Mary Barbercheck, Ph.D.

Mary Barbercheck, Ph.D.

  • Professor of Entomology
516 Ag Sciences & Industries Bldg.
University Park, PA 16802

Areas of Expertise

  • Soil Entomology and Ecology
  • Sustainable and Organic Agriculture
  • Insect Pathology
  • Women and Gender in Science
  • Women and Agriculture


  • B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara,1980. Environmental Biology
  • M.S. University of California, Davis,1982. Plant Protection and Pest Management
  • Ph.D. University of California, Davis,1990. Entomology

Department Focus Area

Ecological Applications; Disease Ecology and Biology; Biocontrol and Insect Pathology; and Integrated Pest Management

Research Programs & Interests

Biological soil quality and sustainability - A major area of emphasis in my research program is on the impact of agricultural practices on soil biodiversity and function. Soil organisms are tightly linked functionally to above-ground interactions and are involved in ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, carbon storage, maintenance of plant diversity, biological control of human and agricultural pests, and bioremediation, and therefore, are of critical importance to ecosystem function and productivity. Agricultural management has generally been driven by production at the expense of the environment and, in many cases, the use of pesticides and fertilizers has masked the importance of soil biota. Consequently, there is a lack of data on the value of services provided by soil arthropods in maintaining soil structure, soil fertility, antagonism and control of pest organisms, and in mediating processes such as decomposition and mineralization. This information will be critical as the use of synthetic inputs in agriculture become more restricted and/or less desirable. The long-term goal is to identify practices that encourage productivity and minimize costs associated with synthetic inputs and damage from insect pests.

Biology and ecology of entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi - Entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi important natural mortality factors for soil-dwelling insect pests, and currently the ones with the greatest potential for successful commercial use. The goal of my research on entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi has been to clarify aspects of their biology and ecology that relates to their successful use as conserved or applied biological control agents. Projects have ranged from very practical to fairly basic - from efficacy trials to the effects of insect food plant on the biology and ecology of entomopathogenic nematodes and the effects of selection on several aspects of their biology. Another current area of emphasis is the impact of agricultural practices on the occurrence and abundance of entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi.


Fungal community shifts in soils with varied cover crop treatments and edaphic properties
Scientific Reports, Cloutier, Mara L., Murrell, Ebony, Barbercheck, Mary, Kaye, Jason, Finney, Denise, García-González, Irene, Bruns, Mary Ann, 2020

Carabid beetles (Coleoptera
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Pisani Gareau, Tara, Voortman, Christina, Barbercheck, Mary, 2020

Prevalence of Early- A nd Late-Season Pest Damage to Corn in Cover Crop-Based Reduced-Tillage Organic Systems
Environmental Entomology, Regan, Karly H., Voortman, Christina A., Wallace, John M., Barbercheck, Mary E., Nachappa, Punya, 2020

Cover crop mixture expression is influenced by nitrogen availability and growing degree days
PLoS One, Baraibar, Barbara, Murrell, Ebony G., Bradley, Brosi A., Barbercheck, Mary E., Mortensen, David A., Kaye, Jason P., White, Charles M., 2020

Systemic colonization by Metarhizium robertsii enhances cover crop growth
Journal of Fungi, Ahmad, Imtiaz, Del Mar Jiménez-Gasco, María, Luthe, Dawn S., Barbercheck, Mary E., 2020

Is tillage beneficial or detrimental for insect and slug management? A meta-analysis
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Rowen, Elizabeth K., Regan, Karly H., Barbercheck, Mary E., Tooker, John F., 2020

Endophytic Metarhizium robertsii promotes maize growth, suppresses insect growth, and alters plant defense gene expression
Biological Control, Ahmad, Imtiaz, Jiménez-Gasco, María del Mar, Luthe, Dawn S., Shakeel, Samina N., Barbercheck, Mary E., 2020

Drill and broadcast establishment methods influence interseeded cover crop performance in organic corn
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Wallace, John M., Isbell, Sarah, Hoover, Ron, Barbercheck, Mary, Kaye, Jason, Curran, William, 2020

Cover Crop Mixture Effects on Maize, Soybean, and Wheat Yield in Rotation
Agricultural and Environmental Letters, Hunter, Mitchell C., Schipanski, Meagan E., Burgess, Macdonald H., LaChance, James C., Bradley, Brosi A., Barbercheck, Mary E., Kaye, Jason P., Mortensen, David A., 2019

Growing degree days and cover crop type explain weed biomass in winter cover crops
Agronomy for Sustainable Development, Baraibar, Barbara, Mortensen, David, Hunter, Mitchell C., Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, Kaye, Jason Philip, Finney, Denise M., Curran, William, Bunchek, Jess, White, Charles Macaulay, 2018

Cover crop species and management influence predatory arthropods and predation in an organically managed, reduced-tillage cropping system
Environmental Entomology, Rivers, Ariel N., Mullen, Christina A., Barbercheck, Mary E., 2018

Cover crop-based reduced tillage system influences Carabidae (Coleoptera) activity, diversity and trophic group during transition to organic production
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Rivers, Ariel, Mullen, Christina, Wallace, John, Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, 2017

Balancing multiple objectives in organic feed and forage cropping systems
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Schipanski, Meagan E., Barbercheck, Mary E., Murrell, Ebony G., Harper, Jayson, Finney, Denise M., Kaye, Jason P., Mortensen, David A., Smith, Richard G., 2017

Ecosystem Services and Disservices Are Bundled in Simple and Diverse Cover Cropping Systems
Agricultural and Environmental Letters, Finney, Denise M., Murrell, Ebony G., White, Charles M., Baraibar, Barbara, Barbercheck, Mary E., Bradley, Brosi A., Cornelisse, Sarah, Hunter, Mitchell C., Kaye, Jason P., Mortensen, David A., Mullen, Christina A., Schipanski, Meagan E., 2017

Cover crop termination timing is critical in organic rotational no-till systems
Agronomy Journal, Keene, C. L., Curran, W. S., Wallace, J. M., Ryan, M. R., Mirsky, S. B., Vangessel, M. J., Barbercheck, M. E., 2017

Cover crop and tillage intensities alter ground-dwelling arthropod communities during the transition to organic production
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Jabbour, Randa, Pisani-Gareau, Tara, Smith, Richard G., Mullen, Christina, Barbercheck, Mary, 2016

Conservation agriculture affects arthropod community composition in a rainfed maize-wheat system in central Mexico
Applied Soil Ecology, Rivers, Ariel, Barbercheck, Mary, Govaerts, Bram, Verhulst, Nele, 2016

Management of overwintering cover crops influences floral resources and visitation by native bees
Environmental Entomology, Ellis, Katherine E., Barbercheck, Mary E., 2015

Multivariate relationships influencing crop yields during the transition to organic management
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Schipanski, M. E., Smith, R. G., Gareau, T. L.Pisani, Jabbour, R., Lewis, D. B., Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, Mortensen, David, Kaye, Jason Philip, 2014

A framework for evaluating ecosystem services provided by cover crops in agroecosystems
Agricultural Systems, Schipanski, Meagan E., Barbercheck, Mary, Douglas, Margaret R., Finney, Denise M., Haider, Kristin, Kaye, Jason P., Kemanian, Armen R., Mortensen, David A., Ryan, Matthew R., Tooker, John, White, Charlie, 2014

Use of conservation practices by women farmers in the Northeastern United States
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, Brasier, Kathryn Jo, Kiernan, Nancy Ellen, Sachs, Carolyn Elizabeth, Trauger, Amy, 2014

Capturing the multiple and shifting identities of farm women in the northeastern United States
Rural Sociology, Brasier, Kathryn Jo, Sachs, Carolyn Elizabeth, Kiernan, Nancy Ellen, Trauger, Amy, Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, 2014

Meeting the 'multi-' requirements in organic agriculture research
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, Kiernan, Nancy Ellen, Hulting, Andrew G., Duiker, Sjoerd Willem, Hyde, Jeffrey, Karsten, Heather D., Sanchez, Elsa Selina, 2012

Entomopathogenic nematodes as a model system for advancing the frontiers of ecology
Journal of Nematology, Campos-Herrera, Raquel, Barbercheck, Mary, Hoy, Casey W., Stock, S. Patricia, 2012

Linking invertebrate communities to decomposition rate and nitrogen availability in pine forest soils
Applied Soil Ecology, Neher, D. A., Weicht, T. R., Barbercheck, M. E., 2012

Women farmers
Journal of Extension, Kiernan, Nancy Ellen, Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, Brasier, Kathryn Jo, Sachs, Carolyn, Terman, Anna Rachel, 2012

Labile carbon and other soil quality indicators in two tillage systems during transition to organic agriculture
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Lewis, David Bruce, Kaye, Jason Philip, Jabbour, Randa, Barbercheck, Mary Ellen, 2011

Assessing and visualizing agricultural management practices
Weed Technology, Smith, Richard G., Gareau, Tara Pisani, Mortensen, David A., Curran, William S., Barbercheck, Mary E., 2011

Yield and net returns during the transition to organic feed grain production
Agronomy Journal, Smith, Richard G., Barbercheck, Mary E., Mortensen, David A., Hyde, Jeffrey, Hulting, Andrew G., 2011

Cover crops and disturbance influence activity-density of weed seed predators Amara aenea and Harpalus pensylvanicus (Coleoptera
Weed Science, Ward, Meredith J., Ryan, Matthew R., Curran, William S., Barbercheck, Mary E., Mortensen, David A., 2011