Ben W Thomas, Ph.D.

Image Ben W. Thomas
Research Scientist – Agroecology

My program involves studying how ecological processes can be applied to regenerate agroecosystems. We treat each farm, like a tiny planet Earth, to try to make it as self-renewing and ecologically efficient as possible.

Direct line: 604-799-6765

Office: 604-796-6086

Current research and/or projects

Currently, we are assessing how soil organic carbon fractionates through the various soil organic matter pools in manure-amended soils. This is help to determine the carbon sequestration potential of manure-amended soils. We also assess how the soil's health is altered by long-term intensive agricultural management, a reality faced by many multi-generation farmers in Canada.

Professional activities / interests

Technical Editor, Canadian Journal of Plant Science

Associate Editor, Canadian Journal of Soil Science

Education and awards

Doctor of Philosophy (Natural Resource Sciences), McGill University (2016)

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

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

Key publications

Peer-Reviewed Scientific Manuscripts

31. 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.

30. 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 yr of no-tillage in south coastal British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 99: 222–225.

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. 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.

26. 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.

25. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.


Member, Canadian Society of Soil Science

Member, Canadian Society of Agronomy

Member, Soil Science Society of America

Member, American Society of Agronomy

Member, Crop Science Society of America