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Justin McGrath

Profile picture for Justin McGrath

Contact Information

1201 W Gregory Dr, Room 197
M/C 051
Urbana, IL 61801
Adjunct Assistant Professor

Research Interests

Understand mechanisms of plant nutrient uptake in response to climate change and find ways to adapt plants for improved nutrient quality.

Although yield is a primary consideration for crop development, the nutritional quality is often important as well. The value of some crops is highly dependent on specific quality characteristics, where, for example, soybeans with more protein often demand higher prices. Quality is also a critical consideration for some food-insecure populations, particularly those in which plant-based diets are the primary source of nutrients.

Many of the details of nutrient acquisition are understood, but there has not been an effort to combine the separate parts into a wholistic crop growth model. Such a model could provide insight into potential strategies to improve crop nutritional quality in the same way that these models have identified ways to improve yield. The focus of my lab is to understand and incorporate nutrient uptake and distribution mechanisms into a crop growth model and use this model to identify steps that limit crop nutrient quality. There is a focus on effects of climate change, since climate is known to affect crop quality, in particular, elevated carbon dioxide concentrations often cause reduced protein concentrations in harvestable portions of crops.


B.S., Bradley University

Ph.D., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

selected publications

Aspray EK, Mies TA, McGrath JA, Montes CM, Dalsing B, Puthuval KK, Whetten A, Herriott J, Li S, Bernacchi CJ (2023) Two decades of fumigation data from the Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment facility. Scientific Data 10, 226.


Lochocki EB, Rohde S, Jaiswal D, Matthews ML, Miguez F, Long SP, McGrath JM (2022) BioCro II: a software package for modular crop growth simulations. in silico Plants 4, diac003.


Matthews ML, Marshall-Colón A, McGrath JM, Lochocki EB, Long SP (2022) Soybean-BioCro: a semi-mechanistic model of soybean growth. in silico Plants 4, diab032.


McGrath J (2020) Climate, pollution and California’s crops. Nature Food 1, 153–153.


McGrath JM, Betzelberger AM, Wang S, Shook E, Zhu X-G, Long SP, Ainsworth EA (2015) An analysis of ozone damage to historical maize and soybean yields in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, 14390–14395.


Mcgrath JM, Lobell DB (2013) Reduction of transpiration and altered nutrient allocation contribute to nutrient decline of crops grown in elevated CO2 concentrations. Plant, Cell & Environment 36, 697–705.


McGrath JM, Long SP (2014) Can the cyanobacterial carbon-concentrating mechanism increase photosynthesis in crop species? A theoretical analysis. Plant physiology 164, 2247–2261.