Plant Ecophysiology and Weed Ecology


Our research interest bridges the interface between biology and chemistry in an effort to explain the unique ecological patterns based on the underlying biological mechanisms. Most of the questions we address in our lab are based on landscape level ecological observations, and we utilize the understanding of soil chemistry, microbiology, plant physiology, and biochemistry in explaining them. We give equal importance to field studies, that formulates the question of our interests, and to lab studies, that provide a mechanistic understanding of these ecological observations.

Our research work is primarily oriented towards understanding the ecological role of plant secondary metabolites (PSM). We investigate the role of PSMs in increasing the aggressiveness of exotic plant species, and in altering the soil nutrient dynamics by affecting soil biological and chemical processes. We investigate how global climate change, by modifying the PSM profiles, would alter the nutrient dynamics and plant community composition of future world.

Also we are focused on understanding the unique physiological traits of weedy plant species, and how these traits interact with environment to give these exotic species a competitive advantage over natives. In doing so, we aim to develop new predictive and management tools for the control of invasive species, as well as to utilize some of these unique traits in agriculture to increase the competitiveness of crop plants.

Using synchrotron x-ray spectroscopy at Argonne National Lab, to study the physiology of resource foraging in plants. Inspecting the Centaurea jacea infestation in Sarotoga National Park, NY, with Ray Callaway. Utilizing the secondary metabolite chemistry of cover-crops to manage weeds in organic crop production. Post-doc work at USDA.


304 Long Hall
Department of Entomology, Soils, & Plant Sciences
Clemson University
Clemson SC 29634-0315
Ph: 864-656-4453


Nishanth Tharayil, Assistant Professor
Entomology, Soils, & Plant Sciences
Clemson University

Latest news

July 2009

"To Survive or to Slay"- our new paper published in Plant Signaling & Behavior investigates the non-toxic roles of putative allelochemicals
December 2008 & March 2009

We were at Argonne National Lab, Chicago, IL, utilizing the synchrotron x-ray absorption spectroscopy to study the physiological mechanism of a secondary metabolite mediated nutrient uptake in plants.

November 2008

Our paper describing how an invasive Centaurea sp utilizes its toxic secondary metabolite for direct acquisition of nutrients, and thus gaining competitive advantage in nutrient deficient habitats is published in New Phytologists.

October 2008

Our lab started functioning at Clemson University.