2024-25 Research Faculty and Staff

2023 Crop Physiology Lab
University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences

Faculty, Staff, & Students

Frederick E. Below, Professor and Principal Investigator

Dr. Below is a Professor of Crop Physiology in the Department of Crop Sciences. His research is focused on understanding factors limiting crop productivity, particularly corn and soybean. He has taught introductory crop courses to undergraduates, as well as advanced courses to graduate students, and given numerous presentations at international and national conferences. He developed the “Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World” and the “Six Secrets of Soybean Success” as tools to teach farmers and agricultural professionals the value of their individual crop management decisions.

Juliann Seebauer, Principal Research Specialist

My research focus is on the physiological basis underlying the growth, development, and final quality of grain. I use multiple approaches to accomplish this goal, including in-vitro kernel and panicle culture, stem infusion, hydroponics, and field studies, while integrating regional weather patterns, agronomic management, and quantitative chemical analyses.

Email: jzzz@illinois.edu LinkedIn: Juliann Seebauer Twitter: @JuliSee1

Jared Fender, Senior Research Specialist and M.S. Student

As a senior research specialist for the laboratory, my main focus revolves around the equipment utilized in the CPL research program. As fertilizer application methods and placements are constantly being redesigned, our research-scale equipment needs to adapt to keep up with the shift to “industry standards”. Alongside the equipment, I am focusing on utilizing fertilizer catalysts such as Bacillus spp. to increase inorganic phosphorus availability throughout the growing season to improve corn yield and NUE, with an interest in a 4R approach to fertilizer sources, timings, and placement methods.

Connor Sible, Postdoc

I am interested in high yield corn and soybean production systems with a range of different approaches. Prior to starting a postdoc, my previous research focused on categorizing biological products and in understanding where, how, and why they work to improve fertilizer use efficiency and increase crop yields. My current research still touches these topics, but I have added a focus on crop residue management and genetic by management interactions.

Email: sible2@illinois.edu LinkedIn: Connor Sible Twitter: @ConnorSible

Samuel Leskanich, Ph.D. Student

My research interests are focused on the integration of new agronomic products like innovative fungicides and fertilizers into different management systems in corn and soybean production. These management systems include standard approaches with lower inputs and progressive systems with additional inputs in the attempt to maximize grain yields. As a PhD student I have focused on characterizing corn root architecture and how the surface area, angle, and mass (SAAM) parameters are related to a hybrid’s yield response to a given management practice.

Dalton Knerrer, M.S. Student

Residue is often referred to as “trash,” but if we can tap into the valuable nutrient reserve it can certainly become “treasure!” I focus my research on residue management in continuous corn and double crop soybean systems, with the integration of novel agronomic practices such as the application of microorganisms with or without surfactants that can enhance residue decomposition to benefit cash crop yields. In addition to the use of residue degrading biologicals, I am also evaluating the efficacy of N-fixing inoculants for corn to improve N use efficiency.

Miranda Ochs, M.S. Student

My research is centered around the interactions of genetic variations and management practices as they relate to corn and soybean production. Specifically, I am concentrating on the impact of planting date to optimize the value of fertility or foliar protection for improved soybean yields and the diverse performance of corn hybrids under various planting densities, fertility applications, and foliar protection. The goal of this research is to maximize yields and provide valuable insights to benefit farmers in their agronomy decisions.

Gabriela Frigo Fernandes, M.S. Student

My main interest is studying crop nutrition and learning how different sources, rates, placements, and timings of fertilizer applications impact agricultural production. As an agronomist and chemist by training, my research blends my knowledge to better understand how fertilization strategies affect crop growth, development, and final grain yields. Considering that fertilizers are one of the most expensive inputs on the farm, I have particular interest in studying how to maximize fertilizer use efficiency in a way that reduces costs per acre while increasing profitability to farmers.

Visiting Scholars

Soybean field

Yasmin Castro Figueiredo, Brazil

I am an undergraduate student at Federal University of Goi├ís, Brazil. This year as a visiting scholar, I am having the opportunity to learn about maize and soybean production in the Midwest US with managements focusing on high yields. This internship has been enriching as I have gained valuable insights that will significantly contribute to my professional goals. After concluding my bachelor’s degree, with my academic background and my skills, I am interested in working in the commercial agronomy industry with seed, chemicals, or biologicals.

Email: yasmin.castrov@gmail.com

Pedro Gijsbertus van Melis, Brazil

I am an undergraduate student of agronomy from ESALQ-USP, Brazil. I am interested in high-yield management in soybean and corn production, focusing mainly on variety and hybrid selection, soil fertility, and the use of biologicals, which have shown great increases in yields. In the lab, I work with Master’s and PhD students, learning every day. I look forward to using my experience in the lab to complete my undergraduate degree and pursue a career in the industry.

Email: pedrovanmelis@gmail.com LinkedIn: Pedro van Melis

soybean plant pushing up through soil

Eric Herman Morsink, Brazil

 I am a research scholar at the Crop Physiology Laboratory and I graduated with a degree in Agronomy at UEM, Brazil. With the experience at the lab I am learning a lot about the factors that can lead to a high crop productivity as well as those factors that limit yield. Working with PhD and MS students I am getting to know more about the research world and it is encouraging me to continue in my studies, especially regarding crop management, soil fertility, and the use of biologicals for high yields of corn and soybean. I am looking to use the knowledge and experience that I am gaining here to progress my studies and future career.

Email: eric.morsink48@gmail.com