Dr. Buyer is the Lead Scientist on the Soil Microbiology Project. Three main objectives are to: (1) develop improved methods to characterize soil microbial communities, (2) analyze the factors controlling soil microbial community structure and function, and (3) develop strategies to improve colonization of root and seed by beneficial microorganisms. We are currently working on improving methodology for the identification of bacteria by analysis of fatty acid methyl esters. We are also developing a method for analysis of soil DNA by T-RFLP using paramagnetic beads which we believe will be faster and cheaper than current T-RFLP methods. Interactions between soil, root, seed, and microbial communities are being studied in growth chamber experiments, using fatty acid analysis, substrate utilization assays, and analysis of soil DNA. The effects of conventional and sustainable agricultural management systems on soil microbial communities are being studied in Maryland. Field studies in arid rangelands are being conducted to determine the effects of grazing intensity on soil microbial communities. We are researching the non-target effects of genetically engineered Bt corn on soil and rhizosphere microbial communities in growth chamber and field experiments. The role of small molecules such as carbohydrates, amino acids, and organic acids in colonization, growth, and metabolism of beneficial microorganisms is being studied by analysis of seed and root exudates using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy.