I am an adjunct professor in Horticulture & Crop Science and collaborate with faculty in the School of Environment & Natural Resources (SENR), Department of Food, Agricultural, & Biological Engineering (FABE), and Ohio Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at The Ohio State University.
USDA, Agric. Res. Serv. (ARS)
Appl. Technol. Res. Unit (ATRU)
215A Williams Hall
USDA-ARS ATRU & HCS Joint Environ. Hort. Lab.
209A Williams Hall Annex
Manager: Hannah Blice
USDA-ARS ATRU Analyt. Hort. Lab.
218A Williams Hall Annex
Manager: Leslie Morris
I was born and raised in Edgewood, Kentucky as the son of cemeterians. My passion for horticulture came from caring for the grounds of the family business where he planted and raised hundreds of bulbs and annuals each summer while maintaining an arboretum-esque woody ornamental collection, including my favorite childhood plant American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.).
Jim Owen’s research includes developing, designing, and optimizing systems that improve irrigation water security and water quality, and improve the quality of water leaving container production sites. His program is directed by ARS National Program 305-Crop Production. His research is national in scope and conducted across U.S. eco-physiographic regions. To accomplish this, Jim collaborates with a national team of scientists who are innovating production strategies for the greenhouse and nursery industries via funding by USDA-ARS, extramural grants, and the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative. Additionally, Jim oversees the USDA-ARS ATRU Environmental Horticultural & Analytical Laboratories. His primary research today focuses on optimizing resource efficiency to reduce production costs, extend finite resources, namely water and mineral nutrients, and mitigate production impacts to ecosystems at local, regional, and national scales. Ongoing projects include:
- Quantifying mineral nutrient fate in containerized crop production to identify key opportunities to increase crop utilization
- Physio-chemically engineering soilless substrates to retain water and agrichemical resources while quickly growing a larger or equivalent crop
- Coupling and optimizing irrigation-container-substrate systems to maximize use of applied water, minimize agrichemical leaching, and reduce crop stress
- Characterizing and treating nursery and greenhouse irrigation return flow and storm runoff for reuse on site or discharge to the surrounding ecosystem
- Improving reservoir design to retain quality fresh water for nursery and greenhouse water security
I first became interested in research when assisting to validate an automated mist propagation system and nursery cost analysis, respectively, at the University of Kentucky. I also had the opportunity to tour botanical gardens and innovative nursery and greenhouse producers in Western Europe, Asia, and throughout North America creating an everlasting appreciation for travel and the ornamental industry’s diverse approach to plant production. At the University of Rhode Island, I fostered knowledge of asexual propagation through research and teaching. There I was also immersed in the interrelated world of plant physiology, biochemistry, and plant mineral nutrition.
Nearby, at Rhode Island Nurseries I assisted with cost-benefit analysis, irrigation, and nursery layout/design. I continued to develop my knowledge of containerized crop production, including soil chemistry, soil physics, crop nutrition, and soilless substrates as I pursued my doctorate at North Carolina State University. I began my professional career at Oregon State University as a nursery crops research and Extension specialist. Later I moved to the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Virginia Beach where I continued to conduct research and serve growers of the commonwealth as an Extension specialist. Most recently, my desire to focus on research and to be near family brought me to Ohio and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
- 2020-present, Research Horticulturist (GS-14), USDA, ARS, Wooster, Ohio
- 2017-2020 Associate Professor & Extension Specialist, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia Beach, VA
- 2011-2017 Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia Beach, VA
- 2006-2011, Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist, Oregon State University, Aurora, OR
- 2002-2006, Research Assistant, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
- 2001-2002, Nursery Specialist, Rhode Island Nurseries, Middletown, RI
- 1999-2001, Research Assistant, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
- 1997-1998, Research Assistant, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
- 1996-1997, Student Laboratory Technician, Regulatory Services, Lexington, KY
- 1994-1996, Groundskeeper/Crew Leader, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Inc., Erlanger, KY
I have assisted multiple international fertilizer, substrate, and container companies to identify or optimize products for use in nursery and greenhouse production.
I have collaborated with colleagues at Laval University on modeling soilless substrate hydraulics. I have also collaborated with colleagues at the Spanish National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology and Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation at the University of Bonn on remote sensing of ornamental plant vegetation to detect and monitor water status of nursery crops.
I had an opportunity to co-convene the Int. Soc. Hort. Sci. 2017 International Soilless Substrates Symposium in Portland, OR with Drs. Altland (USDA), Evans (Univ. Ark.), and Jackson (NCSU).
Altland, J.E., J.S. Owen, Jr., & B.E. Jackson. 2019. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Growing Media, Soilless Cultivation, and Compost Utilization in Horticulture. Acta Hortic. No. 1266. 450 pp. (proceedings of collated peer-reviewed papers)
My favorite conference is one in which ideas are born, I reunite with past colleagues, and encounter new friends and future collaborators.
Meeting new colleagues and aiding in graduate research.
I enjoy my family and dogs, travel, and to walk and hike as often as possible.