Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems

The Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department has staff at both the Harpenden and North Wyke sites. We aim to understand, model and manipulate the abiotic and biotic processes in arable and grazed grassland soils to improve the function, resilience and sustainability of farming systems.

Head of Department: Prof.Steve McGrath
Departmental Secretary: Sally Murdoch

Areas of scientific expertise

The Department has internationally-acknowledged expertise in the biology, chemistry and physics of soils and soil processes in arable and grazed grassland systems. It has particular expertise in nutrient and pollutant cycling, especially of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and micronutrients, the recycling of organic manures, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, soil-root interactions, and soil and crop modelling. The Department delivers to Rothamsted's strategic objectives in the areas of sustainable soil and grassland management.

The Department links most closely to the Delivering Sustainable Systems research programme, delivering research on sustainable soil and grassland management. It also delivers research into soil-root interactions to '20:20 Wheat®', on carbon cycling, sequestration and modelling to 'Cropping Carbon', and on micronutrient quality of cereal grains to 'Designing Seeds'.

Research Teams

Sustainable Crop Yields and Quality

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Research includes: Optimisation of micronutrient status in food crops, risk assessment of metals and metalloids in soils, bio-indicators of pollution, focussing on heavy metals and manufactured nanoparticles, biogeochemistry of phosphorus, sulphur and trace elements in soils, microbes and plants.

Modelling Bioenergy Systems

Evaluation of the productivity of perennial energy crops in land use systems, environmental impact of energy crops using a wide range of modelling techniques (including Monte Carlo and scenario simulation)...

Quantifying Sustainability

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Research focusses on evaluating the sustainability of modern agricultural practices and the tradeoffs with the provision of environmental goods and services. An ecosystem services approach has been adopted for use with mathematical models that quantify, value and compare the provision and resilience of provision of goods and environmental services in both space and time and in the face of stresses such as climate change and growth in demand.

Farm Platform National Capability

The Farm Platform provides a Research Hotel for agri-environmental research, attracting researchers from different communities and disciplines to promote new ideas or tackle old problems in new ways.

Long Term Experiments National Capability

The UK Environmental Change Network  (ECN), together with the Long-Term experiments, Sample Archive and e-RA., comprise the Long Term Experiments National Capability

Department Articles

Collaborative roots could reduce reliance on phosphorus fertilisers

A consortium of UK based organisations, including Rothamsted Research, has been awarded funding to look into cropping systems that could harness the phosphorus already available in soils.

Farmers could improve the efficiency of phosphorus in crop production by coupling plants with complementary traits, which would allow them to harness the ‘phosphorus bank’ already present in soils.

Exploring the potential of ‘collaborative roots’ to make organic phosphorus available to plants is the objective of a new £1.2 million, three-year project undertaken by a scientific consortium including the James Hutton Institute, Rothamsted Research and led by Lancaster University.

UK Soil Observatory

Rothamsted is a Partner in the UK Soil Observatory which provides a portal for accessing UK soils data and underpinning research. These fully described datasets allow users to access information for novel research, for public and private decision making and for general interest groups. These datasets are provided for free, where possible.

Publications for 2013

Peer reviewed publications for the Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems Department

See also

Rothamsted sites collaboration with octocopter

Arable technology was applied to grasslands when the Rothamsted UAV octocopter visited the North Wyke Farm Platform this week.

North Wyke Farm Platform EFRA Visit - May 2014

The six MPs that attended were Miss Anne McIntosh (Chair; Conservative, Thirsk and Malton), Mrs Mary Glindon (Labour, North Tyneside), Sheryll Murray (Conservative , South East Cornwall), Neil Parish (Consrvative, Tiverton and Honiton) and Roger Williams (Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire).

Department Press Releases

20 years of physical and atmospheric measurements reveal changes in the environment at Rothamsted

The ECN was established in 1992 as a multi-agency programme, supported by fourteen independent government departments and agencies. Rothamsted Research, which is strategically funded by the BBSRC, is a founding member because of its long-term experiments, data and archived samples. Rothamsted is one of twelve terrestrial sites that cover a range of ecosystems including lowland grassland, arable agriculture, woodland/forest and upland moorland/mountain.

Carbon stored in the world’s soils more vulnerable to climate change than expected, new study shows

The response of soil microbial communities to changes in temperature increases the potential for more carbon dioxide to be released from the world's soils as global temperatures rise, scientists have revealed.

The role of no-till agriculture in climate change mitigation may be over-stated

An international group of scientists, led by Professor David Powlson, Lawes Trust Senior Fellow at Rothamsted Research, have published a critical review in the journal Nature Climate Change which concludes that the role of no-till agriculture in mitigating climate change may be over-stated.  

Eight strategies for efficient and sustainable livestock farming

Livestock farming, that works best for individuals, communities and the planet, should be supported by studies on best practice using research farm platform facilities.

A grass roots approach to flooding

The unique Farm Platform facility of Rothamsted Research in North Wyke Devon will be used for a new project which aims to develop new grasses that enable grassland soils to capture increased volumes of rainfall, thereby reducing the risk of flooding downstream. The 5 year £2.5 million LINK project named SUREROOT is funded by the BBSRC and match-funded by a range of industrial partners from across the food production spectrum, including a seed company, major retailer and the meat, poultry and dairy industry. It is led by scientists at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) in partnership with Rothamsted Research.

Professor John Crawford joins Rothamsted Research

Rothamsted Research is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor John Crawford. John Crawford joined Rothamsted Research at the beginning of November 2013 and he will lead the Institute's Delivering Sustainable Systems Strategic Programme, which is funded by the BBSRC. His aim is to support the growth of integrative research at Rothamsted. 


Department People

title First Name Last Name Department Location
View Mr Anastasios Argyropoulos SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Rhys Ashton SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Jonathan Baker SSGS
View Mr Tim Bearder SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Deborah Beaumont SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Martin Blackwell SSGS North Wyke
View Mrs Melanie Brookman SSGS Harpenden
View Miss Victoria Camp SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Enrique Cancer-Berroya SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Laura Cardenas SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Alison Carswell SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Kevin Coleman SSGS Harpenden
View Prof Adie Collins SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Andrew Cooke SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Adrian Crosland SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Gordon Dailey SSGS Harpenden
View Miss Liz Dixon SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Neil Donovan SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Jennifer Dungait SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Sarah Dunham SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Robert Dunn SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Mark Durenkamp SSGS Harpenden
View Miss Hannah Fleming SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Steve Freeman AGEC, SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Yaoxiang Ge SSGS
View Mrs Sarah Gilhespy SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Claudia Gilsanz Rey SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Salvador Girbau SSGS Harpenden
View Prof Keith Goulding SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Steve Granger SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Andy Gregory SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Bruce Griffith SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Christopher Hall SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Paul Harris SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Jane Hawkins SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Denise Headon SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Javier Hernandez SSGS Harpenden
View Ms Renske Hijbeek SSGS
View Dr Chris Hodgson SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Claire Horrocks SSGS North Wyke
View Mr John Hunt SSGS North Wyke
View Mrs Linda Jewell SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Arthur Johnston SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Adrian Joynes SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Kate Le Cocq SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Nadine Loick SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Andy Macdonald SSGS Harpenden
View Miss Martina Masna SSGS Harpenden
View Miss Rachel Matthews SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Jamie McFadzean SSGS North Wyke
View Prof Steve McGrath SSGS Harpenden
View Mr George Milford SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Tom Misselbrook SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Shibu Muhammed SSGS Harpenden
View Mrs Sally Murdoch SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Phil Murray SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Andy Neal SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Stuart Norris SSGS North Wyke
View Mrs Marion North SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Peter North SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Robert Orr SSGS North Wyke
View Mr Paul Poulton SSGS Harpenden
View Prof David Powlson SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Marc Redmile-Gordon SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Andrew Retter SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Benjamin Richard SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Goetz Richter SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Joaquin Romero De Tejada SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Tony Scott SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Anita Shepherd SSGS North Wyke
View Mrs Ruth Skilton SSGS Harpenden
View Mr David Steele PBCS, SSGS, AGEC Harpenden
View Dr Jackie Stroud SSGS
View Dr Kay Sumfleth SSGS
View Miss Helena Taylor SSGS
View Miss Helena Taylor SSGS North Wyke
View Miss Jenna Thompson SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Lindsay Todman SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Christopher Watts SSGS Harpenden
View Mr Colin Webster SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Richard Whalley SSGS Harpenden
View Prof Andy Whitmore SSGS Harpenden
View Mrs Wendy Wilmer SSGS Harpenden
View Dr Lianhai Wu SSGS North Wyke
View Dr Fangjie Zhao SSGS Harpenden
View Ms XiaoYun Zhou SSGS Harpenden