Dr. Yuncong Li

Professor — Soil and Water Quality

Dr. Yuncong Li is the Professor of Soil and Water Quality in the Department of Soil and Water Science at the Tropical Research and Education Center, IFAS, University of Florida.  He was born and grew up in Shandong, China, and came to America in 1987. He received his B.S. (1982) in Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry from the Shandong Agricultural University, China, his M.S. (1990) in Agronomy from the University of Georgia, and his Ph.D. (1993) in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland. He is also an Affiliated Professor at the University of Florida’s Center for Tropical Agriculture, Hydrologic Sciences Academic Cluster, School of Natural Resources & Environment, and Water Institute, and Courtesy Professor at the Shandong Agricultural University and Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences.

His research and extension program focuses on water and soil quality monitoring, assessment and remediation, management practices to improve nutrient use efficiency, and nutrient cycling in soils/sediments. He has authored or co-authored over 150 research papers, 80 extension articles and 17 book chapters. He co-edited two books, Water Quality Concepts, Sampling, and Analyses and Handbook of Soil Sciences. He serves as an associate editor for two journals, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology and Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis. Additionally, He has chaired or co-chaired 25 PhD and MS students, served as a committee member for 24 other graduate students, and supervised 15 postdoctoral fellows and many international visiting scientists and students from more than 25 countries.


Dr. Li’s research program focuses on developing management practices to improve nutrient use efficiency, characterizing nutrient cycling in soils, and balancing agricultural and natural ecosystems. The unique soils, climatic extremes, and diverse crops and native plants have posed great challenges to his soil and water research program in South Florida. 

Current Research Areas

  • New environmental friendly fertilizers
  • Controlled-release fertilizers
  • Amino acid foliar/liquid fertilizers
  • Bio-fertilizers
  • Nano fertilizers
  • Oxygen fertilizers
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Polyhalite as a multi-nutritional fertilizer
  • Humic acid from Leonardite for growing crops
  • Salt index of fertilizers
  • Testing methods for slow-release fertilizers
  • Soil testing calibration for calcareous soils
  • Mango internal discoloration in Ecuador and Peru
  • BMP for tropical fruits
  • Cover crops and Soil amendments
  • Water quality index
  • Everglades restoration

Fertilizer Development Center (TREC/FDC)
Fertilizer prices have more than tripled during last ten years while many strict regulations on using agrichemicals including fertilizers have been implemented in the US and other countries.  It is need and market for developing new fertilizers which have low price, high nutrient use efficiency, and less environmental pollution.  However, few new fertilizers have been invented in the US since the fertilizer research and development program, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was closed in the 1990s. TVA developed and improved 70% of fertilizer technology used around world during 50s-70s and brought over $50 billion to agriculture in the US with an investment of about $40 million in fertilizer research from 1933 to the 1980s. Currently several large fertilizer companies in North America hold the majority of fertilizer market after recent company merges.  Accordingly, less competition and high profit led to lower investment in development of new fertilizers.  Meanwhile, other countries such as Brazil, China and India are investing large amount of resources in finding raw fertilizer materials and developing new fertilizers.  So far the US continue to have advanced technology in regard to material science, chemical engineering, and fertilizer application which are essential for developing new fertilizers and avoiding “innovation deficit” on new fertilizer research.  It is an opportunity for UF/IFAS to lead the development of the new generation of “smart” fertilizers. 

Develop and test new fertilizers which will protect environment, improve crop production, and increase profit of farming


Water quality issues are of considerable concern because of the excessively porous, oolitic limestone soils that overlay the Biscayne Aquifer, and through which it flows. The aquifer underlies the Everglades Protection Area and Miami-Dade County and empties into Biscayne and Florida Bays. These areas and bays represent large natural resources for water, recreation, and habitat for native flora and fauna, which must be protected from pollution.

n addition, groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for Miami-Dade County residents. Agrichemicals (P and pesticides) at elevated concentrations have been measured in aquatic systems of south Florida indicating a need to pro-actively reduce agrochemical leaching through innovative management.
In addition to agriculturally related natural resource initiatives, urban sources of pollution (residential and city-urban) also need to be addressed. Our water quality training program focuses on basic concepts of water chemistry and hydrology, and provides practical training related to water sampling and analysis, instrumentation, water quality data analysis, evaluation and reporting.

Water Quality Sampling and Monitoring Education:

In collaboration with county extension agents and state specialists, Yuncong Li, Kati Migliaccio, Ed Hanlon and others organized a two-day In- Service Training on “Water Quality Sampling and Monitoring Technology” for extension agents in 2006 and 2008, a one-day and a five-day training program for environmentalists (from SFMW, FDEP, NOAA, UM, etc.) in 2007 and 2008, one-day program for local college teachers and students in 2009, and a 5-day training program for IFAS state faculty in 2011. The program included hands-on experiences of water sampling and water quality analysis in the laboratory using various methods and instruments. Pre- and post-tests showed the knowledge increase was 28% in 2007, 73% in 2008, and 24% in 2011 (In lecture series, a typical number for knowledge gained is usually in the 9% range). It appears that lectures, hands-on experiences, and ample discussion time helped considerably with knowledge gain by the participants. One of participants wrote: “Congratulations on an outstanding job of organizing the Extension Water Quality In-service Training. This was one of the best I have attended in recent years... demonstrated through the classroom lectures, field sampling, tour of pump stations and Everglades National Park, airboat collecting trip, and finally the great water analysis lab sessions. Even some of us old hands learned new things.” Based on on-sit e workshops, Li and Migliaccio developed an on-line water quality training workshop which is available to extension agents, environmental professors and researchers. They also published the book of “Water Quality Concept, Sampling and Analyses” which is available in e-book format at the UF library and the book was also translated into Arabic recently.

Dr Li

Dr. Yuncong Li (Professor) — Soil and Water Quality