Nishanth Tharayil

Professor of Plant Ecophysiology
Director, Multi-User Analytical Laboratory
Plant and Environmental Sciences Department

Office: 120 Biosystems Research Complex
Phone: 864-656-4453


 Educational Background

Postdoctoral fellow
U.S. Department of Agriculture 2008

PhD. Plant & Soil Science
University of Massachusetts Amherst 2007

M.Sc. Agronomy
G.B.P.U.A. & T. Pantnagar, India 2003

 Courses Taught

PES 8090 - Analytical Techniques (Spring)
PES 4090/6090 - Biology of Invasive Plants (Fall)

 Research Interests

The central theme that drives our research is the physiology of plant-environment interactions. The tenacity of this sessile life-form to succeed in a variety of environments, despite the unrelenting efforts of all other living beings to literally consume them is awe-inspiring. In plants, the disadvantage of being sessile is overcompensated (at least in part) by a rich palette of compounds that modulate growth/defense responses. Plants seem to adeptly use their chemical arsenal to tame the elements, protect/repair themselves from harsh environments, entice/deter other organisms to submission, forage for soil nutrients, all of which help them to navigate a treacherous world while being physically stuck. Our research broadly focuses on the significance of the dynamics and versatility of plant chemistry in plant adaptations, and we view the physiological ecology of plants through this fascinating 'chemical lens'.

Using weedy and ruderal plants as models, our BASIC research efforts strive to gain a mechanistic understanding of the role of plant secondary compounds in shaping plant responses and resilience to various biotic/abiotic stressors. We explore the changes in composition and spatial organization of metabolites in tissues, the pattern and significance of root exudation, and the underlying biochemical pathways driving the adaptive responses.

Our research team further utilizes the knowledge from the above basic research to design strategies to enhance the quality and sustainability of agricultural production practices. Some of the APPLIED aspects of our basic research include managing ecological anomalies such as invasion of weedy plants, predicting the cellular physiology that drives the herbicide resistance in agricultural weeds, improving the nutritional (phytochemical) quality of food crops through the precise management of moderate stress, enhancing nitrogen and phosphorous use efficiencies of crops, and stimulating the degradation of xenobiotics in plants to render pesticides more environment friendly.

 Lab Members

LAB GROUP (2022)
Khang Huynh (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Mengxue Xia (Postdoctoral Fellow)
Elizabeth Leonard (Research Associate)
Shalini Etukuri (PhD student)
Ritu Mohanpuria (PhD student)

POSITION OPENING: One Postdoctoral fellowship and one Ph.D. assistantship are available in the area of plant physiology and plant chemistry (as of 07/2022).

 Extension and Outreach

Through the Multi-User Analytical Laboratory (MUAL), a core analytical facility within the College that our lab supervises, we develop chromatography mass-spectrometry-based techniques to characterize and quantify small molecules and proteins in biological/environmental matrices. In this capacity, we assist a diverse array of research projects from within Clemson University and outside, and train staff and graduate students in various analytical techniques.


(Past 5 years)

Xia, M., Valverde-Barrantes, O., Suseela, V., Blackwood, C., Tharayil, N.2022.Characterizing natural variability of lignin in tree roots: a comparison of analytical methods and assessment of high-throughput techniques for large-scale screening. New Phytologist (

Xia, M., Valverde-Barrantes, O., Suseela, V., Blackwood, C., Tharayil, N. 2022. Common and lifestyle-specific traits of mycorrhizal-associated metabolome alterations in plant roots reflects strategies of plant-mycorrhizal interactions. BioRxiv (In press-Journal of Ecology).

Sandhu, PK, Leonard, E, Nandual, N. Tharayil N. 2022. Metabolite profiles across populations of Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) highlight the specificity and inducibility of phytochemical response to glyphosate stress. BioRxiv.

Zhang, Z., Jatana, B., Campbell, B., Gill, J., Vidya, S., Tharayil, N. 2022. Cross inoculation of rhizobiome from a congeneric ruderal plant imparts drought tolerance in maize (Zea mays) through changes in root morphology and proteome. Plant Journal.

Koski, M. H., Finnell, L. M., Leonard, E., and N. Tharayil 2022. Elevational divergence in pigmentation plasticity is associated with selection and pigment biochemistry. Evolution.

Xia, M., Valverde-Barrantes, O., Suseela, V., Blackwood, C., Tharayil, N. 2021. Coordination between compound-specific chemistry and morphology in roots aligns with ancestral mycorrhizal affinity in woody angiosperms. New Phytologist.

Freschet et al. 2021. A starting guide to root ecology: strengthening ecological concepts and standardizing root classification, sampling, processing and trait measurements. New Phytologist.

Huynh, K., Corkidi, L. Leonard, E., Palmer, C., Bethke, J., Tharayil, N. 2021. Dissipation and Transformation of the Diamide Insecticide Cyantraniliprole in Ornamental Snapdragon. Chemosphere,

Huynh, K., Leonard, E., Palmer, C., Chong, J-H., Tharayil, N. Persistence and Metabolism of the Diamide Insecticide Cyantraniliprole in Tomato Plants. Scientific Reports.

Jatana, B.S., Kitchens, C., Ray, C., Tharayil, N. 2021. Dual inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and phosphorus solubilizing fungi synergistically enhances the mobilization and plant uptake of phosphorus from meat and bone meal. Frontiers in Soil Science. DOI: 10.3389/fsoil.2021.757839

Adelberg, J. W., El-Hawaz, R. F. A., Tanner, C., Tharayil, N. 2021. Shade and Fertilizer Affects Yield and Quality in a Clonal Plantation of Yaupon Holly. Journal of Medicinally Active Plants. 10,(3):42-51.

Kumar et al. 2021. Genetic Architecture of Maize Rind Strength Revealed by the Analysis of Divergently Selected Populations. Plant and Cell Physiology.

Suseela V, Tharayil N, Orr G, Hu D. 2020. Chemical plasticity in the fine root construct of Quercus spp. varies with root order and drought. New Phytologist (

Narverkar, A. Tharayil, N. 2020. Nitrogen fertilization influences the quantity, composition, and tissue-association of foliar phenolics in strawberries. Frontiers in Plant Sciences. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2021.613839

Jatana, B.S., Kitchens, C., Ray, C., Tharayil, N. 2020. Regulating the nutrient release rates from proteinaceous agricultural byproducts using organic amendments and its effect on soil chemical and microbiological properties. Biology and Fertility of Soils.

Edayilam, N.; Montgomery, D.; Ferguson, B.; Maroli A.S.; Martinez, N.; Powell, B.A.; Tharayil, N. 2020. Dissolution and vertical transport of uranium from stable mineral forms by plants as influenced by the co-occurrence of uranium with phosphorus. Environmental Science & Technology.

Ateia M, Zheng T., Calace S., Tharayil N., Pilla S., and Karanfil T. 2020. Sorption behavior of real microplastics (MPs): Insights for organic micropollutants adsorption on a large set of well-characterized MPs, Sci. Total Environ., 137634

Pereksta D, King D, Saki F, Maroli A, Leonard E, Suseela V, May S, Uribe MC, Tharayil N, and Hoewyk D V. 2020. Proteasome inhibition in Brassica napus roots causes broad metabolic dysregulation. Plant and Cell Physiology,

Ateia M., Attia M., Maroli A., Tharayil N., Whithead D., Alexis F., and Karanfil T. 2019. Rapid Removal of Poly- and Perfluorinated Alkyl Substances by olyethylenimine-functionalized Cellulose Microcrystals at Environmentally Relevant Conditions. Environmental Science & Technology Letters. 5, 12, 764-769

Ateia M., Arifuzzaman, M.D., Pellizzeri, S., Attia, M.F., Tharayil, N., Anker, J.N., and Karanfil, T. 2019. Cationic Polymer for Selective Removal of GenX and Short-chain PFAS from Surface waters and Wastewaters at ng/L Levels. Water Research. 163. 114874

Ateia M., Maroli, A., Tharayil, N., and Karanfil, T. 2019. The overlooked short- and ultrashort-chain poly- and perfluorinated substances: A review. Chemosphere. 220:866-882.

Xiao, R.; Li, X. Leonard, E., Tharayil, N., Zheng, Y. 2019. Investigation on the Effects of Cultivation Conditions, Fed-batch Operation, and Enzymatic Hydrolysate of Corn Stover on the Astaxanthin Production by Thraustochytrium striatum. Algal Research.

Kumar R, Bishop E, Bridges WC, Tharayil N, Sekhon RS. 2019. Sugar Partitioning and Source?Sink Interaction are Key Determinants of Leaf Senescence in Maize. Plant Cell & Environment. doi: 10.1111/pce.13599.

Bowers JJ, Gunawardena HP, Cornu A, Narvekar AS, Richieu A, Deffieux D, Quideau S, Tharayil N. 2018. Rapid Screening of Ellagitannins in Natural Sources via Targeted Reporter Ion Triggered Tandem Mass Spectrometry. Scientific Reports 8:10399 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-27708-3

Maroli, A.S; Gaines, T.A.; Foley, M.E.; Duke,S.O.; Do?ramac?, M.; Anderson, J.V; Horvath, D.P.; Chao, W.S.; and Tharayil, N. 2018. Omics In Weed Science: A Perspective From Genomics, Transcriptomics, And Metabolomics Approaches. Weed Science (

Suseela V., Tharayil N. 2018. Decoupling the direct and indirect effects of climate on plant litter decomposition and terrestrial nutrient cycling. Global Change Biology. 24: 1428-1451

Nimisha Edayilam, N.; Montgomery, D.; Ferguson, B.; Maroli A.S.; Martinez, N.; Powell, B.A.; Tharayil, N. 2018. Phosphorus Stress-Induced Changes in Plant Root Exudation Could Potentially Facilitate Uranium Mobilization from Stable Mineral Forms. Environmental Science & Technology. 52:7652-7662

Montgomery, D., Edayilam, N. Tharayil, N. Powell, B. and Martinez, N. 2018. “Uptake and translocation of 99Tc, 137Cs, 237Np and 238U in the grass species Andropogon Virginicus,” Health Physics (early online; DOI: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000848)

Pales, A.R., Li, B., Clifford, H.M., Kupis, S. Edayilam, N., Montgomery, D., Liang, W., Dogan, M., Tharayil, N., Martinez, N., Moysey, S., Powell, B., Darnault, C.J.G., 2018. Preferential flow systems amended with biogeochemical components: Imaging of a two-dimensional study,” Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22, 2487-2509

Maroli AS, Nandula VK, Duke SO, Gerard P, Tharayil N. 2018. Comparative Metabolomic Analyses of Ipomoea lacunosa Biotypes with Contrasting Glyphosate Tolerance Captures Herbicide-Induced Differential Perturbations in Cellular Physiology. Journal of Agriculture & Food Chem. 66:2027-2036

Top S, Preston C, Dukes J, Tharayil, N. 2017. Temperature and moisture influence the quantity and composition of tannins in both green and senesced Quercus rubra leaves Frontiers in Plant Sciences

Tamura M, Suseela V, Simpson M, Powell. B, Tharayil N. 2017.Plant invasions alter the content and molecular identity of organic carbon associated with soil mineral and aggregate fractions. Global Change Biology. 23: 4002-4018

Almuzini M., Decker C.#, Wang D., Gerard P., Tharayil. N. 2017. Nutrient Supply and Simulated Herbivory Differentially Alter the Metabolite Pools and the Efficacy of the Glucosinolate-Based Defense System in Brassica Species. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 43: 129-142.

Suseela V, Pendall E and Rao A; Tharayil N. 2017. Warming and elevated CO2 alter the suberin chemistry in roots of photosynthetically divergent grasses. AOB Plants. 9: plx041; doi: 10.1093/aobpla/plx041.

Niedzwiecka, J., Drew, S., Schlautman, M., Millerick, K., Grubbs, E., Tharayil, N., Finneran, K. 2017.Iron and electron shuttle mediated (bio)degradation of the military next generation insensitive munition 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN). Environmental Science & Technology. 51:10729-10735

Montgomery D., Barber K., Edayilam N., Oquiiuba S., Biotidara T. et al. 2017. The influence of citrate and oxalate on 99TcVII, Cs, NpV and UVI sorption to a Savannah River Site soil. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 172: 130-142.


Muti-User Analytical Laboratory