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US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Rakesh Minocha

Rakesh Minocha

Plant Physiologist / Biochemist
271 Mast Road
Durham
New Hampshire
United States
03824

Phone: 603-868-7622
Fax: 603-868-7604
Contact Rakesh Minocha


Current Research

My research is focused on the evaluation of the effects of biotic and abiotic stress-inducing factors on the metabolic health of forest stands and to use some of the significant cellular metabolic changes for developing early indicators for stress assessment. Another focus of my research is to relate the impact of these changes to the below-ground microbial communities and soil health.

Current research examines:

  • I examine wood and foliar metabolism and chemistry (inorganic cations, polyamines, amino acids, heavy metals, organic acids, sugars, soluble proteins, and chlorophyll) at various sites that have been impacted by different forms of stress including urbanization, fires, drought along with repeat soil freeze-thaw in winters (both caused by global warming), heavy metals alone and in various combination within the Northeastern USA, CA, Europe and Asia. Our goal is to determine the relationship between these parameters and data collected on the root, soil, and soil solution samples from our cooperators and collaborators. So far, putrescine, a polyamine, amino acids arginine and proline, and phytochelatins (metabolites that are synthesized to protect plants from heavy metal stress) have shown the potential to be used as early indicators of physiological stress under field conditions. Our long-term goal is to develop a suite of metabolic markers as indicators of forest health in a way similar to the use of cholesterol and diabetes test for human health.
  • The applicability and limitations of dendrochemistry to provide markers of environmental change.
  • The effect of environmental pollution on the structure and functions of soil microbial communities.
  • Impact of urbanization on stand health
  • Impact of long-term exposure to stress on stress memory in trees.
  • Role of calcium oxalate as a calcium reservoir in the trees within a forest ecosystem

Research Interests

Trees have complex biochemical mechanisms to detect, respond to, and survive multiple concurrent environmental stresses. Stress can affect metabolism, and usually, the effects of multiple stresses are additive. Many stress-related metabolic pathways are interconnected via common signal transduction pathways many of which use Ca as a second messenger. Stress-related pathways often share and may even compete for common precursor metabolites. Such biochemical interactions mean that changes in cellular levels of one metabolite will have multiple effects on several other metabolites within the same and related pathways. Presently, there are only a few metabolic changes that can be easily measured to monitor stress in forest trees; except heavy metal stress, none can be used alone as a marker for specific stress.

The metabolites synthesized or interconverted in response to stress do cost the cell's energy that is diverted from productive and growth processes. The primary focus of my research is to delineate the biochemical and physiological basis of the stress response and develop early indicators to detect environmental stress in forest trees. Stress detection before the appearance of visual symptoms could lead to corrective forest management. The long-term goal of my research is to develop a set of metabolic markers that can be used to monitor the health of forest trees by detecting physiological stress. This diagnostic kit should be applicable to all species, across regional, continental and temporal scales in a way blood tests are used for human health.

My research requires collaborative teamwork with a large network of interdisciplinary scientists to assemble the needed data on environmental factors, soil and soil-solution chemistry, growth rates of trees, nutrient cycling, and tree physiology with minimal intrusion and small-scale sample collection. The goal is to develop models of interactions among the various factors from which accurate inferences can be drawn to propose and test efficient and effective forest management practices. As the only biochemist/physiologist member, the scientist brings more than 30 years of experience in the tools and techniques needed for the research teams, thus complementing the expertise of a large number of scientists interested in reversing recent trends of decline in forest productivity due to natural and anthropomorphic climate changes. 

Why This Research is Important

Stress from mechanical injury, subsequent infection, and environmental change are facts of life for wild, rural, and urban trees. This stress often impacts the diverse goals of forest management, wildlife conservation, high-quality wood products, or the desire for safe and healthy trees in our communities. Maximizing the benefits of trees for forests and communities requires understanding how these goals are linked to tree biology. Therefore, early detection of tree response to the various simultaneously acting stressors in the environment can forewarn us about the possible future negative changes in the forest stands populations so that forest managers can act in a timely manner. Such studies also help one to understand the mechanisms behind stress-memory and adaptation as well as resilience to stress.

Education

  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, Ph.D. Biochemistry (cancer) 1985
  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, M.S. Zoology (Limnology) 1978
  • Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, M.Sc. (Honors) Zoology (Limnology) 1976
  • Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, B.Sc. (Honors) Zoology 1975

Professional Organizations

  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • Ecological Society of America

Featured Publications & Products

Publications

Research Highlights

HighlightTitleYear


NRS-2016-136
Appalachian Trail Study Fills in the Gaps on Spatial Patterns of Acidic Deposition Effects

A multiagency and multidisciplinary investigation along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail provided an extensive dataset that filled the gaps ...

2016


NRS-2016-152
Elm Disease Resistance Research Gets a Boost

Great news for disease-tolerant American elm! A grant from The Manton Foundation has provided the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station w ...

2016


NRS-2011-15
Project SMART: Educating and Motivating Talented High School Students in Math and Science

Forest Service funding from the Northern Research Station's Civil Rights Diversity Committee's Special Project Funds and Conservation Education' ...

2011


Last updated on : 04/12/2021