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Jenny Kao-Kniffin

Jenny Kao-Kniffin

Associate Professor

As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Horticulture, I study the belowground ecology of horticultural landscapes and extend research results to the public. Much of my work focuses on the ecology and management of invasive plants and weeds found in horticultural landscapes, wetlands, and urban ecosystems. Soil microorganisms impact plant populations in many ways, both beneficially (aiding in plant growth and fitness) and negatively (keeping populations in check). Many of these interactions can be isolated to better understand their potential for plant management.

Research Focus

Research in my lab centers on the role of soil microorganisms in impacting plant growth, physiology, and fitness. We apply concepts and techniques in microbial ecology to uncover the relationships between soil microbial communities and plant traits. The research projects include the use of experimental microbial ecosystems to uncover the microbial-based mechanisms mediating plant and ecosystem traits. Examining the mechanistic basis of microbial selection studies can yield the development of microbial consortia, isolation of new microbial strains, and purification of compounds that enhance desirable plant populations while suppressing weeds. For more information, visit my lab website:

Outreach and Extension Focus

My extension duties focus on assisting public and private audiences with the most appropriate methods to manage weedy and invasive plants in horticultural landscapes. We are developing a web-based software program that allows users to select weed methods based on conventional or organic weed management preferences. We work with public, private, and university partners in developing innovative, cost-effective control strategies that can be integrated into sustainable weed management programs.

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

Book Chapters

  • Kao-Kniffin, J. (2012). Rhizosphere ecology. McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 11th Edition McGraw-Hill Editors (ed.), McGraw-Hill.