Scientific Research

Scientific Research

Since its founding in 1999, the Center has funded more than 70 research projects totaling more than $10 million in funding. The research findings provide decision-makers at the federal, state, and local levels with science-based guidance on important topics such as:

  • The use of the enzyme Phytase in poultry feed to reduce phosphorus levels in manure
  • Ways to improve the federal Conservation Security Program (“green payments”)
  • Protecting Maryland’s investment in land preservation through supportive local zoning and compatible transportation policies
  • The use of downzoning as a tool to preserve farmland
  • An economic assessment of the forestry industry in Maryland
  • Identifying alternative crops and niche markets to help farmers who wish to transition from traditional commodity crop production
  • Designing riparian buffers to maximize environmental benefits
  • Enhancing the economic development of resource-based industries on the Eastern Shore
  • Creating a blueprint for an effective TDR program based on other successful models
  • Identifying the presence and effect of endocrine disrupting compounds in poultry litter

Featured Research

The landward movement of seawater into coastal communities is causing salt damage to land along the eastern seaboard of the United States. For coastal communities like on Maryland's rural Lower Eastern Shore, that can mean invasive marsh species, undrinkable water, damaged forests, reduced agricultural crop yields, and salt-stressed soils. This study performed by University of Maryland scientist Dr. Kate Tully and partially funded by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology looks into ways we could potentially mitigate this phenomenon called saltwater intrusion brought on by sea-level rise and climate change.

Current Research

Riparian Buffers, Water Quality and Carbon Sequestration

This study, led by Dr. David Newburn and Dr. Erik Lichtenberg at the University of Maryland (UMD), aims to analyze the incentive program features that are most effective in encouraging rural landowners in Maryland to plant streamside buffers.

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Improving oyster aquaculture site selection

This project will use an oyster bioenergetics model to determine optimum growing conditions for Maryland oysters based on water quality at potential lease sites. It gets rid of the guesswork when it comes to finding suitable locations for aquaculturists seeking a place to grow oysters. This study is being led by Dr. Matt Parker of the University of Maryland Extension, along with Don Webster of the University of Maryland Extension, Dr. Jeremy Testa of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Suzanne Bricker of the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science.

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Enhancing Resilience with Triticale

There is a need to focus on developing resilient cereal crops that require low input and can fulfill the needs of grain, forage, feed and cover crops. A new project being led by University of Maryland Assistant Professor Dr. Vijay Tiwari suggests triticale is a great fit for these requirements. 

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Oyster Hatchery Production and Machine Learning

This project is being performed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences researchers Drs. Vyacheslav Lyubchich, Matthew Grey and Greg Silsbe. It aims to use machine learning to identify conditions leading to hatchery inefficiencies and strategies for mitigating their impacts on oyster spat production.

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Saltwater Intrusion

This study, "Adapting to increasingly saline soil in coastal Maryland," is led by researchers at the University of Delaware (UD), George Washington University (GWU), and the University of Maryland (UMD). It seeks to provide farmers, technical advisors, and policy-makers with information that is needed to promote adaptation and resilience to sea-level rise and climate-driven changes.

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Technical Assistance and Climate Resiliency

This project, "Advancing farmers’ capacity to prepare for and address climate change: Using an integrated, social science approach to identify technical support related barriers and opportunities," is being performed by Matt Houser and Amy Jacobs, both of The Nature Conservancy, in coordination with Lindsay Thompson, executive director of the Maryland Grain Producers. The aim of this project is to offer practical insight into how organizations and policies can better support our state’s agricultural system as it transitions to address climate change.

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Thriving Agricultural Systems in Urbanized Landscapes

The Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology and the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) are collaborating with multiple universities, partners, farmers, and stakeholders from throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed region in a 5-year sustainable agriculture systems study.

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Forestry Stewardship

The overall goal for the project is to increase forestry stewardship practices on small acreage properties through training service providers like landscapers and educating landowners.

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Multi-Species Cover Crops

This research through the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts aims to promote the benefits of multi-species cover crops.

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Nutrient Optimization

The project seeks to optimize nitrogen and phosphorus use and reduce the nutrient losses in crop production systems. This will help devise a strategy to reduce nutrient runoff to receiving waters with best management practices that keep the nutrients in the plant root zone.

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Enhancing Soil Organic Carbon

An ultimate goal of this study is to strengthen the science of measuring and tracking soil carbon. This has been a noted need in soil science recently in order to maintain and optimize soil health to sustain farm productivity and protect the environment.

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Chesapeake Foodshed Assessment

The Chesapeake Foodshed Assessment provides an in-depth study of the current state of the sectors that comprise our regional food system including producers, processors, distributors, and consumers. 

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Past Research

Agriculture Policies


Production and Productivity

Alternative Crops

Cover Crops

Niche Markets

Nutrient Reduction



Chesapeake 2000 Land Preservation Commitment


Land Use Tools

Forestry Research and Assessment

Land Use and Growth Management

Nutrient Reductions

Population Change and Impacts on Rural Areas

Water Supply