Featured Profile: Ranjith Udawatta
University of Missouri researcher Dr. Ranjith Udawatta measures how society can benefit from agroforestry.
With the majority of Americans living in cities and suburbs, it is important to communicate the value of agriculture and forestry in providing clean water, food and natural materials. Udawatta conducts research that quantifies the environmental benefits of agroforestry, which combines farming and forestry technologies together on the same land.
Udawatta has demonstrated that including trees or grass plants near food crops improves quality of drinking and recreational water by reducing the amount of impurities that filter to waterways via crop runoff. He is also evaluating a process called alley cropping, planting widely-spaced rows of trees with food crops grown in the alleyways between rows. Udawatta is working to measure how this practice affects soil properties, water dynamics, root length density and accumulation of nutrients.
Udawatta has also studied various methods of using plants to capture carbon from the air and transfer it to soil, a possible strategy to combat climate change. Additionally, he has examined how grazing cattle affect water quality and conducted research on prairie restoration, a process that aids in conservation of valuable topsoil.
Dr. Ranjith Udawatta is an associate research professor of soil, environmental and atmospheric sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and an investigator at MU’s Center for Agroforestry.
Click here to download a PDF of this story.
Food for the Future