North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station


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Research Profile - Tom DeSutter

“Salt- and sodium-affected soils cause crop loss, no matter where you live. At NDSU, I feel we are the top university in dedicating much time and human capital on understanding and managing salt- and sodium-affected soils.”

Name: Tom M. DeSutter
School/Program: School of Natural Resource Sciences - Soil Science
Campus Location: Walster 214

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The Researcher

Dr. DeSutter is an Assistant Professor and Soil Scientist in the School of Natural Resource Sciences. He was born and raised in Hawarden, IA, and obtained his BS and MS degrees from South Dakota State University. He then worked as a research technician at Kansas State University, researching seepage from animal waste lagoons. He received a PhD degree from Kansas State University in 2004. He acquired his current position at NDSU in 2006, while serving in a post­doctoral position at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, Iowa.

The Research

The goals of DeSutter’s research project are to better understand the effects of salts and sodium on soils and to find agricultural uses for industrial byproducts. One of his primary objectives is to determine how various water management strategies (controlled­, free­, and no­subsurface drainage, and cover crops) influence the sodification of high-risk soils. With this information, he will develop guidelines for managing problem soils.

Why it Matters

This research will provide management information for soils negatively impacted by sodium and soluble salts. North Dakota is globally recognized as a leader in food production. If we can provide improved tools and education on how to better manage soils, North Dakota will continue to excel at providing food, fuel, and fiber to a growing population.

Student Engagement

DeSutter has two PhD students working on developing management guidelines for sodium-affected soils, and quantifying the taxonomic similarities and differences across sodium- and salt-affected soils. He also teaches two soil courses - Soil and Land Use, and Environmental Field Instrumentation and Sampling. He says that Soil Science is made for those students who have a strong work ethic and want a professional career that will give them daily satisfaction in trying to improve a very important part of our earth, the soil.

Three Key Rewards from Research

A researcher finds many great rewards along the way, but the three greatest rewards for DeSutter are: training graduate students; getting the email saying your manuscript has been accepted; and seeing your research put into practice! Dr. DeSutter is indeed putting his research into practice. He was lead principal investigator on a two-state $915,785 Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service in 2012. The grant, titled “Reducing Sodification in High-Risk Northern Great Plains Soils,” also included five other soils faculty and four other NDSU faculty from the agricultural and biosystems engineering and agribusiness and applied economics departments.

Contact information

Tom M. DeSutter
School of Natural Resource Sciences, Soil Science
Walster 214, NDSU
Work: 701-231-8690


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