Ben W. Thomas, Ph.D.

Image Ben W. Thomas
Research Scientist – Systems Agro-Ecologist

Our agroecology team studies how ecological processes regenerate and sustain agroecosystems. Our principal focus is soil.

Direct line: 604-799-6765

Current research and/or projects

We study soil organic carbon and nitrogen links to microbial community composition and diversity as well as enzyme activity in response to various cropping and grazing systems. This may help determine how to optimize the function of soil while maximizing carbon sequestration, crop performance and soil biodiversity while decreasing weed pressure. We also assess how soil health and the soil organic carbon and nitrogen organic matter fractions are altered by long-term intensive agricultural management, a reality faced by many multi-generation farmers in Canada but one particularly unique to the Fraser Valley of British Columbia because of its long growing season and short winter.

Research and/or project statements

Our projects include soil responses to cropping and grazing systems, hazel tree nutrient management based on potassium rates during establishment phase, hazel tree stem (single stem vs multi-stem) and irrigation management during establishment phase, apple orchard renewal during transition from traditional to high density planting, and the potential of double cropping to protect and enhance soil health while helping to control weeds and reduce reliance on synthetic herbicides to mitigate risks associated with herbicide resistance. We also have built water retention ponds as a model for water management to maximize available cropland in production while providing wetland habitat.

 

Publication Record

Book Chapters

01. Whalen, J.K., B.W. Thomas, M. Sharifi. 2019. Novel practices and smart technologies to maximize the nitrogen fertilizer value of manure for crop production in cold humid temperate regions. Advances in Agronomy 153:1–85.

Peer-Reviewed Scientific Journal Articles (*Corresponding author is B.W. Thomas)

44. Hu, Q., T. Jiang, B.W. Thomas, J. Chen, J. Xie, Y. Hu, F. Kong, Y. Yang, X. Chen, Y. Zhang, X. Shi. 2023. Legume cover crops enhance soil organic carbon via microbial necromass in orchard alleyways. Soil and Tillage Research 234:105858

43. Hu, Q., B.W. Thomas, D. Powlson, Y. Hu, Y. Zhang, X. Jun, X. Shi, Y. Zhang. 2023. Soil organic carbon fractions in response to soil, environmental and agronomic factors under cover cropping systems: A global meta-analysis. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 355:108591.

42. Wang, Z., J.L. Owens, B.W. Thomas, X. Hao, K. Coles, C. Holzapfel , E. Rahmani, R. Karimi, K.S. Gill, B.L. Beres. 2023. Winter wheat responses to enhanced efficiency granular nitrogen fertilizer in the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 103:368–388.

41. Owens, J.L., Z. Wang, B.W. Thomas, X. Hao, K. Coles, E. Rahmani, R. Karimi, K. Gill, B.L. Beres. 2023. Winter wheat responses to enhanced efficiency liquid nitrogen fertilizers in the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 103:353–367.

40.Lupwayi, N.Z., X. Hao, B.W. Thomas, J.L. Stoeckli, L. Mesina, R.O. Polo. 2023. Alteration of the soil microbiome and enzyme activities by forage-applied manure from cattle fed the methane inhibitor 3-nitrooxypropanol supplement. Applied Soil Ecology 183:104765.

39. Zhang, Y., X. Hao, B.W. Thomas, T. McAllister, M. Workentine, L. Jin, X. Shi, T.W. Alexander. 2023. Soil antibiotic resistance genes accumulate at different rates over four decades of manure application. Journal of Hazardous Materials 130136.

38. Shah, S.H.H., J. Wang, X. Hao, B.W. Thomas. 2022. Modelling soil salinity effects on salt water uptake and crop growth using a modified denitrification-decomposition model: A phytoremediation approach. Journal of Environmental Management 301:113820.

37. Shah, S.H.H., J. Wang, X. Hao, B.W. Thomas. 2022. Modeling the effect of wastewater irrigation on soil salinity using a Salt-DNDC model. Land Degradation & Development 33:55-67.

36. Hu, Y., P. Zhan, B.W. Thomas, J. Zhao, X. Zhang, H. Yan, Z. Zhang, S. Chen, Shi, Y. Zhang. 2022. Organic carbon and nitrogen accumulation in orchard soil with organic fertilization and cover crop management: A global meta-analysis. Science of the Total Environment 852:158402.

35. Liu, R., B.W. Thomas, X. Shi, X. Zhang, Z. Wang, Y. Zhang. Effects of ground  cover management on improving water and soil conservation in tree crop systems: A meta-analysis. CATENA 199:105085.

34. Shah, S.H.H., J. Wang, X. Hao, B.W. Thomas. 2021. Modeling the effect of  salt-affected soil on water balance fluxes and nitrous oxide emission using modified DNDC. Journal of Environmental Management 280:111678.

33. Stoeckli, J.L., M. Sharifi, D.C. Hooker, B.W. Thomas, F. Khaefi, G. Stewart, I. McDonald, B. Deen, C.F. Drury, B.L. Ma, H.R. Motaghian. 2021. Predicting soil nitrogen availability to grain corn in Ontario, Canada. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 101:389–401.

32. Owens, J., X. Hao, B.W. Thomas, J.L. Stoeckli, C. Soden, S. Acharya, N. Lupwayi. 2021. The effects of amending soil with stored manure from cattle supplemented with 3‐nitrooxypropanol on select soil health indicators and hydraulic properties. Journal of Environmental Quality 50:1452–1463.

31. Owens, J.L., B.W. Thomas, J.L. Stoeckli, K.A. Beauchemin, T.A. McAllister, F.J. Larney, X. Hao. 2020. Greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from stored manure from beef cattle supplemented 3-nitrooxypropanol and monensin to reduce enteric methane emissions. Scientific Reports 10:1–14.

30. Zhang, Y., X. Gao, X. Hao, T.W. Alexander, X. Shi, L. Jin, B.W. Thomas*. 2020. Heavy grazing over 64 years reduced soil bacterial diversity in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Canada. Applied Soil Ecology 147:103361.

29. Shen, J., R. Treu, J. Wang, X. Hao, B.W. Thomas. 2019. Modeling growing season and annual cumulative nitrous oxide emissions and emission factors from organically fertilized soils planted with barley in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Agricultural Systems 176:102654.

28. Lupwayi, N.Z., Y. Zhang, X. Hao, B.W. Thomas, A.H. Eastman, T.D. Schwinghamer. 2019. Linking soil microbial biomass and enzyme activities to long-term manure applications and their nonlinear legacy. Pedobiologia 74:34–42.

27. An, H., B. Zhang, B.W. Thomas, R. Beck, W.D. Willms, Y. Li, X. Hao. 2019. Short term recovery of soil and vegetation after abandoning cultivated mixedgrass prairie in Alberta, Canada. Catena 173:321–329.

26. *Thomas, B.W., D. Hunt, S. Bittman, K.D. Hannam, A.J. Messiga, D. Haak, M. Sharifi, X. Hao. 2019. Soil health indicators after 21 years of no-tillage in south coastal British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 99: 222–225.

25. Thomas, B.W., X. Gao, M. Zhang, E.W. Bork, X. Hao. 2018. Grazing altered carbon exchange in a dry mixedgrass prairie as a function of soil texture. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 98:136–147.

24. Zhang, B., B.W. Thomas, R. Beck, W.D. Willms, M. Zhao, X. Hao. 2018b. Slope position regulates carbon and nitrogen stock response to cattle grazing on Rough Fescue grassland. Journal of Soils and Sediments 18:3228–3234.

23. Shrestha, N.K., B.W. Thomas, X. Du, X. Hao, J. Wang. 2018. Modelling nitrous oxide emissions from rough fescue grassland soils subjected to long term grazing of different intensities using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Environmental Science & Pollution Research 25:27362–27377.

22. Gao, X., B.W. Thomas, R. Beck, D.J. Thompson, M. Zhang, W.D. Willms, X. Hao. 2018. Long-term grazing alters soil trace gas fluxes from grasslands in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Canada. Land Degradation & Development 29:292–302.

 21. Zhang, B., B.W. Thomas, R. Beck, K. Liu, M. Zhao, X. Hao. 2018a. Labile soil organic matter in response to long-term cattle grazing on sloped rough fescue grassland in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta. Geoderma 318:9–15.

20. Zhang, Y., X. Hao, T.W Alexander, B.W. Thomas, X. Shi, N.Z. Lupwayi. 2018. Long-term and legacy effects of manure application on soil microbial communities. Biology and Fertility of Soils 54:269–283.

19. Beres, B.L., R.J. Graf, R.B. Irvine, J.T. O’Donovan, K.N. Harker, E.N. Johnson, S. Brandt, X. Hao, B.W. Thomas, T.K. Turkington, F.C. Stevenson. 2018. Enhanced nitrogen management strategies for winter wheat production in the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 98:683–702.

18. Thomas, B.W., X. Gao, R. Beck, X. Hao. 2017g. Are distinct nitrous oxide emission factors required for cattle urine and dung deposited on pasture in western Canada? Environmental Science and Pollution Research 24:26142–26147.

17. Thomas, B.W., X. Gao, J.L. Stoeckli, R. Beck, K. Liu, K.M. Koenig, B.L. Beres, X. Hao. 2017f. Nitrapyrin reduced nitrous oxide emissions from beef cattle urine patches on a semiarid tame pasture. Soil Science Society of America Journal 81:1537–1547.

16. Thomas, B.W., X. Hao. 2017. Nitrous oxide emitted from soil receiving anaerobically digested solid cattle manure. Journal of Environmental Quality 46:741–750.

15. Thomas, B.W., X. Li, V. Nelson, X. Hao. 2017e. Anaerobically digested cattle manure supplied more nitrogen with less phosphorus accumulation than undigested manure. Agronomy Journal 109:836–844.

14. Thomas, B.W., F.J. Larney, M.H. Chantigny, C. Goyer, X. Hao. 2017d. Fall rye reduced residual soil nitrate and dryland spring wheat grain yield. Agronomy Journal 109:718–728.

13. Thomas, B.W., X. Hao, W.D. Willms. 2017c. Soil organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus thirteen years after abruptly disturbing Northern Great Plains grassland. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 97:329–333.

12. Thomas, B.W., X. Hao, F.J. Larney, C. Goyer, M.H. Chantigny, A. Charles. 2017b. Non-legume cover crops can increase non-growing season nitrous oxide emissions. Soil Science Society of America Journal 81:189–199.

11. Thomas, B.W., Y. Luo, C. Li, X. Hao. 2017a. Utilizing composted beef cattle manure and slaughterhouse waste as nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers for calcareous soil. Compost Science & Utilization 25:102–111.

10. Zhang, Y., W. de Vries, B.W. Thomas, X. Hao, X. Shi. 2017b. Impacts of long-term nitrogen fertilization on acid buffering rates and mechanisms of a slightly calcareous clay soil. Geoderma 305:92–99.

09. Zhang, Y., H. Shen, X. He, B.W. Thomas, N.Z. Lupwayi, X. Hao, M.C. Thomas, X. Shi. 2017a. Fertilization shapes bacterial community structure by alteration of soil pH. Frontiers in Microbiology doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.01325.

08. Thomas, B.W., J.K. Whalen, M. Sharifi. 2016b. Short-term nitrogen dynamics in soil amended with poultry litter containing woodchip bedding. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 96:427–434.

07. Thomas, B.W., J.K. Whalen, M. Sharifi, M.H. Chantigny, B.J. Zebarth. 2016a. Labile organic matter fractions as early-season nitrogen supply indicators in manure-amended soils. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science 179:94–103.

06. Hao, X., B.W. Thomas, V. Nelson, X. Li. 2016. Agronomic values of anaerobically digested cattle manure and the separated solids for barley forage production. Soil Science Society of America Journal 80:1572–1584.

05. Li, P., M. Lang, C. Li, B.W. Thomas, X. Hao. 2016. Nutrient leaching from soil amended with manure and compost from cattle fed diets containing wheat dried distillers’ grains with solubles. Water, Air & Soil Pollution 227:1–13.

04. Yang, Z., Y. Li, P. Li, F. Zhang, B.W. Thomas. 2016. Effect of difference between day and night temperature on tomato root activity and low molecular weight organic acid secretion. Soil Science and Plant Nutrition 62:423–431.

03. Thomas, B.W., M. Sharifi, J.K. Whalen, M.H. Chantigny. 2015. Mineralizable nitrogen responds differently to manure type in contrasting soil textures. Soil Science Society of America Journal 79:1396–1405.

02. Gul, S., J.K. Whalen, B.W. Thomas, V. Sachdeva, H. Deng. 2015. Physico-chemical properties and microbial responses in biochar-amended soils: Mechanisms and future directions. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 206:46–59.

01. Whalen, J.K., M.L. Kernecker, B.W. Thomas, V. Sachdeva, C. Ngosong. 2013. Soil food web controls on nitrogen mineralization are influenced by agricultural practices in humid temperate climates. CAB Reviews Perspectives in Agriculture Veterinary Science Nutrition and Natural Resources 8:1–18.

Professional activities / interests

Agronomy Section Editor, Canadian Journal of Plant Science

Canadian Journal of Plant Science Representative, Canadian Society of Agronomy Executive Committee

Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Soil Science

 

Education and awards

Doctor of Philosophy, Renewable Resources: Soil Science, McGill University (2016)

Master of Resource and Environmental Management, Agronomy, Dalhousie University (2012)

First Class Standing Bachelor of Science, Biology, University of Prince Edward Island (2009)

International experience and/or work

As a 13th generation Canadian, my research and interests lie nearly exclusively in Canada but the outcomes of my research may have global implications.  I have worked with many international partners affliated with research institutions spanning Earth, including: United States of America, United Kingdom, Europe, Ecuador, New Zealand, Australia, People's Republic of China, The Islamic Republic of Iran, among others.

Key publications

  1. Thomas, B.W., M. Clodius. 2024. Hazelnut Research Update. Lower Mainland Horticultural Conference. Abbotsford, BC, Canada. January 25–27, 2024. (Invited Talk)

    2024 - View publication details

  2. Z. Wang, J.L. Owens, B.W. Thomas, X. Hao, K. Coles, C. Holzapfel, E. Rahmani, R. Karimi, K.S. Gill, and B.L. Beres. 2023. Winter wheat responses to enhanced efficiency granular nitrogen fertilizer in the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Journal of Plant Science. 103(4): 368-388. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjps-2022-0209

    2023 - View publication details

  3. Liu, R., Thomas, B.W., Shi, X., Zhang, X., Wang, Z., Zhang, Y. (2021). Effects of ground cover management on improving water and soil conservation in tree crop systems: A meta-analysis. Catena, [online] 199 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2020.105085

    2021 - View publication details

  4. Hussain Shah, S.H., Wang, J., Hao, X., Thomas, B.W. (2021). Modeling the effect of salt-affected soil on water balance fluxes and nitrous oxide emission using modified DNDC. Journal of Environmental Management, [online] 280 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111678

    2021 - View publication details

  5. Owens, J.L., Thomas, B.W., Stoeckli, J.L., Beauchemin, K.A., McAllister, T.A., Larney, F.J., Hao, X. (2020). Greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions from stored manure from beef cattle supplemented 3-nitrooxypropanol and monensin to reduce enteric methane emissions. Scientific Reports, [online] 10(1), http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75236-w

    2020 - View publication details

  6. Zhang, Y., Gao, X., Hao, X., Alexander, T.W., Shi, X., Jin, L., Thomas, B.W. (2020). Heavy grazing over 64 years reduced soil bacterial diversity in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Canada. Applied Soil Ecology, [online] 147 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.09.011

    2020 - View publication details

  7. Xiying Hao, Jessica Stoeckli, Courtney Soden, Ben W. Thomas, Jennifer Owens, Newton Lupwayi and Kevin Floate 2019. Insect Activity and weather conditions affect CO2 and N2O Emissions from dung pats. 7th International Greenhouse Gas and Animal Agriculture Conference (GGAA2019), Iguassu Falls, Brazil, 4th to 10th August 2019.

    2019 - View publication details

  8. Lupwayi, N.Z., Zhang, Y., Hao, X., Thomas, B.W., Eastman, A.H., Schwinghamer, T.D. (2019). Linking soil microbial biomass and enzyme activities to long-term manure applications and their nonlinear legacy. Pedobiologia, [online] 74 34-42. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pedobi.2019.04.001

    2019 - View publication details

  9. An, H., Zhang, B., Thomas, B.W., Beck, R., Willms, W.D., Li, Y., Hao, X. (2019). Short term recovery of vegetation and soil after abandoning cultivated mixedgrass prairies in Alberta, Canada. Catena, [online] 173 321-329. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.catena.2018.10.017

    2019 - View publication details

  10. Xiying Hao, Jessica Stoeckli, and Ben W. Thomas. 2019. Assessing Soil Health Indicators for Manure-Amended Soils. Manure Management Update 2019. Jan 14, 2019. Lethbridge, AB. Canada

    2019 - View publication details

  11. Whalen, J.K., B.W. Thomas, M. Sharifi. 2019. Novel practices and smart technologies to maximize the nitrogen fertilizer value of manure for crop production in cold humid temperate regions. Advances in Agronomy 153:1–85.

    2019 - View publication details

  12. Thomas, B.W., Hunt, D., Bittman, S., Hannam, K.D., Messiga, A.J., Haak, D., Sharifi, M., Hao, X. (2019). Soil health indicators after 21 yr of no-tillage in South Coastal British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Soil Science, [online] 99(2), 222-225. http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjss-2018-0146

    2019 - View publication details

  13. Zhang, B., Thomas, B.W., Beck, R., Willms, W.D., Zhao, M., Hao, X. (2018). Slope position regulates response of carbon and nitrogen stocks to cattle grazing on rough fescue grassland. Journal of Soils and Sediments, [online] 18(11), 3228-3234. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11368-018-1992-5

    2018 - View publication details

  14. Shrestha, N.K., Thomas, B.W., Du, X., Hao, X., Wang, J. (2018). Modeling nitrous oxide emissions from rough fescue grassland soils subjected to long-term grazing of different intensities using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Environmental Science and Pollution Research, [online] 25(27), 27362-27377. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11356-018-2719-2

    2018 - View publication details

  15. X. Hao, J.L. Owens, B.W. Thomas, J.L. Stoeckli. 2018. Legacy Effect of Cattle Manure Application on Greenhouse Gas Emission. 2018 CGU, CSSS, CIG, Es-SSA and CSAFM joint annual meeting. June 10-14, 2018. Niagara Falls, ON, Canada

    2018 - View publication details

  16. Thomas, B.W.*, J.K. Whalen, M. Sharifi, M.H. Chantigny, X. Hao. 2018. Nitrogen mineralization in sandy loam and silty clay soils receiving liquid swine and dairy cattle manure. Joint Annual Meeting of Canadian Geophysical Union-Canadian Soil Science Society-Computational Infrastructure in Geodynamics-Eastern Section of the Seismological Society of America-Canadian Society for Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. June 10–14, 2018.

    2018 - View publication details

  17. Jen Owens, Xiying Hao, Ben W. Thomas, Jessica L. Stoeckli, Francis J. Larney, Karen A. Beauchemin, Tim A. McAllister. 2018. Do the effects of dietary greenhouse gas inhibitors persist in beef cattle manure during composting and stockpiling? 2018 Joint Meeting of the CGU-CSSS-CIG-CSAFM-ESSSA. June 10-14, 2018. Niagara Falls, ON. Canada.

    2018 - View publication details

  18. Zhang, B., Thomas, B.W., Beck, R., Liu, K., Zhao, M., Hao, X. (2018). Labile soil organic matter in response to long-term cattle grazing on sloped rough fescue grassland in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Alberta. Geoderma, [online] 318 9-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoderma.2017.12.019

    2018 - View publication details

  19. Soden, C, Hao X, Thomas BW, Stoeckli K, Floate K, Lupwayi N. 2018. Could dung pats treated with and without ivermectin affect insect activities and impact soil available nitrogen on native pasture? 2018 Alberta Soil Science Workshop, Edmonton AB, Feb 20-22, 2018.

    2018 - View publication details

  20. Alberta Soil Science Workshop Edmonton 2018/02/20 - 2018/02/22

    2018 - View publication details

Contact

Telephone: 
604-799-6765

Research facility

6947 Highway 7
PO Box 1000
Agassiz, BC V0M 1A2
Canada

Affiliations

Member, Canadian Society of Agronomy

Researcher Member, Canadian Nitrous Oxide Network

Former Member: Crop Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, Canadian Society of Soil Science.

Language

English