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



        • 2003
          Lombi, E.,Hamon, R. E.,McGrath, S. P.,Mclaughlin, M. J.

          Lability of Cd, Cu, and Zn in polluted soils treated with lime, beringite, and red mud and identification of a non-labile colloidal fraction of metals using isotopic techniques

          Environmental Science & Technology 37 : pp.979-984

        • 2003
          McGrath, S. P.,Zhao, F-J.

          Phytoextraction of metals and metalloids from contaminated soils

          Current Opinion in Biotechnology 14 : pp.277-282

        • 2003
          Zhao, F-J.,Wang, J. R.,Barker, J. H. A.,Schat, H.,Bleeker, P. M.,McGrath, S. P.

          The role of phytochelatins in arsenic tolerance in the hyperaccumulator Pteris vittata

          New Phytologist 159(2) : pp.403-410
          doi: 10.1046/j.1469-8137.2003.00784.

        • 2003
          Zhao, F-J.,Lombi, E.,McGrath, S. P.

          Assessing the potential for zinc and cadmium phytoremediation with the hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens

          Plant and Soil 249 : pp.37-43

        • 2003
          Zhao, F-J.,Knights, J. S.,Hu, Z. Y.,McGrath, S. P.

          Stable sulfur isotope ratio indicates long-term changes in sulfur deposition in the Broadbalk Experiment since 1845

          Journal of Environmental Quality 32 : pp.33-39

        • 2003
          Adams, M. L.,Chaudri, A. M.,Rousseau, I.,McGrath, S. P.

          A practical evaluation of microwave and conventional wet digestion techniques for the determination of Cd, Cu and Zn in wheat grain

          International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry 83 : pp.307-314

        • 2003
          Robinson, B. H.,Lombi, E.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Uptake and distribution of nickel and other metals in the hyperaccumulator Berkheya coddii

          New Phytologist 158 : pp.279-285

        • 2003
          Castro, I. V.,Ferreira, E. M.,McGrath, S. P.

          Survival and plasmid stability of rhizobia introduced into a contaminated soil

          Soil Biology and Biochemistry 35 : pp.49-54

        • 2002
          Georgieva, S. S.,McGrath, S. P.,Hooper, D. J.,Chambers, B. S.

          Nematode communities under stress: the long-term effects of heavy metals in soil treated with sewage sludge

          Applied Soil Ecology 20 : pp.27-42

        • 2002
          Gove, B.,Hutchinson, J. J.,Young, S. D.,Craigon, J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Uptake of metals by plants sharing a rhizosphere with the hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens

          International Journal of Phytoremediation 4 : pp.267-281

        • 2002
          Wang, J.,Zhao, F-J.,Meharg, A. A.,Raab, A.,Feldmann, J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Mechanisms of arsenic hyperaccumulation in Pteris vittata . Uptake kinetics, interactions with phosphate and arsenic speciation

          Plant Physiology 130 : pp.1552-1561

        • 2002
          Zhao, F-J.,Dunham, S. J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Arsenic hyperaccumulation by different fern species

          New Phytologist 156 : pp.27-31

        • 2002
          Lombi, E.,Zhao, F-J.,Fuhrmann, M.,Ma, L. Q.,McGrath, S. P.

          Arsenic distribution and speciation in the fronds of the hyperaccumulator Pteris vittata

          New Phytologist 156 : pp.195-203

        • 2002
          Keller, C.,McGrath, S. P.,Dunham, S. J.

          Trace metal leaching through a soil-grassland system after sewage sludge application

          Journal of Environmental Quality 31 : pp.1550-1560

        • 2002
          Adams, M. L.,Lombi, E.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Evidence of low selenium concentrations in UK bread-making wheat grain

          Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 82 : pp.1160-1165

        • 2002
          Riley, N. G.,Zhao, F-J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Leaching losses of sulphur from different forms of sulphur fertilizers: a field lysimeter study

          Soil Use and Management 18 : pp.120-126

        • 2002
          Lombi, E.,Tearall, K. L.,Howarth, J. R.,Zhao, F-J.,Hawkesford, M. J.,McGrath, S. P.

          Influence of iron status on cadmium and zinc uptake by different ecotypes of the hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens

          Plant Physiology 128(4) : pp.1359-1367
          doi: 10.1104/pp.010731

        • 2002
          Tye, A. M.,Young, S. D.,Crout, N. M. J.,Zhang, H.,Preston, S.,Bailey, E. H.,Davison, W.,McGrath, S. P.,Paton, G. I.,Kilham, K.

          Predicting arsenic solubility in contaminated soils using isotopic dilution techniques

          Environmental Science & Technology 36 : pp.982-988

        • 2002
          Lombi, E.,Zhao, F-J.,Wieshammer, G.,Zhang, G.,McGrath, S. P.

          In situ fixation of metals in soils using bauxite residue: biological effects

          Environmental Pollution 118 : pp.445-452

        • 2002
          Lombi, E.,Zhao, F-J.,Zhang, G.,Sun, B.,Fitz, W.,Zhang, H.,McGrath, S. P.

          In situ fixation of metals in soils using bauxite residue: chemical assessment

          Environmental Pollution 118 : pp.435-443


        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