1. K-State home
  2. »Agronomy
  3. »People
  4. »Faculty
  5. »Dr. Nathan Nelson

Department of Agronomy

Dr. Nathan Nelson

Nelson, Nathan


Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management
Email Dr. Nelson

Kansas State University
2708 Throckmorton PSC
1712 Claflin Road
Manhattan, KS 66506

Ph: +1-785-532-5115
Fx: +1-785-532-6094

Biography & Education


Dr. Nathan Nelson’s interest in soil fertility and nutrient management extends to both agricultural production and environmental quality. Those two areas of concern can easily co-exist, he firmly believes. A strong emphasis on the environment comes naturally for him.

Dr. Nelson is an outdoorsman at heart. In his spare time, he enjoys gardening, camping, woodworking, and other outdoor activities. In his work as Associate Professor of Agronomy at K-State, he focuses primarily on finding ways to increase the efficiency of phosphorus applications in agriculture. One of the main goals is to reduce phosphorus runoff into surface waters. Another is to make sure agricultural producers get good value for the money spent on fertilizer nutrients.
“We know that many of the surface waters in Kansas are impaired by phosphorus. And we know what practices can be used to reduce phosphorus runoff from land surfaces,” he said. “What we need to do now is to get as many of these practices as possible actually implemented in the field, then see how well those improved practices correlate with measured changes in phosphorus levels in the water.”

His research also focuses on measuring the environmental impacts of other nutrients, such as nitrogen, at the watershed scale. While a large portion of his position deals with research, Dr. Nelson also has an opportunity to work directly with students. His extensive field research in many different areas of the state gives a strong practical angle to his teaching.

“It is important for students to understand the impact of nutrient applications on agronomic, economic, and environmental factors,” Dr. Nelson said. “The information they learn can be applied in the field to benefit agriculture and the environment, which will eventually benefit society as a whole.”

Dr. Nelson is a native of Manhattan, so being a member of the Agronomy faculty at K-State is like being at home. He has also lived in North Carolina and Idaho during his years as a graduate student and first professional position, with the USDA–ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Lab. He joined the faculty at K-State in 2005.

He and his family enjoy Manhattan. “We feel it is a great place for us to raise our children and we love the K-State pride felt in this town,” he said. Their family is involved in the community in many ways, and enjoys helping others whenever they can.

  • Ph.D. Soil Science, North Carolina State University, 2004
  • M.S. Soil Science, North Carolina State University, 2000
  • B.S. Agronomy Soil and Water Option, Kansas State University, 1998


Dr. Nelson leads the K-12 outreach program, Willie and the Beanstalk, a competition which helps students apply STEM skills to Agronomy.


  • Obeng, E., A. Obour, N. Nelson, J. Moreno, I. Ciampitti, D. Wang, T. Durrette. 2019. Seed yield and oil quality as affected by Camelina cultivar and planting date. J. Crop Improvement. DOI: 10.1080/15427528.2019.1566186. (KAES publication 18-163-J)
  • Bolster, C.H., C. Baffaut, N.O. Nelson, D.L. Osmond, M.L. Cabrera, J.J. Ramirez-Avila, A.N. Sharpley, T.L. Veith, A.M.S. McFarland, A.G.M.M.M. Senaviratne, G.M. Pierzynski, and R.P. Udawatta. 2018. Development of PLEAD: A database containing event-based runoff P loadings from agricultural fields. J. Environ. Qual. doi:10.2134/jeq2018.09.0337. (KAES publication 19-182-J)
  • Senaviratne G.M.M.M.A., C. Baffaut, J.A. Lory, R.P. Udawatta, N.O. Nelson, and A.B. Bhandari. 2018. Evaluation of four parameterization strategies for the APEX model. Trans. ASABE. 61(5):1603-1617. (doi: 10.13031/trans.12656). (KAES publication 19-183-J)
  • Senaviratne G.M.M.M.A., C. Baffaut, J.A. Lory, R.P. Udawatta, N.O. Nelson, J.R. Williams, and S.H. Andersen. 2018. Improved APEX model simulation of buffer water quality benefits at field-scale. Trans. ASABE 61:603-616. (KAES publication 19-184-J)
  • Kleinman, P.J.A., A.N. Sharpley, A.R. Buda, Z.M. Easton, J.A. Lory, D.L. Osmond, D.E. Radcliffe, N.O. Nelson, T.L. Veith, and D G. Doody. 2017. The promise, practice, and state of planning tools to assess site vulnerability to runoff phosphorus loss. J. Environ. Qual. 46:1243-1249. (KAES publication 19-185-J)
  • Sharpley, A., P. Kleinman, C. Baffaut, D. Beegle, C. Bolster, A. Collick, Z. Easton, J. Lory, N. Nelson, D. Osmond, D. Radcliffe, T. Veith, and J. Weld. 2017. Evaluation of Phosphorus Site Assessment Tools: Lessons from the USA. J. Environ. Qual. 46:1250-1256. (KAES publication 19-186-J)
  • Bhandari, A.B., N.O. Nelson, D.W. Sweeney, C. Baffaut, J.A. Lory, G.M.M.M.A. Senaviratne, G.M. Pierzynski, K.A. Janssen, P.L. Barnes. 2017. Calibration of the APEX model to simulate management practice effects on runoff, sediment and phosphorus loss. J. Environ. Qual. (in press). (KAES publication 17-141-J)
  • Nelson, N.O., C. Baffaut, J.A. Lory, G.M.M.M.A. Senaviratne, A.B. Bhandari, R.P. Udawatta, D.W. Sweeney, M.J. Helmers, M.W. Van Liew, A.P. Mallarino, and C.S. Wortmann. 2017. Multi-site evaluation of APEX for water quality: II. Regional parameterization. J. Environ. Qual. (in press). (KAES publication 17-008-J)
  • Baffaut, C., N.O. Nelson, J.A. Lory, G.M.M.M.A. Senaviratne, A.B. Bhandari, R.P. Udawatta, D.W. Sweeney, M.J. Helmers, M.W. Van Liew, A.P. Mallarino, and C.S. Wortmann. 2017. Multi-site evaluation of APEX for water quality: I. Best professional judgement parameterization. J. Environ. Qual. (in press). (KAES publication 17-142-J)
  • D.E. Radcliffe, D.K. Reid, K. Blombäck, C.H. Bolster, A.S. Collick, Z.M. Easton, W. Francesconi, D.R. Fuka, H. Johnsson, K. King, M. Larsbo, M.A. Youssef, A.S. Mulkey, N.O. Nelson, K. Persson, J.J. Ramirez-Avila, F. Schmieder, D.R. Smith. 2015. Applicability of models to predict phosphorus losses in drained fields: A review. J. Environ. Qual. 44:614–628. (KAES publication 17-143-J)
  • Shao, H., C. Baffaut, J.E. Gao, N.O. Nelson, K.A. Janssen, G.M. Pierzynski, P.L. Barnes. 2013. Development and application of algorithms for simulating terraces within SWAT. Trans. ASABE 56:1715-1730. (KAES publication 14-150-J)
  • Ippolito, J.A., and N.O. Nelson. 2013. Assessment of phosphorus retention in irrigation laterals. J. Soil Water Conserv. 68:450-459. (KAES publication 14-149-J)
  • Altamimi, M., R. Janke, K. Williams, N. Nelson, and L. Murray. 2013. Nitrate-nitrogen sufficiency ranges in leaf petiole sap of Brassica oleracea L., Pac Choi grown with organic and conventional fertilizers. HortScience. 48:357-368.
  • Nelson, N.O., and A.L. Shober. 2012. Evaluation of phosphorus indices after twenty years of science and development. J. Env. Qual. 41:1703-1710. (KAES publication 13-054-J)
  • Johnson, W.A., R.A. Cloyd, J.R. Nechols, K.A. Williams, N.O. Nelson, D. Rotenberg, and M.M. Kennelly. 2012. Effect of Nitrogen Source on pac choi (Brassica rapa L.) chemistry and interactions with the diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella L.). HortScience 47:1457-1465. (KAES publication 12-363-J)
  • Osmond, D., N. Nelson, K. Douglas-Mankin, M. Langemeier, D. Devlin, P. Barnes, T. Selfa, L. French, D. Meals, M. Arabi, and D. Hoag. 2012. Cheney Lake Watershed, KS:NIFA-CEAP Watershed Project. p. 246-264. In D. Osmond, D. Meals, D. Hoag, and M. Arabi (Eds). How to Build Better Agricultural Conservation Programs to Protect Water Quality: The NIFA-CEAP Experience. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Ankeny, IA.
  • Agudelo, S.C., N.O. Nelson, T.D. Keane, P.L. Barnes, G.M. Pierzynski. 2011. Phosphorus adsorption and desorption potential of stream sediments and field soils in agricultural watersheds. J. Environ. Qual.40:144-152. (KAES publication 10-284-J)
  • Nelson, N.O., S.C. Agudelo, W. Yuan, and J. Gan. 2011. Nitrogen and phosphorus availability in biochar amended soils. Soil Science 176 (5): 218-226. (KAES publication 11-051-J)
  • Loecker, J.L., N.O. Nelson, W.B. Gordon, L.D. Maddux, K.A. Janssen, and W.T. Schapaugh. 2010. Manganese response in conventional and glyphosate resistant soybean. Agron. J. 102:606-611. (KAES publication 10-045-J)
  • Gan, J., W. Yuan, N.O. Nelson, and S.C. Agudelo. 2010 Hydrothermal conversion of corn cobs and crude glycerol. Biological Engineering 2:197-210. (KAES publication 10-309-J)
  • Parajuli, P., N.O. Nelson, L. Frees, and K.R. Mankin. 2009. Calibration and validation of AnnAGNPS and SWAT models in USDA-CEAP agricultural watersheds in South-central Kansas. Hydrol. Process. 23:748-763.
  • Blanco, H., R. Stephenson, N.O. Nelson, and D. Presley. 2009. Wheat and sorghum residue removal for expanded uses increases sediment and nutrient loss in runoff. J. Environ. Qual. 38:2365-2372.
  • Bjorneberg, D.L., D.T. Westermann, N.O. Nelson, J.H. Kendrick. 2008. Conservation practice effectiveness in the irrigated Upper Snake-Rock watershed. J. Soil Water Conserv. 63(6):487-495.
  • Nelson, N.O. and R.R. Janke. 2007. Phosphorus sources and management in organic production systems. HortTechnology 17:442-454.
  • Nelson, N.O., and J.E. Parsons. 2006. Basic approaches to modeling phosphorus leaching. p. 81-103. In D.E. Radcliffe and M.L. Cabrera (Ed.) Modeling Phosphorus in the Environment. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Nelson, N.O., and J.E. Parsons. 2006. Modification and validation of GLEAMS for prediction of phosphorus leaching in waste-amended soils. Trans. ASABE 49(5):1395-1407.
  • Nelson, N.O., and R.L. Mikkelsen. 2006. Polyethersulfone membrane filters for sampling soil water from in-situ soils and intact soil columns for phosphate analysis. Commun. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 37:377-388.
  • Nelson, N.O., J.E. Parsons, and R.L. Mikkelsen. 2005. Field-scale evaluation of phosphorus leaching in acid sandy soils receiving long-term swine waste applications. J. Environ. Qual. 34:2024-2035
  • Nelson, N.O., and R.L. Mikkelsen. 2005. Balancing the phosphorus budget of a swine farm: A case study. J. Natural Resources Life Sci. Educ. 34:90-95.
  • Nelson, N.O., R.L. Mikkelsen, and D.L. Hesterberg. 2003. Struvite precipitation in anaerobic swine lagoon liquid: Effect of pH, Mg:P ratio, and determination of rate constant. Bioresource Technol. 89(3):229-236.
  • Nielsen, D. C., and N. O. Nelson. 1998. Black bean sensitivity to water stress at various growth stages. Crop Sci. 38:422-427.


My research program responds to needs and interests of Kansas agricultural and environmental communities through the study of chemical, biological, and management factors affecting nutrient availability and loss in agroecosystems. Research focuses on nutrient management, cycling, and distribution within soil profiles and across landscapes. My interests include the investigation of nutrient availability in agricultural and industrial by-products and their impacts on agricultural sustainability and nutrient loss. I enjoy research studies at multiple scales, such as lab-, small plot-, field-, and watershed-scale projects. I am also interested in incorporating new technologies, such as computer simulation models, GIS and GPS, or precision agriculture into research projects.

My vision is to develop productive, sustainable agricultural production systems with minimal nutrient loss co-existing with safe, clean water sources void of nutrient impairment.

The mission of my research team is to improve our fundamental understanding of principals governing nutrient availability, transport, and uptake and to develop capacity within students to improve nutrient recycling, protect water quality, and increase food production in agroecosystems through use of these principals.

I direct the research at the Kansas Agricultural Watershed Field Laboratory (ksu.edu/kaw), where we investigate water quality improvments through implementation of conservation practices in agricultural systems.  Additional research can be found at Dr. Nelson's Research Projects.

Staff & Students

  • Eric Obeng - Ph.D Candidate
  • Elliott Carver - M.S. Student
  • Cassandra Schnarr - Research Assistant
  • Tara Wilson - Undergraduate Research Assistant


My teaching style is to emphasize the fundemental scientific principals and then apply them to real life situations. I enjoy active learning techniques that encourage students to discuss class principals and work together to find solutions. I am always looking for ways to extend course material beyond the classroom. In connection with my teaching activities, I am also involved with the Willie and the Beanstalk Contest and the Soil Fertility and Beyond Podcast.