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 team of international scientists, including scientists from Rothamsted Research, have found that treated sewage sludge containing tiny man-made metal particles, called nanoparticles, may be toxic to plants and soil microorganisms. The build-up of what are man-made metal particles in sewage sludge has the potential to impact the use of this recycled material as an agricultural fertiliser.
Livestock slurry is valuable source of free, organic fertiliser, which farmers can spread on farmland. However, gases which can be lost from slurry, during collection, storage and spreading, are of environmental concern. Scientists at Rothamsted Research and the University of Milan, Italy, have examined the effect that mechanically separating anaerobically digested cattle and pig slurries into their liquid and solid fractions during storage has on ammonia and greenhouse gases emissions.
We are now well into the International Year of Soils, with events happening all around the country. There’s lots of information about it on the British Society of Soil Science’s website at http://www.soils.org.uk/international-year-soils-2015-0.I was very pleased with the attendance at our meeting ‘Soils and Climate Change’ at Rothamsted on 24th February. We had about 120 guests and some very lively discussion, not least with some Climate Change doubters.
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.
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.