Soil Nutrient Cycling

Last changed: 08 April 2024
Circle showing in text all the topics covered by soil nutrient cycling. in the middle is a crop in agricultural soil.

In the context of global food and water security, current concerns of climate change and environmental degradation, soil functioning plays a crucial role. Therefore, our research focuses on furthering our understanding of complex process-interactions from the microbial soil habitat scale to the field-scale.

Soils store, modulate the release of, and cycle nutrients required for plant growth. They are one of the most complex systems on Earth. Nutrient cycling in soil is mediated by multifaceted, inseparable interactions among biological, chemical and physical dynamics.

Important soil interactions

These interactions result in remarkable spatial heterogeneity across scales of many orders of magnitude over timescales that range from seconds to millennia. Our research focuses on furthering our understanding of complex process-interactions from the microbial soil habitat scale to the field-scale.

Soils are fundamental to all human civilizations: they underpin the delivery of a wide range of life-supporting ecosystem goods and services. In the context of global food and water security, current concerns of climate change and environmental degradation, soil functioning plays a crucial role.

More efficient agriculture

The rapidly growing world population is putting pressure on food supply. Agriculture therefore needs to adopt practices for efficient use of nutrients to ensure food security while minimizing negative impacts on agroecosystems, thus making these practises sustainable in the long‐term. Therefore, the sustainable management of nutrient cycling in agricultural systems is a matter of increasing importance to society and is key to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Research Themes

  • Soil, microbe, and plant interactions
  • Circular resource management
  • Plant nutrient management
  • Pedometrics and precision agriculture 
  • Soil organic matter dynamics

Read about our research themes and projects in the menu below.

Soil, Microbe & Plant Interactions

Our work builds on basic ecological theory in investigating effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on soil communities and ecosystem functioning, with a particular focus on the role of coupled plant-microbe interactions in driving soil nutrient cycling.

Our research approach encompasses several disciplines, including microbial ecology, biogeochemistry and community ecology, both using field and controlled experiments. By combining measurements of microbial potential activity using methods such as enzyme assays, community profiling, and meta-omics with measurements of soil carbon and nutrient stocks and flows, we aim to understand the roles that microbes play in biogeochemical cycles.

Much of our work is conducted in Sweden, with significant past and present research also in other parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, North America and elsewhere in Europe.   

Current projects focus on:

  • Climate-smart resilience through diversified cropping systems – Identifying springboards in Nordic and Baltic agriculture  (AgroMixNorth)  
  • Impact of land-use on soil biodiversity and ecosystem processes in grasslands  
  • Potential of organic inputs from agroforestry tree biomass to improve soil nutrients content in Eastern Africa.   
  • Microbial communities involved in the production and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions   

If you wish to collaborate or are looking for a bachelor or master thesis project do not hesitate to contact us.  

Circular Resource Management

Plant nutrients are removed with crops harvested from agricultural fields. These nutrients then end up in manure, household waste, waste from food industry and in sewage sludge. There are also other resources from forest and fishery that are rich in plant nutrients. Our research includes how different treatments of such residues may improve the properties to be able to use them as fertilizers.

We also look at different technology and application strategies to apply organic fertilizers in the field to maximise the efficiency and minimise losses to the environment. We use lab incubations, pot experiments, field experiments and farm studies depending on the type of research question. We measure nitrogen turnover in soil, crop yield and quality, gas emissions and leaching.   

Current research projects focus on: 

  • Improved nitrogen efficiency with different cattle slurry treatments (Circular NP)