Mitigating Climate Change Through Alternative Soil Management with scientist Dr. Charlotte Decock

About Our Researcher

Dr. Charlotte Decock is a Belgium native who has spent her life studying the effects of soil in agriculture. She earned both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering from Ghent University in Belgium. She then attended University of California, Davis and earned her Ph.D. in Soils and Biogeochemistry.

Being highly educated wasn't enough, so Dr. Decock participated in research in Zurich, Italy, and India. She has led and contributed to projects on the effect of water and nutrient management on soil fertility, nitrate leaching, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Decock is now a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where she teaches Soil Health and Plant Nutrition, Soil Plant Relationships, and Intro to Soil Science. Along with her classes, Dr. Decock works with student researchers and other faculty members on three seperate research projects.

One of Dr. Decock's research projects takes place at the Cal Poly Strawberry Center.

Here, she examines the nutrient requirements for different cultivars of strawberries.

Under its mandate to protect water quality in California, the State Water Resources Control Board will require nitrogen fertilizer use to closely math crop uptake. In collaboration with Cal Poly's Strawberry Center, Dr. Decock's research assesses whether nitrogen uptake differs between strawberry varieties.

Dr. Decock and her students are interested in identifying management practices that help meet the strawberries' nutrient requirement while promoting soil carbon storage and reducing the risk for environmental pollution. By comparing the effect of a controlled release fertilizer, a compost amendment, and a treatment with no preplant fertilizer application, she and her fellow researchers examine the effects the different soil and nutrient management strategies on strawberry crop yields, nitrogen uptake, and soil health.

One of her favorite things about being a researcher is the fun and diversity of her projects, and how they are all related but all use different management practices.

She didn't plan a career in research, but found one through her indulgence in science and finding solutions to problems that are unknown.

She entered high school focused on the medical application of science and biology, but quickly realized she was more passionate about the environment and being out in the field, and deviated her from medical path.

Her true passion for agriculture was ignited through her studies at UC Davis, where she earned her Ph.D. in Soils and Biogeochemistry.

In another one of her current research projects, Dr. Decock works with the Center for Sustainability and other faculty members and students to look at cover crops as a management practice for soil health and improving yields in Citrus orchards. The project includes two field trials that serve as research and demonstration sites, one of which is situated on the Cal Poly campus. In addition, Dr. Babin is leading interviews and surveys to identify barriers for citrus growers on deciding to adopt cover crops.

At the Cal Poly field trial, three treatments are assessed: no cover crop, legume cover crop, and cereal cover crop. In another orchard, they analyze the use of no cover crop, cereal cover crop and a cereal inoculated with mycorrhizae (fungi).

Outside of their work in the field, Dr. Decock's students spend time in the lab testing samples, using specialized equipment, and analyzing the findings of the field trials.

“The reward of learning about other people's interests and projects has been really great.”

Dr. Decock loves sharing her passion of her work with her students and fellow researchers. Her love of agriculture and pursuit of sustainable practices shines through her smile as she explains her research.

All three of her projects take place in the field and carry over to lab analysis. With the use of a variety of field and laboratory research techniques and the help of student researchers, Dr. Decock hopes to play a part in the development of more sustainable practiced of soil management in all aspects of agriculture.

Test tubes full of greenhouse gases and tin cans of dried soil are just some of the physical representations of all of her hard work.

Of all of her research she participated in throughout her career, she cannot pick a favorite. She takes every opportunity to share her research, and was a speaker at the 2017 World Ag Expo.

"Every individual project will only provide so much knowledge."

Photos taken by Erin Clendenen and Haley Boyajian

Project by Erin Clendenen and Haley Boyajian

Erin Clendenen

Erin was born and raised in the small town of Cottonwood, California. She is currently a fourth year Agricultural Communications major at Cal Poly, also receiving a minor in both Agribusiness and Law and Society. She has been an active member of the rodeo team, represents the team as the President this year, as well as worked as an undergraduate student researcher for CAFES. Erin is very thankful for all of the resources, connections, and opportunities Cal Poly has provided her and is excited to share her passion for agriculture upon graduation.

Haley Boyajian

Haley was born and raised in Half Moon Bay, California. She is currently a senior Agricultural Communication major at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, California. She works for Cal Poly's Brock Center for Agricultural Communication as an Associate Editor. She also works as an Account Coordinator at Big Red Marketing, a boutique marketing firm in San Luis Obispo.


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