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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Louise Comas

Plant Physiologist

Louise Comas Dr. Louise Comas
Plant Physiologist


Water Management Research Unit
2150 Centre Avenue, Bldg D, Suite 320
Fort Collins, CO 80526

PHONE: (970) 492-7416
FAX: (970) 492-7408


Degrees   Research   Publications


Ph.D. Plant Physiology, Ecology Minor 2001 Penn State University, University Park
B.S. Botany 1993 University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research Interests:

  My current research is focused on examining plant responses to seasonally-distributed water shortages (maize and sunflower).  Specifically, studies in my lab on maize and sunflower investigate root growth responses under deficit irrigation and their impact on effective water uptake; canopy and leaf responses to deficit irrigation and impacts on sap flow and plant water use across the growing season; and plant hydraulic physiology and its implications for irrigation management.  I am also involved in collaborative projects assessing root traits associated with increased productivity under water stress (lesquerella, rice), root growth effects on carbon sequestration and microbial biomass (switchgrass), and root system dynamics in response to scion, above-ground canopy management and soil moisture (walnut).



Cruz VMV, Comas LH, Dierig DA. Survey of root variation in lesquerella germplasm and analysis of response to temperature treatments and watering frequency. Submitted.

Taghvaeian S, Comas LH, DeJonge KC, Trout TJ, Chávez JL. Crop water stress index of deficit irrigated sunflower. Submitted.

Comas LH, Callahan HS, Midford PE. Root traits of AM and EM temperate woody species: understanding trait differences in a phylogenetic context. Submitted.

Comas LH,Becker SR, Cruz VMV, Byrne PF, Dierig DA. 2013. Root traits contributing to plant productivity under drought. Frontiers in Plant Science 4:442. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00442.

Goslee SC, Veith TL, Skinner RH, Comas LH. 2013. Optimizing ecosystem function by manipulating pasture community composition. Basic and Applied Ecology 14: 630-641.

Lee MH, Comas LH, Callahan HS. 2014. Experimentally reduced root-microbe interactions reveal limited plasticity in functional root traits in Acer and Quercus. Annals of Botany 113: 513–521

Comas LH, Mueller KE, Taylor LL, Midford PE, Callahan HS, Beerling DJ. 2012. Evolutionary patterns and biogeochemical significance of angiosperm root traits. International Journal of Plant Science 173: 584-595.

Comas LH, Goslee SC, Skinner RH, Sanderson MA. 2011. Quantifying species trait - function relationships for ecosystem management. Applied Vegetation Science 14: 583–595.

Comas LH. 2011. Quantifying fine root and leaf morphology (and seeds) from desktop scans. PrometheusWiki,

Comas LH, Patterson A, Carlisle B. 2011. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) staining and quantification PrometheusWiki,

Skinner RH and Comas LH. 2010. Root distribution of temperate forage species subjected to water and nitrogen stress. Crop Science 50:2178–2185.

Comas LH, Bauerle TL, Eissenstat DM. 2010. Biological and environmental factors controlling root dynamics and function. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research 16:131-137.

Comas LH, Tuininga A, Callahan HS. 2010. Advancing our current understanding of plant-fungal symbioses: bridging scales from local to global. New Phytologist 185:871-873.

Parrent J, Peay K, Arnold EA, Comas LH, Avis P, Tuininga A. 2010. Moving from pattern to process in fungal symbioses: Linking functional traits, community ecology, and phylogenetics. New Phytologist 185:882-886.

Comas LH and Eissenstat DM. 2009. Patterns in root trait variation among 25 co-existing North American forest species. New Phytologist 182:919–928.

Edwards, KR, Comas LH. 2009. Evaluation of mechanical cutting to control littoral purple loosestrife stands. Journal of Aquatic Plant Management 47:158-161.

Eissenstat DM, Lakso AN, Neilsen D, Smart DR, Bauerle TL, Comas LH, Neilsen GH. 2006. Seasonal patterns of root growth in relation to shoot phenology in grape and apple In: Retamales JB, Lobos GA. Acta Horticulturae 721. Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Mineral Nutrition of Fruit Plants, pp. 21-26.

Comas LH, Anderson LJ, Dunst RM, Lakso AN, Eissenstat DM. 2005. Canopy and environmental control of root dynamics in a long-term study of ‘Concord’ grape. New Phytologist 167:829-840.

Comas LH, Eissenstat DM. 2004. Linking fine root traits to maximum potential growth rate among eleven mature temperate tree species. Functional Ecology 18:388-397.

Comas LH, Skinner RH, Goslee SC. 2004. Using biodiversity to improve pastures. Lancaster Farming September 11, p E13.

Anderson LJ, Comas LH, Eissenstat DM, Lakso AN. 2003. Multiple risk factors in root survivorship: a four-year study in Concord grape. New Phytologist 158:489-501.

Lakso AN, Eissenstat DM, Comas LH , Dunst R. 2003. Effects of irrigation and pruning on Concord grape productivity and seasonal root development. International Water and Irrigation 23:32-34.

Comas LH, Bouma TJ, Eissenstat DM. 2002. Linking root traits to potential growth rate in six temperate tree species. Oecologia 132:34-43.

Comas LH, Eissenstat DM, Lakso AN. 2000. Assessing root death and root system dynamics in a study of grape canopy pruning. New Phytologist 147:171-178.

Last Modified: 7/17/2014
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