The Sprunger Lab

Discovering how agricultural practices influence soil and rhizosphere processes for enhanced agronomic performance and ecological function

Welcome to The Sprunger Lab!

Sprunger Lab

We consist of soil scientists and ecologists that examine how agricultural practices influence soil and rhizosphere processes for enhanced agronomic performance and ecological function. We are particularly interested in understanding how crop diversity and perenniality influence soil food webs, root production, nutrient cycling, and soil health. Much of our work falls within the intersection of agriculture and the environment, thus we are deeply invested in understanding how global climate change impacts productivity and ecosystem function within agroecosystems. We also explore how sustainable agriculture can contribute to solving some of society’s most pressing environmental issues.

Dr. Christine Sprunger

Dr. Christine Sprunger is a soil scientist and ecologists at W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) and the Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University. Dr. Sprunger started her faculty career at The Ohio State University in 2018, where she concentrated on four key areas of agroecological research including rhizosphere ecology, global change biology, sustainable agriculture production, and socio-ecological systems. An overarching theme of Dr. Sprunger’s research is to assess how agricultural practices influence soil and rhizosphere processes for enhanced agronomic performance and ecological function. In particular, Dr. Sprunger has demonstrated that roots of perennial cropping systems can enhance soil food webs and soil health more readily than roots of annual cropping systems. Dr. Sprunger and her research team have also found soil biological health is improved when both perenniality and plant diversity are incorporated in to agroecosystems. This has significant implications for how practitioners should manage their farms for improved soil health and crop productivity.

In Dr. Sprunger’s new role at KBS and Michigan State University starting August 2022, her lab will focus a greater emphasis on research surrounding soil health and ecology. Soil health can be defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. However, there are still gaps in knowledge regarding what indicators are most effective at quantifying and monitory soil health over time. Dr. Sprunger’s team intends to explore how a variety of chemical, physical, and biological metrics can serve as indicators of soil health using long-term trials as well as working on-farm with Michigan farmers. Dr. Sprunger’s team is currently using the National Science Foundation Funded Long-Term Ecological Research Site located at KBS to assess how long-term agricultural management impacts soil food webs and soil health. Dr. Sprunger’s team is quantifying and identifying nematodes as a way to assess soil food web structure and function and decipher how nematodes can be used as key soil biological health indicators.

Lastly, given that global climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, Dr. Sprunger’s group conducts research assessing both climate mitigation potential and climate adaptation within agroecosystems. Dr. Sprunger is part of two on-going multi-disciplinary projects working to assess how climate extremes such as drought and flooding impact soil health and crop productivity.

Stakeholder Profiles