields, E. J., & Wickings, K. (2017). Ecology of belowground biological control: Entomopathogenic nematode interactions with soil biota. Applied Soil Ecology. 121:201-213.
- Castle, S. C., Nemergut, D. R., Grandy, A. S., Leff, J. W., Graham, E. B., Hood, E., Schmidt, S. K., Wickings, K., & Cleveland, C. C. Successional processes drive global convergence of soil microbial communities. Soil Biology and Biochemistry.
- Gan, H., & Wickings, K. (2017). Soil ecological responses to pest management in golf turf vary with management intensity, pesticide identity, and application program. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 246:66-77.
- Wu, P., Zhang, H., Cui, L., Wickings, K., Fu, S., & Wang, C. (2017). Impacts of alpine wetland degradation on the composition, diversity and trophic structure of soil nematodes on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Scientific Reports. 7:12.
- Gan, H., Churchill, A. C., & Wickings, K. (2017). Invisible but consequential: Root endophytic fungi have variable effects on belowground plant-insect interactions. Ecosphere. 8.
- Austin, E. E., Wickings, K., McDaniel, M. D., Robertson, G. P., & Grandy, A. S. (2017). Cover crop root contributions to soil carbon in a no-till corn bioenergy cropping system. Global Change Biology Bioenergy. 9:1252-1263.
- Rinkes, Z. L., Bertrand, I., Amin, B., Grandy, S., Wickings, K., & Weintraub, M. N. (2016). Nitrogen alters microbial enzyme dynamics but not lignin chemistry during maize decomposition. Biogeochemistry. 128:171-186.
- Wickings, K., & Ruberson, J. R. (2016). The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, modifies predation at the soil surface and in cotton foliage. Annals of Applied Biology.
- Wickings, K., Grandy , A. S., & Kravchenko, A. N. (2016). Going with the flow: Landscape position drives differences in microbial biomass and activity in conventional, low input, and organic agricultural systems in the Midwestern U.S. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 218:1-10.
- Hoang, T., N., G., , A. S., Wickings, K., Snapp, S. S., Kirk, W., & Hao, J. (2015). Organic amendment effects on potato productivity and quality are related to soil microbial activity. Plant and Soil. 386:223-236.