CSU, Chico

Mitchell Johns

Mitchell Johns

Associate Professor

Mitchell JohnsOffice: Plumas 219

Campus Zip: 310

Phone: 530-898-6159

FAX: 530-898-5845

E-mail Address: mjohns@csuchico.edu

Personal Information

I've lived in Clovis, New Mexico, Atwater, California, and Tokyo, Japan as a child when my father was in the U.S. Air Force. At five years of age we moved to Altoona, Pennsylvania where I grew up. At an early age, I was interested in pursuing a career in agriculture. After graduation from high school I entered Pennsylvania State University where I obtained my BS in agronomy. During my junior and senior years, I was on the Penn State soil judging team and made it to the regional contests. Soon after graduation from Penn State, I entered graduate school at Montana State University, Bozeman. In Montana my focus moved from agronomy to soil science. For my MS degree, I did research on sodium and water movement in saline and alkali soils with the emphasis on strip mine reclamation. Besides this, I did a considerable amount of clay mineralogy, soil morphology studies, and soil chemistry.

In my spare time, I enjoyed hiking, camping, and cross country skiing in the mountains around Bozeman. Upon graduation with a MS in soils, I took employment as an agronomist with an Idaho company doing farm projects in Libya, North Africa . There, I worked on a large agricultural project in the Sahara Desert where I directed the land preparation, seeding, fertilization, plant protection, and irrigation for wheat farming on 6000 acres. The capital investment and farm infrastructure in the desert was enormous. This type of farming was intensive with lots of inputs including water. The Sahara Desert was beautiful with a myriad of different landforms including mountains. Not many people know that beneath the Sahara Desert is one of the largest aquifer in the world and plenty of fresh water.

After two years in Libya, I was hired by a company based in Hail, Saudi Arabia where again I focused on cereal grain production, irrigation, and farm management. Beside the agronomic work, I also was involved in developing the farm infrastructure from open, desert land. After one year in Hail, I worked with several other companies. I was a consultant advising growers on cereal grain production, plant and soil analysis, farm development, and irrigation. During my stay in Saudi Arabia, I was able to travel and experience many parts of this country and its desert. As with Libya, oil revenues transformed the desert into an agricultural showcase.

After leaving Saudi Arabia, I returned to Bozeman, Montana. For the next two years I took horticultural courses at Montana State University as a continuing education student. In addition, I took time to travel to New Zealand and Australia. In 1988, I re-entered graduate school at Montana State University accepting a doctorial research assistant position. My thesis research involved characterization of carbonaceous resins for soil organic matter and labile carbon studies. After graduation, I became a post-doctorial researcher in detecting and measuring petroleum hydrocarbons in soils and a Lecturer at Montana State in soil and water chemistry.

In 1993, I accepted a position as an assistant professor (research) at Louisiana State University in collaboration with the Southern Regional Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I would work. Later, I became a research chemist with the Agricultural Research Service. In New Orleans, I investigated the use of agricultural by-products for producing granular activated carbons. The agricultural by-products included almond, walnut, and pecan shells, as well as rice straw and hulls. As a researcher, I was able to produce granular activated carbons that were especially useful in remove heavy metals from water along with organic contaminants. This research was applied and I collaborated with a company in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratory. Some results of this were three patents (one still pending) in making granular activated carbons from these agricultural by-products and numerous publications.

In 1998, I accepted a position at the College of Agriculture, California State University, Chico. Here at California State University as an assistant professor, I teach the soil and irrigation courses that support the integrated programs within our College. I find teaching and helping students fulfilling and enjoyable. I am also doing research and my research areas are listed below.

My wife and I, along with our golden retriever and two cats, find Northern California one of the best places to live. We live near campus in the Sierra foothills, in Paradise, Ca. Where else can you have mountains, an ocean, a great diversity of plants, soil, and landscapes, and the greatest agricultural valley in the world? We love to hike, camp, swim, bike, and jog. California State University, Chico is a beautiful campus and great leaning environment for both professors and students.


PhD Crop and Soil Science, Montana State University, May 1992.

MS Soils, Montana State University, 1980.

BS Agronomy, Pennsylvania State University, 1975.


  • PSSC 250 - Introduction to Soils
  • PSSC 390 - Food Forever
  • AGET 360 - Irrigation
  • PSSC 356 - Soil Quality and Health
  • PSSC 451 - Soil Genesis and Classification
  • PSSC 453 - Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition

Research and Professional Interests

  • Agricultural lands preservation in the Central Valley utilizing a performance-based onsite sewage treatment ordinance.
  • Carbon sequestration in California soils and forest - measurement and market analysis.
  • Impact of application of salt-, sodium-, and high BOD-containing liquid and solid fruit factory processing waste to soil.
  • Rural home air quality impact of agri-chemical pesticide drift and other contaminants to home soil: significance and mitigation recommendations.
  • The control of Medusahead with annual burning, soil amendments, and reseeding on northern California rangelands.