Research > Cropping Systems and Physiology


In the “Cropping Systems and Physiology Research Lab,” we seek to be a leader in improving long-term economic and environmental sustainability of agricultural ecosystems and improving the productivity and resilience of crop plants.

We design and study cropping systems to improve provision of ecosystem services in crop production. Crop physiology and phenology are studied to better understand crop responses to the environment and management practices, guiding improved variety development and crop management.

Enhancing Agricultural Ecosystem Services through Legumes

Legumes are plants in the Fabaceae family. Legumes are famous for their human, animal, and soil health-promoting properties, including their ability to “fix” atmospheric nitrogen. Current research projects include:

  • Testing integration of guar into regional wheat systems.
  • Developing a growth staging system for guar and supporting development of a new CSM-CROPGRO-Guar Model for the DSSAT plant growth modelling system.
  • Quantifying biological nitrogen fixation in regional legumes (winter pea, vetch, etc.).
  • Evaluating factors (water, nitrogen, inoculants, time) impacting root nodulation in legumes.

Organic Farming

We are working to open opportunities in organic agriculture to regional producers. Current research includes:

  • Large-scale systems comparison of transitional organic and conventional dual-purpose wheat systems.
  • Evaluation of wheat germplasm traits for suitability in dual-purpose organic systems.

High-Throughput Phenotyping

High-throughput phenotyping is rapid identification of crop traits, typically through remote sensing, with applications in plant breeding and management. Our current research projects in this area include:

  • Development of both proximal and aerial high-throughput phenotyping systems for cotton.
  • Supporting development of a user-friendly irrigation scheduling app through remote sensing of crop water stress.

Improving Crop Yield, Stress Tolerance, and Resource Use

Our research in this area involves various applications of crop physiology and agronomy to answer agricultural questions. Some current projects in this area include:

  • Better defining effects of plant population and stand quality on lint yield and quality in cotton.
  • Evaluating the crop physiology of wheat yield and grain protein.
  • Studying effects of deficit irrigation and drought on crop production and physiology.
  • Evaluating enhanced-efficiency fertilizers and crop nutrient management.
  • Investigating the role of root system traits in crop production.

Richard Vierling

Please contact Dr. Richard Vierling for information about this project.


Team Members

Rajan Shrestha, Graduate Research Assistant

Bala Sapkota, Graduate Research Assistant




  • MacMillan, J., Shrestha, R., Adams, C., Hinson, P., Trostle, C. 2021. The root system of guar: Spatial and temporal analysis of root and nodule development. Annals of Applied Biology, doi:10.1111/aab.12697.
  • Shrestha, R., Adams, C., Rajan, N. 2021. Does the drought tolerance of guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba (L.) Taub.) extend belowground to root nodules? Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science, doi:10.1111/jac.12494.
  • Adams, C., Ritchie, G.L., Rajan, N. 2021. Cotton phenotyping and physiology monitoring with a proximal remote sensing system. Crop Science 61:1317-1327.
  • MacMillan, J., Adams, C., Trostle, C., Rajan, N. 2021. Testing the efficacy of existing USDA Rhizobium germplasm collection accessions as inoculants for guar. Industrial Crops and Products 161:113205.
  • Adams, C., Boote, K., Shrestha, R., MacMillan, J., Hinson, P., Trostle, C. 2020. Growth stages and developmental patterns of guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba (L.) Taub.). Agronomy Journal 112:4990-5001.
  • Adams, C., Reyes-Cabrera, J., Nielsen, J., Erickson, J.E. 2020. Root system architecture in genetically diverse populations of grain sorghum compared with shallow and steeply rooted monocultures. Crop Science 60:2709-2719.
  • Hinson, P., Adams, C. 2020. Quantifying tradeoffs in nodulation and plant productivity with nitrogen in guar. Industrial Crops and Products 153:112617.
  • Adams, C., Thapa, S., DeLaune, P. 2020. Growth and development of irrigated cotton in conservation management systems of the Texas Rolling Plains. Agronomy Journal 112:1805-1814.
  • Wynne, K., Neely, C., Adams, C., DeLaune, P., Kimura, E., Hathcoat, D., Gerrish, B. 2020. Testing row spacing and planting rate for fall-planted spring canola in the Southern U.S. Agronomy Journal 112:1952-1962.
  • Adams, C., Erickson, J., Bunderson, L. 2019. A mesoporous silica nanoparticle technology applied in dilute nutrient solution accelerated establishment of zoysiagrass. Agrosystems, Geosciences and Environment 3:e20006.
  • Adams, C., Thapa, S., Kimura, E. 2019. Determination of a plant population density threshold for optimizing cotton lint yield: A synthesis. Field Crops Research 230:11-16.
  • Wynne, K., Adams, C., Neely, C., DeLaune, P., Kimura, E., *Thapa, S. 2019. Canola emergence and early growth were not affected by allelopathic properties of wheat residue. Agrosystems, Geosciences and Environment 2:180058.
  • Thapa, S., Adams, C., Trostle, C. 2018. Root nodulation in guar: Effects of soils, Rhizobium inoculants, and guar varieties in a controlled environment. Industrial Crops and Products 120:198-202.
  • Adams, C., Thapa, S., Fan, Y., Park, S. 2018. Agronomic and economic effects of two enhanced-efficiency urea fertilizer technologies on Southern Great Plains wheat. Agronomy Journal 110:1-6.
  • Liang, X., Liu, Y., Chen, J., Adams, C. 2018. Late-season photosynthetic rate and senescence were associated with grain yield in winter wheat of diverse origins. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 204:1-12.
  • Adams, C., Erickson, J. 2017. Yield enhancement by short-term imposition of severe water deficit in the vegetative growth stage of grain sorghum. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 203:307-314.
  • Adams, C., Erickson, J., Singh, M. 2015. Investigation and synthesis of sweet sorghum crop responses to nitrogen and potassium fertilization. Field Crops Research 178:1-7.
  • Adams, C., Erickson, J., Singh, M., Campbell, D., Rebolledo, J.P. 2015. Effects of row spacing and population density on yield of sweet sorghum: Applications for harvesting as billets. Agronomy Journal 107:1831-1836.
  • Adams, C., Jacobson, A., Bugbee, B. 2014. Ceramic aggregate sorption and desorption chemistry: Implications for use as a component of soilless media. Journal of Plant Nutrition 37:1345-1357.
  • Adams, C., Bugbee, B. 2014. Nitrogen retention and partitioning at the initiation of lipid accumulation in nitrogen deficient algae. Journal of Phycology 50:356-365.
  • Adams, C., Bugbee, B. 2014. Enhancing lipid production of the marine diatom Chaetoceros gracilis: Synergistic interactions of sodium chloride and silicon. Journal of Applied Phycology 26:1351-1357.
  • Adams, C., Frantz, J., Bugbee, B. 2013. Macro- and micronutrient-release characteristics of three polymer-coated fertilizers: Theory and measurements. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 176:76-88.
  • Adams, C., Godfrey, V., Wahlen, B., Seefeldt, L., Bugbee, B. 2013. Understanding precision nitrogen stress to optimize the growth and lipid content tradeoff in oleaginous green microalgae. Bioresource Technology 131:188-194.


Ale, S., Adams, C., Wall, J., Biggers, K., Kimura, E., Fan, Y. 2020-2021. Development and evaluation of a novel sensor- and crop-model-based decision support tool for efficient irrigation management. Texas Water Resources Initiative. $276,474.

Adams, C., Kelly, B. 2021. Yield and fiber quality impacts of stand uniformity and population in cotton. Cotton Inc. $14,000.

Rajan, N., Adams, C., Guo, W. 2021. Integrating phenotyping with cotton growth and development functions. Cotton Inc. $45,000.

Hinson, P., Adams, C., Pinchak, B., Malinowski, D. 2019-2021. The success of organic and other sustainable dual-purpose wheat systems depends on access to adapted varieties. Southern SARE Graduate Student Grant Program. $16,500.

Adams, C., Trostle, C., Ale, S., Park, S., DeLaune, P., Hoogenboom, G., Boote, K. 2018-2022. Enhancing ecosystem services through integration of guar into wheat cropping systems of the Southern Great Plains. USDA-NIFA. $445,000.

Adams, C., Pinchak, B., Park, S., Somenahally, A., Kimura, E., Bell, J. 2017-2021. Introducing organic to producers of grain-only and pasture-grain wheat cropping systems of northern Texas. USDA-NIFA. $499,802.