Kira Borden

NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow


View CV


  • PhD – University of Toronto (2018)
  • MSc – University of Toronto (2013)
  • BSc – Queen’s University (2008)

Research Interests

  • Plant-soil-environment interactions
  • Belowground and root system ecology
  • Agroecology
  • Agroforestry


I integrate plant ecophysiology, biogeochemistry, and functional ecology to study managed environments. My field-based research spans forested, riparian, intercropping and agroforestry systems, in temperate and tropical regions. I use a wide range of imaging and chemical analyses and in-field technologies to address pressing questions on plant-soil interactions, the effects of environmental change on these interactions, and the role of management in modifying these processes. I do this at multiple scales: from within the scale of an individual plant (or crop) to broader patterns across landscapes. And I pay special attention to what is occurring below-ground, such as root-soil nutrient and water dynamics.

I recently joined the SAL lab, where I aim to bridge scientific investigations of plant-soil interactions with usable applications in management decision making for sustainable agricultural practices.


Current Research

Project 1: Organic vegetable nutrient management

Project link. I’m leading a project at UBC Farm and a working research farm on Vancouver Island to develop improved organic nutrient management practices that address the major production trade-offs related to adding nutrients to an environment: crop yield vs. nutrient losses/loading in soil. I am also investigating how vegetable crops perform and acquire nutrients in synchrony with organic amendment mineralization. This project will contribute to improved understanding of how organic amendments can be better matched to environment and cropping system.

Project 2: Agricultural greenhouse gasses in high-value cropping systems

Project link. I am quantifying greenhouse gas emissions (CO2, N2O, CH4) from UBC Farm using in-field FTIR technology. The effects of different soil amendments and cropping systems on emission rates are being compared. Data from this research support the project’s collaborative interdisciplinary team’s efforts in collecting emission data across multiple farms in lower mainland BC. We aim to parameterize process-based carbon and nitrogen models for farms in the region. This project will provide much needed field-based measurements of actual emission rates for BC and contribute to improved understanding of how management and environmental change can alter emissions.

Project 3: Soil water management

Project link. We are assessing farm management practices that can regulate the effects of high winter precipitation on cultivation and soil conditions in the spring. I am carrying out a field study of cover cropping vs. plastic tarping replicated on farms with different climatic and edaphic conditions, and monitoring the impacts on soil properties and nutrient dynamics in the growing season. This work aims to provide needed data on soil management strategies for small-scale farmers to improve the soil conditions for crop establishment in the spring when excess soil moisture is a major concern.



Visit my Google Scholar page for a list of publications. Please email me if you’d like a copy of any of these publications.

Latest publication highlight:

Co-authored Marschner Review in Plant and Soil: Nutrient acquisition strategies in agroforestry systems (in press)

  • We review research on nutrient acquisition of intercropped trees and crops, at different scales within and between root systems. We argue for improved standardization and concerted methods in agroforestry research and highlight key lines of inquiry to improve our understanding of the consequences of environmental change on agroforestry systems.