Ronald F. Turco
Professor and Department Head
Department: Agronomy
Phone: 765.494.8077
Fax: 765.496.2926
Office: Lilly 2-438


Dr. Ronald Turco is the Department Head of Agronomy.  His research is concentrated on understanding how the behavior of microorganism and the processes they control in natural systems, is influenced by human activity. In particular his group has used enzyme activity, phospholipid analysis, and molecular techniques to understand community structure and function as impacted by management and introduction of materials.  His early work has concentrated on the fate of pesticides and organics in soil systems. His group has also addressed rhizosphere ecology and managed systems such as turfgrass. His current projects are divided across three theme areas: understanding the fate of introduced E. coli in soil and water and the role these processes play in food contamination, developing a better predictive capacity to understand the environmental fate of manufactured nano materials (fullerenes, single wall carbon nanotubes and nanometals) in soil and water and defining the unintended consequences of using our soil resources for biofuel production. His work on environmental pathogens led to the development of EPI-Net.org a USDA national facilitation project.  Dr. Turco teaches two graduate level courses: Soil Microbiology and a new course tentatively titled Biotransformation of Anthropogenic Molecules. He also teaches an undergraduate course on Soil Ecology.

Awards and Honors

Purdue University, Spirit of the Land Grant Award - 2013
Outstanding Achievement Award "Academic Sector" - Indiana Water Resources Research Association - 2011
(For work with IDNR on well water quality education)
Gamma Sigma Delta Agricultural Honor Socienty - 2005
Purdue University Provost Office “Acorn Award”  (NIRT/Nanotech Project) - 2004
Purdue University College of Agriculture Team Award (Turfgrass Team) - 2004
Mid America CropLife Association Indiana's Water Guardian Award - 2003
William G. Wilber and John S. Zogorski Leadership Award, Indiana Water Resources Research Association - 2000
Education and Information Award Conservation Education; Soil and Water Conservation Society, Hoosier Chapter - 1990
Sigma Xi - 1987
Phi Sigma (Biological Honorary) - 1984

Recent Publications

Konopka, A. and R.F. Turco.  1991.  Biodegradation of organic compounds in vadose zone and aquifer sediments.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 57:2260-2268.

Cambardella, C.A. T.B. Moorman, J.M. Novak, T.B. Parkin, D.L. Karlen, R.F. Turco, and A.E. Konopka.  1994.  Field-scale variability of biological, chemical and physical soil properties in central Iowa soils.  Soil Science Society of America Journal. 58:1501-1511.

Regitano, J.B., M. Bischoff, J.M. Reichert, L.S. Lee, and R.F. Turco.  1997.  Retention of Imazaquin in soil.  Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.  16:397-404.

Grigg, B., C. M. Bischoff and R.F. Turco. 1997.  Co-contaminant effects on degradation of triazine herbicides by a mixed microbial culture.  Journal of Agriculture Food Chemistry. 45:995-1000. 

Acosta-Martinez, V., Z. Reicher, M. Bischoff, and R. F. Turco.  1999. The role of tree leaf mulch and nitrogen fertilizer on turfgrass soil quality.  Biology and Fertility of Soils. 29:55-61.

Shi, W., M. Bischoff, R.F. Turco and A. Konopka. 2002. Long-term effects of chromium and lead upon the activity of soil microbial communities. Applied Soil Ecology. 21:169-177. 

Shi, W., M. Bischoff, R.F. Turco and A. Konopka.  2005. Microbial catabolic diversity in soils contaminated with hydrocarbons and heavy metals.  Environmental Sciences and Technology 39:1974-1979.

Edwards, I., A. Gillespie J. Chen, K. Johnsen and R.F. Turco. 2005. Spatial distribution of ammonium and calcium in optimally fertilized pine plantation soils. Soil Science Society American Journal 69:1813-1821. 

Joynt J., M. Bischoff, R.F. Turco, A. Konopka and C. H. Nakatsu. 2006.  Microbial Community Analysis of Soils Contaminated with lead, chromium and petroleum hydrocarbons Microbial Ecology. 51:209-219

Tong, Z., M. Bischoff, L. F. Nies, B. Applegate, and R. F. Turco. 2007. Impact of Fullerene (C60) on a soil microbial community. Environmental Sciences and Technology 41:2985-2991. 

Nyberg, L., R.F. Turco and L. Nies. 2008. Assessing the impact of nanomaterials on anaerobic microbial communities.  Environmental Sciences and Technology 42: 1938–1943.

Turco, R.F., M. Bischoff, Z. Tong and L. Nies.  2011.   Environmental implications of nanomaterials: are we studying the right thing? Invited review article Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 22:527-32.

Tong, Z., M. Bischoff, L.F. Nies, P. Myer B. Applegate, and R.F. Turco. 2012. Response of soil microorganisms to as-produced and functionalized single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). Environ. Sci. Technol. 46:13471–13479. 

Holden, P.A., F. Klaessig, R.F. Turco, J.H. Priester, C.M. Rico, H. Avila-Arias.  2014 Evaluation of exposure concentrations used in assessing manufactured nanomaterial environmental hazards: are they relevant? Environmental science & Technology 48: 10541-10551.

Orr, MJ, M. Bischoff Gray, B. Applegate, J.J. Volenec, S. Brouder and R. Turco.  2015. Transition to second generation cellulosic biofuel production systems reveals limited negative impacts on the soil microbial community structure. Applied Soil Ecology 95:62-72.

Muenich, R.L., S. Peel, L.C. Bowling, M.H. Haas, R.F. Turco, J.R. Frankenberger and I. Chaubey. 2016. The Wabash Sampling Blitz: A Case Study on the Effectiveness of Citizen Science. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. http://theoryandpractice.citizenscienceassociation.org/articles/10.5334/cstp.1/print/

Berry, T.D.,  T.R. Filley, A.P. Clavijo, M. Bischoff Gray, and R.F. Turco 2016. Degradation and Microbial Uptake of C60 Fullerols in Contrasting Agricultural Soils.  Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b04637​.


Professional Preparation

  • ​Ph.D., Soil Microbiology, Washington State University​
  • B.S., Soil Science, University of Idaho
  • B.S., Bacteriology, University of Idaho


Department of Agronomy, 915 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2053 USA, (765) 494-4773

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