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Anke Herrmann

Anke Herrmann
My primary focus is to push the realm of soil science into new territory by exploring the manifestation of physico-chemical theorems such as thermodynamic principles in eco-system dynamics. In general, my research focuses on the dynamics of organic matter turnover in various soil ecosystems, and its importance in climate change feedback mechanisms into the atmosphere.


  • Improvement of sustainable intensification of agricultural management systems.
    - Influence of soil management on soil fertility
  • Development of a terrestrial bioenergetics framework
    - Energy flows in the soil-plant-system
  • Carbon and nitrogen interactions in various ecosystems
  • Interactions between soil organic matter, microbial community composition and the microbial soil habitat
  • Microbial resource use efficiency: Temperature responses of the soil microbiome
  • Molecular characterization of soil organic matter


Since Oct 2020   
Chair Professor of Soil Nutrient Cycling, Dept. of Soil & Environment, SLU, Sweden.

2016 – 20  
Senior Researcher, Dept. of Soil & Environment, SLU, Sweden.

Research Fellowship. Rheinland‐Pfalz research initiative AufLand, Universität Koblenz. Landau, Germany

2012 – 16  
Senior Researcher, Dept. of Chemistry & Biotechnology, SLU, Sweden

Associate Professor in Soil Sciences, SLU, Sweden:
Life in the Underworld Visualizing the Biogeochemical Interface in Soils

2008 – 12  
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chemistry, SLU, Sweden

2005 – 08  
EU Marie Curie Research Fellow. University of Western Australia (Australia) & Newcastle University (UK)

PhD in Soil Sciences, especially Soil Biology, SLU, Sweden:
Predicting Nitrogen Mineralization from Soil Organic Matter – A Chimera?

MSc in Agricultural Biology, Hohenheim University, Germany

Current research activities include

Linking above-ground plant trait diversity to below-ground bioenergetics

The conversion to a "fossil-free" Sweden by 2050 requires adaptation of agricultural practices to ensure sustainable land use management. Short Rotation Coppice Willow (Salix) is a key player in the production of woody biomass for renewable energy sources. Yet, little is known on the potential of various Salix plant traits and their influence on below-ground processes such as carbon cycling. The aim of this project is to improve our understanding on how above-ground Salix plant trait diversity can be used to manage soil microbial functional diversity and resource use efficiency. The overarching hypothesis is that an increase in intra-specific diversity of Salix results in a more efficient use of carbon, thus enhancing carbon sequestration and restricting global warming in the long-term. The underlying mechanisms will be elucidated by combining methods at the molecular level into a novel bioenergetics framework. Data will be used to develop a soil organic matter model, and projection of carbon stocks will be evaluated by implementing future climate scenarios. Research consortium: Martin Weih, SLU & Stefano Manzoni, Stockholm University, Sweden; Naoise Nunan, CNRS, France; Pete Smith, The University of Aberdeen, UK. Formas funded project 2018-2020.

Efficient soil exploration: Using calorimetry to quantify energy costs of root growth

The rapidly growing world population is putting pressure on food supply, and agriculture needs to adopt practices that minimize impacts on agroecosystems while making them sustainable in the long‐term with respect to provisioning and regulating services. To ensure sufficient food supply in the future, arable fields with low soil fertility maybe operated to secure enough food. Crop cultivars with high yield performance under low soil fertility and in low input systems are therefore needed to ensure food security in a world of increasing resource scarcity. Identifying root traits with reduced energy need – and thus carbon costs – of soil exploration is a promising approach towards meeting this challenge. Together with Tino Colombi and Thomas Keller, SLU, Sweden, we are aiming to develop a protocol to quantify the energy need of root growth using isothermal calorimetry. In the long-term, the protocol can be adopted in large-scale screening plant-breeding programs. KSLA & Lantmännen funded project 2018-2019.

Developing management strategies for mitigating arsenic uptake by rice

Arsenic is a harmful element and has become recognized as a worldwide health problem causing chronic poisoning and elevated cancer risks. The Mekong Delta in South-East Asia is an important rice-producing region, but the paddy soils contain naturally occurring arsenic in many areas. Hence, rice grown in these soils constitutes a considerable exposure pathway for humans, especially where fields are also irrigated with arsenic-laden groundwater. Biochar amendment to paddy rice soils has been proposed as a potential mitigation strategy but the benefits of biochar vary significantly among soil systems. Together with research staff at Can Tho University in Vietnam and Scott Fendorf’s research group (Stanford University, USA), we aim to advance our mechanistic understanding of the benefits of organic amendments as a mitigation strategy to minimize arsenic uptake in rice plants. Overall, results will serve as a basis for the development of management strategy recommendations to rice farmers and will provide information on soil functioning in general. SLU Capacity Building Grant: Global Development.

Current teaching activities include

Postgraduate education

Since 2015: Director of Studies: Research School Focus on Soils & Water, SLU, Sweden

  • PhD course: Soil systems – Integrating the chemical and biophysical interface in soils
  • PhD course: Nitrogen cycling in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • PhD course: How to write and publish scientific papers in English
Bachelor and Master’s degree education
  • Energisystem i biogeovetenskapligt perspektiv (given in Swedish)

Selected publications

Colombi, T, Chakrawal, A, Herrmann, AM, 2022. Carbon supply-consumption balance in plant roots – Effects of carbon use efficiency and root anatomical plasticity. New Phytologist, 233, 1542-1547.

Dufour, LJP, Herrmann, AM, Leloup, J, Przybylski, C, Foti, L, Abbaddie, L, Nunan, N, 2022. Potential energetic return on investment positively correlated with overall soil microbial activity. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 173, 108800.

Shi, A, Chakrawal, A, Manzoni, S, Fischer, BMC, Nunan, N, Herrmann, AM, 2021. Substrate spatial heterogeneity reduces soil microbial activity. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 152, 108068.

Chakrawal, A, Herrmann, AM, Šantrůčková, H, Manzoni, S, 2020. Quantifying microbial metabolism in soils using calorespirometry - A bioenergetics perspective. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 148, 107945.

Bölscher, T, Ågren, GI, Herrmann, AM, 2020. Land use alters the temperature response of substrate-use efficiency – a consumption-based approach. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 140, 107639.

Meurer, KHE, Barron, J, Chenu, C, Coucheney, E, Fielding, M, Hallett, P, Herrmann, AM, Keller, T, Koestel, J, Larsbo, M, Lewan, E, Or, D, Parsons, D, Parvin, N, Taylor, T, Vereecken, H, Jarvis, N, 2020. A framework for modelling soil structure dynamics induced by biological activity. Global Change Biology 26, 5382-5403.

Colombi, T, Herrmann, AM, Vallenbäck, P, Keller, T, 2019. Cortical cell diameter is key to energy costs of root growth in wheat. Plant Physiology 180, 2049-2060.

Bölscher, T, Paterson, E, Freitag, T, Herrmann, AM, 2017. Temperature sensitivity of substrate-use efficiency can result from altered microbial physiology without change to community composition. Soil Biol Biochem 109, 59-69.

Nunan, N, Lerch, TZ, Pouteau, V, Mora, P, Changey, F, Kätterer, T, Giusti-Miller, S, Herrmann, AM, 2015. Metabolising old soil carbon: simply a matter of simple organic matter? Soil Biol Biochem 88, 126-136.

Herrmann, AM, Coucheney, E., Nunan, N, 2014. Isothermal microcalorimetry provides new insight into terrestrial carbon cycling. Env Sci Tech 48, 4344-4352.

Herrmann, AM, Ritz K, Nunan N, Clode PL, Pett-Ridge J, Kilburn MR, Murphy DV, O’Donnell AG, Stockdale EA, 2007. Nano-scale secondary ion mass spectrometry – A new analytical tool in biogeochemistry and soil ecology: A review article.  Soil Biol Biochem 39, 1835-1850.


Professor at the Department of Soil and Environment; Soil nutrient cycling
Telephone: +4618671561