2003 Lecturer | Dr. Hugo Rogers

About the Lecturer

The Twentieth Annual Roscoe Ellis, Jr. Soil Science Lecture was given by Dr. Hugo Rogers of the National Soil Dynamics Laboratory (NSDL), Mid-South Area, ARS-USDA, Auburn, Alabama.

Rogers’ first job was in the Div. of Engineering, Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina (1975) studying the control of airborne particulates by vegetation; in 1976, he began research as a Plant Physiologist in Dr. Walter Heck’s Air Quality/Vegetation Effects Program, ARS-USDA, Raleigh, NC. He served on the adjunct faculties of North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1976-84). In 1984, he moved to the NSDL, and was appointed Research Leader in 2000. He currently holds adjunct appointments in the Dept. of Biology, Duke Univ., Dept. of Agronomy & Soils and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn Univ. where he is a Full Member of the Graduate Faculty.

The interface between agriculture and the atmosphere is his interest. Dr. Rogers leads research on belowground processes in carbon dioxide-enriched agricultural systems. His principal focus the past 30-odd years has been plant response to atmospheric changes, mainly the increase in carbon dioxide concentration. His development of experimental methods has been pivotal to much of this research.

Rogers’ earlier work included environmental toxicology and kinetics of air pollutant uptake by plants. Continuous stirred tank reactor design and theory were adapted to generate test atmospheres for plant gas exchange research. Studies included both nitrogen dioxide and ammonia; flux kinetics with conventional monitoring and stable isotopic tracing (of nitrogen-15 dioxide) were used to measure the sorption rates of gases by plants. Later, field scale systems for the study of plant response to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide were developed; investigations of the effects of carbon dioxide on agronomic and forest species were begun. Aboveground results led to questions about processes below the ground. Root measurement, begun with shovel and foot ruler, soon led to soil coring and optical scanners, then to minirhizotron observations and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging.

He has authored or co-authored 155 publications with work appearing in Science and PNAS. At present, Rogers and his co-workers (Drs. Stephen A. Prior, G. Brett Runion, H. Allen Torbert III, Seth G. Pritchard, and Micheal A. Davis) are studying the response of conservation systems to carbon dioxide increase, with emphasis on cycling and storage of carbon in soil. Root growth, rhizosphere biology, residue management, and soil properties are being studied.

Dr. Rogers has mentored numerous undergraduates, graduate students, and post-doctoral scientists, and has often lectured to classes. For twenty years, he was on the Donald E. Davis Arboretum Committee. He is serving on a SSSA committee to plan a future soils exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution. He has served on the Editorial Boards of Environ. Pollution, Agronomy J., and J. Environ. Qual., and is currently a member of the Editorial Board of Global Change Biology. Rogers is a Fellow of the ASA, the Air and Waste Management Assoc., and AAAS. He was ARS Scientist of the Year in 1993, Mid-South Area.


He received a B.S. in Botany (1969; honors) and an M.S. in Plant Physiology (1971) from Auburn Univ., and a Ph.D., Dept. of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, School of Public Health, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1975); he worked in the laboratory of Dr. Lyman Alonzo Ripperton.