Nishanth Tharayil

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

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


 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

PLPA 8090 - Analytical Techniques (Spring)
BOT 8240 - Plant Growth Regulators
CSENV 4090/6090 - Biology of Invasive Plants (Fall)


POSTDOC POSITION (starting Jan-April 2018) AVAILABLE in Plant-soil feedbacks/Invasion ecophysiology. APPLY through Interfolio

 Research Interests

We are broadly interested in the physiological ecology of plants. Using weedy, and ruderal plants, and deciduous trees as models, our BASIC research efforts are devoted to gain a mechanistic understanding of the role of secondary metabolites, especially the dynamics of phenylpropanoids, in shaping plant responses and resilience to various biotic/abiotic stressors. Along with the traditional quantitative attributes, we explore the changes in both composition and spatial organization of metabolites in tissues that contribute to stress resilience and adaptation in plants. We develop mass spectrometry based metabolomic approaches and imaging techniques (ToF-SIMS) to capture the cellular physiology and tissue dynamics of plant metabolites. Also, we strive to unravel the soil biogeochemical processes in ecosystems invaded by exotic plant species that are regulated by heteropolymeric plant metabolites such as lignins and tannins.

Our research team further utilizes the knowledge gained from the above basic research to design strategies to enhance the quality and sustainability of agricultural production practices and ecosystem services under global changes. The APPLIED aspects of our basic research include managing ecological anomalies such as invasion of weedy plants, predicting the cellular physiology that facilitates the development of herbicide resistance in agricultural weeds, improving nutritive quality of food crops through the precise management of moderate stress, and recapturing and reusing nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural byproducts for crop production.

 Extension and Outreach

Through the Multi-User Analytical Laboratory (MUAL), which is a core facility within the College of Agricultural Forestry and Life Sciences, our lab develops chromatographic and mass-spectrometric techniques to assist various research projects across the university, and train graduate and undergraduate students in the use and operation of various analytical instruments.


Suseela V., Tharayil N. 2017. Decoupling the direct and indirect effects of climate on plant litter decomposition and terrestrial nutrient cycling. Global Change Biology (In press).

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

Niedzwiecka J., Drew S., Schlautman M., Millerick K., Grubbs, E., Tharayil N. Finneran, K. 2017. Iron and electron shuttle mediated (bio)degradation of 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN). Environmental Science & Technology (In press).

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.

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.

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.

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. (Accepted)

Maroli A., Nandula V., Dayan F., Duke S., Gerard P., Tharayil N. 2016. Stable isotope resolved metabolomics reveals the role of anabolic and catabolic processes in glyphosate-induced amino acid accumulation in Amaranthus palmeri biotypes. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry (pdf). Highlighted as ACS Editor’s choice.

Suseela V, Alpert P, Nakatsu H C, Tamura M, Amstrong A and Tharayil N. 2016. Plant-soil feedback shapes the identity and persistence of soil organic carbon in invaded ecosystems: implication for legacy effect. Functional Ecology 30, 1227–1238.

El-Hawaz R., Tharayil N., Bridges W., Adelberg J. 2016. Mineral nutrition of Curcuma longa L. in bioreactors affects subsequent development of curcuminoids following transfer to the greenhouse. Industrial Crops & Products. 83: 186-193.

Maroli A., Nandula V., Dayan F., Duke S., Gerard P., Tharayil N. 2015. Metabolic profiling and enzyme analyses indicate a potential role of antioxidant systems in complementing glyphosate resistance in an Amaranthus palmeri biotype. Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.5b04223)

Suseela V., Tharayil N., B. Xing, and J. S. Dukes. 2015. Warming and drought differentially influence the resorption of elemental and metabolic nitrogen pools in Quercus rubra. Global Change Biology (DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13033)

Wang J., Tharayil N., Chow A.T.,Suseela V., Zeng H. 2015. Phenolic profile within the fine root branching orders of an evergreen species highlights a disconnect in root tissue quality predicted by elemental- and molecular-level carbon composition. New Phytologist 206: 1261–1273. HIGHLIGHTED as New Phytologist Editors’ Choice by Dr. Richard Norby;

Freese D; Tharayil N.; Preston C.; Gerard P.2015. Catalytic kinetics and activation energy of soil peroxidases across ecosystems of differing lignin chemistries. Biogeochemistry. 124: 113-129.

Cross R. B., McCarty B. L., Tharayil N., McElroy S.J., Chen S., McCullough P.E., Powell B.A., and Bridges W.C. 2015. A Pro106 to Ala Substitution is Associated with Resistance to Glyphosate in Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua). Weed Science. 63: 613-622

Cross R. B., McCarty B. L., McElroy S.J., Tharayil N., and Bridges W.C. 2015. Comparison of Enzyme and Growth Characteristics in ALS-Inhibitor Susceptible and Resistant Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua) Biotypes. Weed Science. 63: 220-228

Tamura, M. Tharayil, N. 2014. Plant litter chemistry and microbial priming regulate the accrual, composition and stability of soil carbon in invaded ecosystems. New Phytologist. 203(1):110-24. ASSOCIATED COMMENTARY by Dr. Mathew E. Dornbush-

Suseela V., Tharayil N., B. Xing, and J. S. Dukes. 2014. Warming alters potential enzyme activity but precipitation regulates chemical transformations in grass litter exposed to simulated climatic changes. Soil Biology & Biochemistry. 75. 102-112

Aschehoug, E.T, Callaway, R.M., Newcombe, G., Tharayil, N., Chen, S. 2014. Fungal endophyte increases the allelopathic potential of an invasive forb. Oecologia. DOI 10.1007/s00442-014-2891-0

Suseela, V., Tharayil, N., Xing, B., Dukes, J. S. 2013. Labile compounds in plant litter reduce the sensitivity of decomposition to warming and altered precipitation. New Phytologist. 200: 122-133

Tharayil, N., Alpert, P, Bhowmik, P.C., Gerard, P. 2013. Phenolic inputs by invasive species could impart seasonal variations in nitrogen pools in the introduced soils: a case study with Polygonum cuspidatum. Soil Biology & Biochemistry. 57: 858–867

Cross, B.R., McCarty, B.L., Tharayil, N., Whitwell, T., Bridges, C. 2013. Detecting Annual Bluegrass Resistance to ALS-Inhibiting Herbicides Using a Rapid Diagnostic Assay. Weed Science 61(3):384-389.


Muti-User Analytical Laboratory