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



        • 2015
          Bhogal, A.,McGrath, S. P.,Nicholson, F.,Taylor, M.,Withers, P.

          Biosolids: soil quality and fertility benefits. UKWIR Report Ref. No. 15/SL/01/8

          UK Water Industry Research, London : 101pp

        • 2014
          Curtis, T.,Halford, N. G.,Powers, S. J.,McGrath, S. P.,Zazzeroni, R.

          Effect of sulphur fertilisation on the acrylamide-forming potential of wheat (HGCA Project Report No. 525)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) Stoneleigh : 30pp

        • 2014
          Curtis, T.,Halford, N. G.,Powers, S. J.,McGrath, S. P.,Zazzeroni, R.

          Effect of sulphur fertilisation on the acrylamide-forming potential of wheat (HGCA Project Report No. 525)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) Stoneleigh : 30pp

        • 2013
          McGrath, S. P.,Stobart, R.,Blake-Kalff, M. M. A.,Zhao, F-J.

          Current status of soils and responsiveness of wheat to micronutrient applications (HGCA Project Report No. 518)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) Stoneleigh : 45pp

        • 2007
          Cussans, J. W.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.,Stobart, R.

          Decision support for sulphur applications to cereals. (HGCA Project Report No. 419)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 32pp

        • 2006
          McGrath, S. P.,Zhao, F-J.

          Ambient background metal concentrations for soils in England and Wales. Science Report SC050054/SR

          Environment Agency, Bristol : 30pp

        • 2006
          Sherlock, J.,King, J. A.,Goodlass, G.,Chambers, B. J.,Carter, A.,Jarvis, S. C.,Kibblewhite, M.,Goulding, K. W. T.,Cottrill, B. R.,Dampney, P.,Hossell, J. E.,Lord, E. I.,Nicholson, F. A.,Smith, K. A.,Webb, J.,Withers, P. J. A.,Haygarth, P. M.,Bradley, I.,Clarke, M.,Kirk, G.,Loveland, P. J.,Morgan, R.,McGrath, S. P.

          Defra research in agriculture and environmental protection between 1990 and 2005: summary and analysis

          DEFRA Final Report ES0127
          : 281pp
        • 2005
          Gray, C.,McGrath, S. P.,Sweeney, R.

          Phytoextraction of metals: investigation of hyperaccumulation and field testing. CL:AIRE Research Project Report RP6

          CL:AIRE, London : 56pp

        • 2004
          Blake-Kalff, M. M. A.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.,Withers, P. J. A.

          Development of the malate:sulphate ratio test for sulphur deficiency in winter wheat and oilseed rape (HGCA Project Report No. 327)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 59pp

        • 2002
          Oliver, M. A.,Loveland, P. J.,Frogbrook, Z. L.,Webster, R.,McGrath, S. P.

          Statistical and geostatistical analysis of the National Soil Inventory of England and Wales. Technical Report to the Department of Food and Rural Affairs

          Available on CD-ROM from the National Soil Resources Institute, Cranfield University, Silsoe, Bedford MK45 4DT

        • 2002
          Hawkesford, M. J.,Palmer, R. V.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Evaluation of critical phases of sulphur supply for optimum yield and quality of wheat (H-GCA Project Report 272)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 43pp

        • 2002
          McGrath, S. P.,Zhao, F-J.,Chaudri, A. M.

          Bioavailability of heavy metals from sewage sludge and some long-term effects on soil microbes in agricultural ecosystems

          In Irradiated sewage sludge for application to cropland. Results of a co-ordinated research project organized by the Joint FAO-IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. (IAEA-TECDOC-1317)
          IAEA, Vienna : 199-216
        • 2001
          Adams, M. L.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.,Nicholson, F. A.,Chalmers, A.,Chambers, B. J.,Sinclair, A. H.

          Cadmium and lead in British wheat and barley: survey results and factors affecting their concentration in grain (HGCA Project Report No. 265)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 67pp

        • 2001
          Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.,Davies, N.

          Effects of sulphur on yield and malting quality of winter and spring barley (HGCA Project Report No. 251)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 12pp

        • 2000
          Riley, N. G.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          The efficiency of different sulphur fertilisers under UK conditions (HGCA Project Report No. 222)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 57pp

        • 2000
          Blake-Kalff, M. M. A.,Zhao, F-J.,Hawkesford, M. J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Diagnosis of sulphur deficiency in oilseed rape and wheat (HGCA Project Report No. 217)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London

        • 2000
          Crosland, A. R.,Vincent, J.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Comparison of the performance of nine commercial laboratories for testing nitrogen and sulphur in plants and soil: a second study (HGCA Project Report No. OS44)

          Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) London : 21pp

        • 1997
          Schulz, E.,Klimanek, E-M.,Korschens, M.,Titova, N. A.,Travnikova, L. S.,Kogut, B. M.,Bol'schakov, V. A.,Kachnovic, Z. N.,Sorokin, S. J.,Avdeeva, T. N.,McGrath, S. P.

          The influence of soil organic matter (SOM) on the accumulation and transformation of inorganic and organic pollutants. Final report on INTAS project 93-1168

          18 : 56 pp

        • 1996
          Till, A. R.,McGrath, S. P.,Zhao, F-J.

          FAO sulphur network trials (Technical report MTF/INT/002/FIA)

          Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy : 113pp

        • 1995
          McGrath, S. P.,Chaudri, A. M.,Thacker, D.,Salmon, S. E.,Little, K.,Douglas, S.,Cauvain, S. P.

          Chemical composition of wheat grain: I. Survey results; II.Effects of copper amendment on bread quality. Home-Grown Cereals Authority Project Report No. 102

          H-GCA, London : 31pp


        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