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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory » People » Sonal Mathur

Sonal Mathur

Plant Physiologist


Research Interests

My research focuses on photosynthesis and abiotic stresses in crop plants.  It is well known that photosynthesis in one of the most vulnerable processes to any type of climatic change. Therefore, my key research area is associated with studying and identifying stress responses in the photosynthetic process, particularly on Photosystem (PS) II and PSI. I have been working on the effects of high temperature, drought, salinity, organic pollutants, heavy metal stress, chilling, UV etc. in various crop plants such as wheat, soybean, maize, sugarcane etc. I also explored ‘PSII heterogeneity’, one of the rarely studied mechanism in plants, which help plants to adapt and cope up under different abiotic stresses. Furthermore, have worked on physiological, morphological, and biochemical aspects of plants to study the level of damage in plants. I have mainly exploited the technique of chlorophyll a fluorescence using PEA (Plant Efficiency Analyser) and PAM (Pulse Amplitude Modulator) to get information about the nature of damage taking place in the plants at PSII and PSI level. The technique enabled me to screen the crops in very early stage of plant life because changes in Chlorophyll a fluorescence are reflected before any visible damage to the crop occurs due to any type of stress (either biotic or abiotic). Along with this, I have gained experience on plant-microbial interactions too. I studied the role of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) in alleviating the effects of various environmental stresses in crop plants by improving the photosynthesis. Currently I am working on different soybean maturity groups (commonly used in USA) in response to various types of abiotic stresses. My further aim is to understand the physiological basis of stress tolerance mechanism in plants to improve the yield and mitigate the effect of various stresses.