I am dedicated to researching and promoting the adoption of soil health practices, especially more sustainable agricultural systems in both industrial and developing countries. My research focuses on soil management for enhanced soil health and nutrient cycling for productivity, water quality, and sustainability. I have also been a dedicated educator at all levels for more than 40 years, having taught over 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students in his university courses, addressed over 5000 farmers at meetings and field days, and helped train hundreds of researchers and managers in numerous companies and organizations. I have been privileged to be the major advisor for over 42 MS and Ph.D. students. The undergraduate and graduate courses I have developed and taught include two introductory courses, Soil and Environmental Quality (ENST105) and Fundamentals of Soil Science(ENST200), and three upper-level courses: Principles of Soil Fertility(ENST411), Issues in Sustainable Agriculture(ENST441), and Advanced Soil-Plant Relationships(ENST611). I aim to engage students with enthusiasm for soil science and open their eyes to the many ecological roles played by soils, but also maintain high standards and rigorous grading.
My program at the University of Maryland attempts to integrate all three legs of the Land Grant University Mission, teaching, extension, and research, in a manner that benefits all three. My teaching philosophy is summarized by three “I”s: inspire, integrate, and inform. Students in the classroom are energized by hearing first-hand accounts of soils problems and investigations and benefit by learning science from an active scientist. At the same time, the classroom discussions of cutting-edge concepts often inspire my graduate students and me to work on new research ideas. I view my extension activities provide a two-way flow of ideas to and from regional and global farmers and other soil management practitioners. The synergism between teaching and research and my ecological approach to soil science find their ultimate expression in my work as author of the most widely used textbook in soil science, The Nature and Properties of Soils.
My research program combines three interrelated areas: 1) Organic Matter Management for Soil Health; 2) Sustainable Farming Systems, and 3) Soil Management for Improved Nutrient Cycling and Water Quality. Much of my current work revolves around enhanced management of cover crops as major tools that impact all three of these research areas. Whenever I have the opportunity, I like to work with farmers in developing countries, especially those in Africa, by diagnosing and finding solutions to agricultural problems in the field while collaborating on integrated agricultural development and soils-related issues.
The Soil Quality lab under the leadership of Professor Ray Weil studies physical, chemical and biological aspects of Soil Quality and Health as related to Management of Soil Organic Carbon, Nutrient Cycling and Water Quality, and Sustainable Farming Systems.
In 2014 and 2017 Weil visited Ningxia in western China to collaborate with research from Cornell University, the Key Laboratory of Forest Biotechnology and Ningxia University on technologies for soil, water, and biodiversity conservation in this desertified region.
In 2022 Dr. Weil worked in several remote villages in northern Uganda to teach ecological, soil-centric farming to small holder farmers as part of USDAID and Catholic Relief Services farmer - to - Farmer Program.
Weil worked in several counties of Liberia to assist local NGOs in diagnosing and solving soil fertility problems that plagues smallholder vegetable farmers.
From June 2009 to January 2010, Weil served as Senior Research Fellow at Earth Institute Tropical Agriculture Program at Columbia University, New York in which capacity he advised the Millennium Villages Project in on soil and crop related issue in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, and Senegal. In each of these countries Weil worked to solve agriculturally related problems in village clusters with up to 30,000 residents. Working directly with villagers as well as with the staff of this integrated development project, Weil performed field diagnosis and problem solving on a wide range of issues including compost production, human waste recycling, fertilizer recommendations, nutrients from indigenous sources, irrigation, soil conservation, cropping systems and rotations, agroforestry, soil testing, soil mapping, materials transport and agronomic crop management.
During July 2005 and again in August-September 2009, Weil served as advisor on soil and water issues in rural development for the Tarahumara indigenous peoples in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. I advised the Government of Chihuahua State, Mexico, Coordinacion por las Tarahumara on compost production and use and on the production of seed for special indigenous “blue” corn that the local communities were producing and processing into premium food products such a pinole, chips and corn meal. Weil also worked closely with field staff of the Laguna Foundation in several isolated Tarahumara communities. This work including problem solving, advising and training on soil conservation, vegetable gardening, irrigation, compost and fertilizer use and other aspects of soil fertility in the Sierra.
In August 2008, Weil participated in research planning meetings, presented a lecture at University of Dhaka and served as session chair and a keynote speaker in the International Symposium on Climate Change and Food Security in South Asia, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In January 2007, I made a study visit with colleagues from Cairo University to research sites in the Black Desert.
In January 2006 and July/August 2007, I conducted field research dealing with the relationships between soil health and human health in southern Chad, central Africa. The work was funded by a National Science Foundation grant in collaboration with The School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Recent discovery of oil fields and development of pipelines in Chad had lead to changes in land use and land availability, influencing the pattern of local agricultural rotations with natural fallow. The visit in 2007 was devoted to training Chadian staff and collecting soil quality baseline data in villagers fields.
During July–December, 2001, I served as advisor to the Ethiopian Agriculture Research Organization in the area of Soil and Water Research under a World Bank Agricultural Research and Training Project. In this capacity I worked at both the headquarters and at various research locations around the country to train and assist Ethiopian researchers in advancing agricultural and soil investigations.
In July 2000 I collaborated in soil quality research in southern Brazil and presented seminars at the Federal University of Pelotas and the Federal University of Santa Maria.
In 1998-2000 I organized and led a soil quality research porject and a January “wintermester” Study Abroad course entitled “Hands-On Sustainable Development in Honduras” in collaboration with El Zamorano University about 50 km from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Eleven University of Maryland students paired up with El Zamorano counterparts to work on research projects in the field.
Dr. Ray Weil on Google Scholar
R.R. Weil and N.C. Brady. 2019. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. 4th Edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 742 p. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-325459-4.
R.R. Weil and N.C. Brady. 2017. The Nature and Properties of Soils. 15 th Ed. Pearson/Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 1086 p. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-325448-8.
Weil, R.R. 2014. Laboratory Manual for Introductory Soil Science. 9th ed. Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, IO. 218p ISBN 9781465259226.
Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2010. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils 3rd Edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Weil, Ray R. 2009. Lab Manual for Introductory Soil Science. 8th ed. Kendall Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa.
Brady, Nyle and Ray Weil. 2008. The Nature and Properties of Soils. 14th ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. 975 p. ISBN 13-978-0-13-227938-3.
Magdoff, F., and R.R. Weil, (eds.). 2004. Soil Organic Matter in Sustainable Agriculture. CRC Press, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2002. The Nature and Properties of Soils 13th Ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Weil, R.R. and W. Kroontje. 1984. The Nature and Properties of Soils: A Study Guide. MacMillan Pub. Co, New York, NY.
Chapters in Books:
Rahmani, A., and R. Weil. 2018. Rocks, radishes, and restoration: On the relationships between clean water and healthy soil p. 277-286, In A. Toland, et al., eds. Field to palette – the soil art dialogues CRC Press (Taylor and Francis), Boca Raton.
Heckman, J.R., R.R. Weil, and F. Magdoff. 2009. Practical steps to soil fertility for organic agriculture, p. 139-173, In C. A. Francis, ed. Organic farming: The ecological system. American Society of Agronomy/ Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Madison, WI.
Weil, Ray. 2001. Soil management for sustainable intensification: some guidelines. p. 145-154. In Keeney, D Sustainability of Agricultural Systems in Transition. Agronomy Society of America Special Publication 64, ASA, Madison, WI.
Bottrell, D.G. and R.R. Weil. 1995. Protecting crops and the environment: striving for durability. p. 55-72.
In A.S. Juo Bridging Food Production and Environmental Quality in Developing Countries. ASA Spec. Publ. 60,.
Weil, R.R. and S.K. Mughogho. 1993. Nutrient Cycling By Acacia albida in Agroforestry Systems. p. 97-108. In Ragland Technologies for Sustainable Agriculture in the Tropics. Amer. Soc. of Agronomy Spec. Publ. 56.
Sedghi, N., and Weil, R. ( 2022). Fall cover crop nitrogen uptake drives reduced winter-spring leaching. Journal of Environmental Quality 51:in press. 10.1002/jeq2.20342 https://doi.org/10.1002/jeq2.20342
Harou, A. P., Madajewicz, M., Michelson, H., Palm, C. A., Amuri, N., Magomba, C., Semoka, Johnson, S., Tschirhart, K., and Weil, R. (2022). The joint effects of information and financing constraints on technology adoption: Evidence from a field experiment in rural Tanzania. Journal of Development Economics 155:102707. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdeveco.2021.102707
Roobroeck, D., C.A. Palm, G. Nziguheba, R. Weil, and B. Vanlauwe. 2021. Assessing and understanding non-responsiveness of maize and soybea