Xiufen (Sophia) Li

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Research Interests:

Dr. Li is a soil microbiologist with particular research interests in soil health and soil fertility. With a specific focus on agricultural and biofuel systems, the Li Lab strives to achieve three primary research goals. Firstly, the Li Lab aims to identify optimum cropping systems and management practices to improve soil health and crop productivity under desired or stressed conditions. Secondly, the Li Lab aims to uncover the underlying biogeochemical, microbial, and molecular mechanisms of soil-plant-microbe interactions under different cropping systems and management practices. Additionally, the Li lab aims to promote beneficial plant-microbe interactions to enhance soil fertility, microbial functions, plant resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses, and ultimately increase crop yield. To achieve these goals, the Li Lab employs a comprehensive range of approaches, ranging from large-scale field and greenhouse trials to conducting microbial and molecular experiments. Through multidisciplinary efforts, Dr. Li and the Li Lab contribute to the advancement of sustainable agriculture and biofuel production.


Ph.D. Soil Science, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA

M.S. Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing, China

B.S. in Biotechnology, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu, China

Professional Appointments:

  • 2023 - present: Assistant Professor of Soil Microbiology and Soil Health. Dept. of Plant and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University.
  • 2020 - 2023: Postdoctoral Research Associate. Washington State University.
  • 2016 - 2020: Postdoctoral Research Associate. Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center.

Recent Publications:

  • Li, X.; Petipas, R.H.; Antoch, A.A.; Liu, Y.; Stel, H.V.; Bell-Dereske, L.; Smercina, D.N.; Bekkering, C.; Evans, S.E.; Tiemann, L.K.; & Friesen, M.L. (2022). Switchgrass cropping systems affect soil carbon and nitrogen and microbial diversity and activity on marginal lands. GCB Bioenergy, 14(8), 918-940.
  • Li, X.; Jiang, J.; Guo, J.; McClung, A.; Chen, K.; Velarca, M.V.; Torbert, H.A.; & Dou, F. (2022). Effect of nitrogen application rate under organic and conventional systems on rice (Oryza sativa) growth, grain yield, soil properties, and greenhouse gas emissions. Journal of Plant Nutrition. doi.org/10.1080/01904167.2022.2093746.
  • Li, X.; Tan, A.; Chen, K.; Pan, Y.; Gentry, T.; & Dou, F. (2021). Effect of cover crop type and application rate on soil nitrogen mineralization and availability in organic rice production. Sustainability, 13(5), 2866. doi.org/10.3390/su13052866.
  • Li, X.; Deng, S.; Raun, W.R.; Wang, Y.; & Teng, Y. (2020). Bacterial community in soils following century-long application of organic or inorganic fertilizers under continuous winter wheat cultivation. Agronomy, 10(10), 1497. doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10101497.
  • Li, X.; Dou, F.; Guo, J.; Velarca, M.V.; Chen, K.; Gentry, T.J.; & McNear, D. (2020). Soil microbial community responses to nitrogen application in organic and conventional rice (Oryza sativa) production. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 84, 1885-1897.
  • Li, X.; Dou, F.; Watkins, K.B.; Wang, S.; Chen, K.; Zhou, X.; McClung, A.; Storlien, J.O.; & Hons, F.M. (2020). Seeding rate effects on organic rice growth, yield, and economic returns. Agronomy Journal, 112, 4104-4119.

* Unavailable to take on new graduate students.