Tom Fernandez

Tom  Fernandez
  • Professor
  • Horticulture
  • American Society for Horticultural Science; International Society for Horticultural Science; USDA Multi-state Project NC1186 Water Management and Quality for Ornamental Crop Production and Health
  • 1066 Bogue St. Rm. A216
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • (517) 353-0336





My program investigates several aspects of water security related to agricultural production. Our research seeks to conserve water by reducing extraction from primary water resources; reduce transport of agrichemicals in irrigation return water in container production systems; and remediate agrichemicals from water so that it can be safely recycled for further crop production or returned to the surrounding ecosystem. To accomplish this, we investigate methods to improve irrigation scheduling and methods to reduce the extraction of water and the generation of irrigation return water. We conduct research to understand and reduce agrichemical (fertilizers, pesticides, and plant growth regulators) transport in surface and subsurface irrigation return water, the primary method of transport in container production systems. We are investigating engineered soilless substrates to improve irrigation water retention and reduce leaching of nutrients and other agrichemicals. Additionally, we are using bioreactors to retain beneficial (most nutrients) and remove undesirable (most pesticides and plant growth regulators) agrichemicals from irrigation return water used for recycled irrigation or remove all agrichemicals from water being released from production operations. We integrate the results of our research into reduction in water extraction, reduction in agrichemical transport, and remediation of agrichemicals from irrigation return water in our Extension programs to help stakeholders become better environmental stewards and improve water security for producers and the public in general. Due to these activities, results from our research program have been adopted by stakeholders that have resulted in conservation of hundreds of millions of gallons of water per year along with associated reductions in transport of agrichemicals. We have worked with agriculture industry associations, MDARD, and Michigan Farm Bureau to increase stakeholder understanding and appreciation for environmental regulations and stewardship programs such as the Clean Water Act, Right to Farm, and MAEAP. Our successes in lab-scale bioreactors have translated into the first commercial-scale bioreactor in a greenhouse operation where we are finding reductions in pesticides but retention of nutrients for water that is being recycled for crop production.


Water management, conservation, quality, and remediation Pesticide transport in container production systems Nursery, greenhouse, controlled environment systems