Soil and Plant Scientist

Head of Sustainable Agriculture Sciences - Harpenden

Sustainable Agriculture Sciences


Steve’s research interests are in increasing understanding of the factors affecting the bio-availability, ecotoxicology and mobility of nutrients and toxins in soil-crop systems. He is skilled in using stable and radioisotopes to trace the movement and sources of nutrients and contaminants in soils and plants; and in LC-ICP-MS, synchrotron and NanoSIMs to identify the speciation and localisation of trace elements. His latest research focuses on developing rapid techniques for the analysis of soils and plants to predict the transfer of nutrients, including micronutrients, into the food chain, to improve crop yields, human and animal health and nutrition.




    +44 (0) 1582 938 631


      Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, AL5 2JQ



        • 2017
          Wang, P.,Kopittke, P. M.,McGrath, S. P.,Zhao, F-J.

          Cadmium transfer from soil to plants and its potential risk to human health

          The Nexus of Soils, Plants, Animals and Human Health
          Schweizerbart : 138
          ISBN: 9783510654178
        • 2010
          Stroud, J. L.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.,Hart, D.

          Methods for the analysis of selenium and other minerals

          In HEALTHGRAIN methods: analysis of bioactive compounds in small grain cereals
          American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC), St Paul, MN : 95-111
        • 2003
          Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Importance of sulfur for the quality of breadmaking wheat and malting barley

          In Sulfur transport and assimilation in plants
          Backhuys Publishers, Leiden Netherlands : 133-143
        • 2002
          McGrath, S. P.

          Bioavailability of metals to soil microbes

          In Bioavailabilty of metals in terrestrial ecosystems: importance of partitioning for bioavailability to invertebrates, microbes and plants
          Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC) : 69-87
        • 2002
          McGrath, S. P.,Checkai, R. T.,Scott-Fordsmund, J. J.,Glazebrook, P. W.,Paton, G. I.,Visser, S.

          Recommendations for testing toxicity to microbes in soil

          In Test methods to determine hazards of sparingly soluble metal compounds in soils
          Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC) : 17-35
        • 2001
          O'flaherty, S.,McGrath, S. P.,Hirsch, P. R.

          Comparison of phenotypic, functional and genetic diversity of bacterial communities in soils

          In Sustainable management of soil organic matter
          CABI International, Wallingford, Oxon (CABI) : 370-376
          doi: 10.1079/9780851994659.0000
        • 2000
          Preston, S.,Hall, J. M.,Rattray, E. A. S.,Chaudri, A. M.,McGrath, S. P.,Killham, K.,Paton, G. I.

          Assessing metal bioavailability in soils using luminescence-based microbial biosensors

          In In situ and on-site bioremediation
          Battelle Press, Columbus 5 : 25-30
        • 2000
          McGrath, S. P.,Dunham, S. J.,Correll, R. L.

          Potential for phytoextraction of zinc and cadmium from soils using hyperaccumulator plants

          In Phytoremediation of contaminated soil and water
          Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL : 109-128
        • 1999
          Baker, A. J. M.,McGrath, S. P.,Reeves, R. D.,Smith, J. A. C.

          Metal hyperaccumulator plants: a review of the ecology and physiology of a biological resource for phytoremediation of metal-polluted soils

          In Phytoremediation of contaminated soils
          CRC Press Boca Raton Florida : 85-107
        • 1999
          McGrath, S. P.

          Adverse effects of cadmium on soil microflora and fauna

          In Cadmium in soils and plants
          Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands : 199-218
        • 1998
          McGrath, S. P.

          Phytoextraction for soil remediation

          In Plants that hyperaccumulate heavy metals
          CABI International, Wallingford, Oxon (CABI) : 261-287
        • 1996
          Zhao, F-J.,Wu, J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Soil organic sulphur and its turnover

          In Humic substances in terrestrial ecosystems
          Elsevier, Amsterdam : 467-506
        • 1995
          McGrath, S. P.

          Chromium and nickel

          In Heavy metals and soils
          Blackie & Sons, London : 153-178
        • 1994
          McGrath, S. P.

          Effects of heavy metals from sewage sludge on soil microbes in agricultural ecosystems.

          In Toxic metals in soil-plant systems
          John Wiley & Sons Chichester, West Sussex : 247-274
        • 1994
          Jones, K. C.,McGrath, S. P.

          Historical monitoring of organic contaminants in soils

          In Long-term experiments in agricultural and ecological sciences
          CABI International, Wallingford, Oxon (CABI) : 147-163
        • 1993
          McGrath, S. P.,Sidoli, C. M. D.,Baker, A. J. M.,Reeves, R. D.

          The potential for the use of metal accumulating plants for the in situ decontamination of metal-polluted soils

          In Integrated soil and sediment research: a basis for proper protection
          Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands : 673-676
        • 1990
          McGrath, S. P.,Smith, S.

          Chromium and nickel.

          In Heavy metals in soils. Ed. B.J. Alloway
          Blackie & Sons, Glasgow : 125-150

        Strategic programme

        • Soil 2 Nutrition (S2N)

        Science project

        • Africa Soil Information Service
        • Optimising sulphur management to maximise oilseed rape and cereal yields and farm profitability

        PhD project

        • Soil health metrics for sustainable farming systems


        • 2015 - Fellow, Institute Soil Science
        • 1996 - BSc Sheffield University, Plant Science
        • 1980 - PhD Sheffield University


        • Honorary Professor in the School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham
        • Thomson-Reuters ISI Highly Cited Scientist in Agricultural Science
        • President, International Society of Trace Element Biogeochemistry 2013- 2015
        • Member of NERC Peer Review College
        • New Phytologist Editorial Board Advisor