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.
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.
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 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.
The world needs innovative solutions for the sustainable intensification of its major agricultural systems. The North Wyke Farm Platform represents a large investment by BBSRC in the future, to not only study but also improve grassland livestock systems in a national and global research asset linked to real-world farming.
Department Press Releases
A new partnership between researchers in the UK and China has held its first meeting to find ways of improving nitrogen fertiliser use and reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.
The new Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy (CINAg) is led by Dr Tom Misselbrook at Rothamsted Research and Professor Fusuo Zhang of China Agricultural University. With a range of partners in the UK and China, the virtual joint centre will work to improve sustainability of Chinese agriculture and long-term food security.
Scientists carrying out long-term monitoring at the North Wyke site of Rothamsted Research have detected trends in the biodiversity and the environment. Lower surface wind speeds, decreased concentrations of pollutants in rainfall and fluctuations in the abundances of butterflies and moths are among the changes recorded. The main findings from the first 20 years of monitoring at North Wyke are described in a short report written by scientists at Rothamsted Research.
Rothamsted Research is partnering with Alltech Crop Science, a division of Alltech, for a strategic alliance in the field of agricultural research. One of the oldest agricultural research institutes in the world, Rothamsted Research, which is strategically funded by the BBSRC, has provided cutting-edge science and innovation for more than 170 years.
Conservation agriculture (often termed CA) is often claimed to lock up (“sequester”) carbon in soil and thus contribute to the “mitigation” of climate change.
Published in the leading journal Global Change Biology, the study shows that decades of intensive grassland farming across the UK, involving high rates of fertilizer use and livestock grazing, have caused valuable soil carbon stocks to decline.
The team found that the largest soil carbon stocks to depth were beneath grasslands that have been farmed at intermediate levels of intensivity, receiving less fertilizer and with fewer grazing animals.