Department of Botany & Plant Sciences


McGiffenMilton E. McGiffen, Jr.

CE Vegetable Crops Specialist and Plant Physiologist (Ph.D., 1991, University of Illinois)
Department of Botany and Plant Sciences

Office: 4106 Batchelor Hall

Phone: (909) 560-0839
Email: milt@ucr.edu



Current Research:

Crop production in urban, desert, Mediterranean, and coastal environments.

Biochar: effect on soil and crop productivity, relationship of production factors with soil health and productivity.

Soil health and relationship with crop productivity and water efficiency.


Current Projects:


 Organic Agriculture: California soils are generally low in organic matter but often highly productive. Our previous research demonstrated “the organic effect”, or the positive changes that result following the addition of soil organic amendments.

References: Lebron, I., McGiffen, M., Suarez, D.L. 2012. The effect of total carbon on microscopic soil properties and implications for crop production. Journal of Arid Land. Vol. 4: 3 p.251−259;

M. E. McGiffen, Jr.. 2011. Organic Vegetable Production Manual. University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources. Oakland, CA. 86p.;

Wang G., M. Ngouajio, M.E. McGiffen, and C.M. Hutchinson. 2008. Summer cover crop and management system affect lettuce and cantaloupe production system. Agronomy Journal. 100, 1587-1593.




Biochar is a type of charcoal that can enhance soil productivity and sequester carbon for centuries. Near Escondido we placed biochar on the soil surface than planted tall fescue. The dark green square in the photo above is where biochar increased growth and greenness of the turf.

BLOG: http://ucanr.edu/blogs/biochar/



Elizabeth Crutchfield recently completed a thesis on biochar’s effect on plant growth and soil water and nutrients (http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0kr7d1k1). She found that biochar increased the nutrient exchange sites on soils, and affected water availability and root growth of wheat in this column experiment. She is continuing her research as a Postdoctoral Research Associate.



Jon Montgomery studies the effect of biochar on turf establishment, water, and interaction with other organic amendments. He runs this large field project initiated with a grant from the Metropolitan Water District.  picture


Michael Pina studies the effect of biochar on the chemical communication between legumes and their symbionts. He is working on the relationship between microbial species and the productivity of these organic mangos.



  Urban Agriculture: Talks for urban farmers from the Grow Riverside Conference



Biology of the World's Worst Weed
Yellow nutsedge was planted at three spacings. Two months later, 10-m, 10-cm, and 1-m spacings can be seen.
Purple nutsedge is so aggressive that it completely covers a 10-m square area within two months.
Crop Rotation as a Weed-Management Tool
Sudangrass is a warm-season forage that quickly forms a dense canopy. A dense canopy can be a weed management tool.
At the bottom of a sudangrass canopy are twisted, brown leaves of nutsedge plants that have been shaded out by sudangrass.
Weed-Resistant Crops
Breeders have developed crop varieties that resist all pests except weeds. We have identified differences in tomato varieties that allow them to outcompete weeds.


More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

Department & Program Information

Department of Botany & Plant Sciences
2142 Batchelor Hall

Tel: (951) 827-4619
Fax: (951) 827-4437
E-mail: bpschair@ucr.edu

Plant Biology Graduate Program
CNAS Grad Student Affairs Office
1140 Batchelor Hall

Toll: (800) 735-0717
Tel: (951) 827-5688
Fax: (951) 827-5517
E-mail: Laura.mcgeehan@ucr.edu