Dr. Dhiraj Naik

Dhiraj Naik, Ph.D,  Assistant Professor


                                                                                                                 INTERESTED IN JOINING THE LAB


  • Ph.D (Botany),2006 Department of Botany, University of Pune, India.
  • M.Sc (Botany),1998-99 Department of Botany, University of Pune, India.
  • B.Sc,1995-99 Abasaheb Garware College of Arts and Science,University of Pune, India.

Postdoctoral Experience:

  • Department of Biology, West Virginia University, WV, USA
  • Environmental Sciences Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY, USA




My research is broadly interested in the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying adaptation and acclimation of plants to their stressful environment, which are accelerated due to changing climate conditions. In India, terrestrial and grassland ecosystem are strongly dependent on changes in climate, which accelerates predominantly by land use, drought and other edaphic stresses. My research focuses on understanding how drought and edaphic stresses affect forest and grassland ecosystems.  To answer these questions I combine ecophysiological and molecular approaches in open field, greenhouse and lab experiments. Click on the “Research’ tab to see the types of studies, ideas and questions that have intrigued us.



1. Change in annual carbon sequestration and soil respiration in semi-arid grassland and forest ecosystem
Our lab investigating how net ecosystem exchange (NEE) is affected by changes in regional climate and vegetation types in semi-arid grasslands in India.  Our lab is involved in measuring fluxes of CO2, water and energy above mixed grass plantation ecosystem which is located in drier regions of Gujarat.  These measurements will be taken and such initiatives will be made for the first time in India.  This facility utilizes the micrometeorological technique known as eddy covariance to measure the upward and downward movement of air and to simultaneously quantify the carbon dioxide concentrations.  This data allows for the calculation of the CO2 fluxes in real-time and is used to understand ecosystem responses to climatic variability as well as to how abiotic stresses such as extended drought and rewatering event scale to changes in ecosystem fluxes.
2.  Impact of legume based intercropping in soil carbon sequestration
Intercropping, the agricultural practice of cultivating two or more crops is an old and commonly used cropping practice in India which aims to match efficiently crop demands to the available growth resources. In most of studies, it has been shown that intercropping improves soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation with the use of legumes, increases soil conservation through greater ground cover than sole cropping. However, none of the studies reported qualitative and quantitative analysis of total carbon in soil, a core component of soil carbon sequestration. In our lab, we are studying soil and root respiration in situ in legume based intercropping using novel root chamber system combined with gas chromatography.

3. Dynamics of carbon and nitrogen allocation and partitioning in forest trees and crop plants under changing climate conditions
Atomspheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration are stedily rising. Rising CO2 concentration are likely to have an impact on climate change. Rising CO2 concentrations have profound direct effects on the growth, physiology, and chemistry of plants. Forest trees are the best target plants has been focused on the long-term response of plants to rising CO2 concentration in field experiments where Free Air CO2 Enrichment technology (FACE) has been used to expose vegetation to the levels of CO2 predicted to occur in the middle of the century.  Trees typically have large sinks for carbohydrate and are usually able to utilize the additional photosynthate produced at elevated CO2, particularly rapidly growing trees on fertilized and irrigated land. Much of observations have been done so far with temperate trees. In our lab, we are interested to understand how tropical evergreen and deciduous trees respond against elevated CO2.

4. Physiological and molecular mechanism of enhanced growth in grasses and forest trees during mycorrhizal and endophyte colonization
During my postdoctoral research with Dr. Cumming, we investigated that how mycorrhizal colonization increases the ecological breadth of mycorrhizal plants by quantitatively and qualitatively increasing the capacity of the plant for nutrient acquisition using model tree system poplar and model ectomycorrhiza Laccaria. Mycorrhizal colonization increases nutrient acquisition however despite changes in carbon allocation. In our lab, we are currently using high-throughput enzyme activity and metabolite profiling to understand carbon allocation pattern during enhanced growth of grasses during mycorrhizal and endophyte colonization.

5. Physiological and molecular mechanism of plant aluminum stress response
Soil acidity and related aluminum (Al) toxicity are significant factors limiting plant growth worldwide. Aluminum availability is increased by human-induced, including elevated inputs of nitrogen from atmospheric pollution and coal mining. While lime and phosphate inputs are typically used to overcome Al toxicity in high input agriculture, this practice is not practical for the long-term management of forests. Thus, Al toxicity is a fundamental problem in forest tree biology: understanding the mechanisms of adaptation to Al is important in tree breeding and selection programs and in determining the long-term responses of forests to Al. Hybrid poplar exhibits a wide range of resistance to Al in the root zone (Naik et al. 2008, Naik et al., 2011). However, as is the case for most tree species, little is known of the physiological and molecular factors responsible for resistance to Al in the environment. I’ve recently analyzed transcriptome profiling of Populus genotypes against Al stress to elucidate the mechanisms of Al resistance in hybrid poplar clones. In our lab, we are also working with forest tree Al hyperaccumulator to understand Al tolerance response in those tree species. 



1.Dhiraj Naik, Varsha Vartak and Sujata Bhargava (2003) Provenance- and subculture- dependent variation during micropropagation of Gmelina arborea Roxb. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 73: 189-195.

2.Varsha Vartak, Dhiraj Naik and Sujata Bhargava (2003) Growth and photosynthetic performance of in vitro grown seedlings and micropagated plants of Gmelina arborea Roxb. during the process of acclimatization. Indian Journal of Plant Physiology (Special Issue) 8/1:153-157.

3.Dhiraj Naik, Varsha Vartak and Sujata Bhargava (2006) Micropropagation of Gmelina arborea Roxb. Using mature tree tissues: optimization of in vitro responses. In: A. Kumar, S. Roy and S. K. Sopory (Eds.) Plant Biotechnology & Its applications in Tissue Culture, I. K. International Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, India, pp293-299.

4.T.Aneesh, D. D. Naik and S. S. Pandit (2007) High frequency in vitro flowering in Ceropegia species. Journal of Plant Biology 50(3):374-377.

5.Sagar S. Pandit, Aneesh Kumar C. Nair and Dhiraj D. Naik (2008) Towards Conservation of Threatened Ceropegia Species Endemic to a Biodiversity Hotspot: In Vitro Microtuber Production and Proliferation, a Novel Strategy. Journal of Forest Science 24(2):79-88.

6.Dhiraj Naik, Ernie Smith and Jonathan Cumming (2009) Rhizosphere carbon deposition, oxidative stress and nutritional changes in two poplar species exposed to aluminum. Tree Physiology 29(3):423-436.

7.Dhiraj Naik, Durgeshwer Singh, Varsha Vartak, Sharayu Paranjape and Sujata Bhargava (2009) Assessment of morphological and genetic diversity of Gmelina arborea Roxb. New Forests 38(1): 99-115.

8.Ernie Smith, Dhiraj Naik and Jonathan R. Cumming (2010) Genotypic variation in cellular aluminum fractions, organic acid accumulation, callose and pectin formation in the root tips of interspecific hybrids of Populus. Environmental and Experimental Botany 72:182-193.



 MBB-556  Environmental Biotechnology


Lab Members

Post-Doctoral Researcher

     Dr. Debashree Sengupta

     Dr. Usha Joshi

Research Students

     Manharsinh Solanki
     Twinkle Solanki
    Ritesh Prajapati
    Hemant Prajapati
    Jigar Thaker
    Priyanka Patel
    Divya Patel

Lab Alumni (2010-2013)

Dr. C. Lalrammawia (Postdoctoral research associate)
Ruchi Jani (Research student)
Deepti Davla (Junior Research Fellow)
Priya John (Junior Research Fellow)
Dipesh Devaliya (Junior Research Fellow)
Bijal Gajjar (Junior Research Fellow)


Department of Environmental Sciences
Indian Institute of Advanced Research
Koba Institutional Area, Gandhinagar-382007, Gujarat, India

Email:  dhirajnaik@iiar.res.in, naikdhiraj@gmail.com
Office Phone: +91-(0)79-30514145
Fax: +91-(0)79-30514110

Website: http://www.iiar.res.in/?q=node/415