S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 1 (WP1) - Optimising nutrient flows and pools in the soil-plant-biota system

Project Detail

S2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 1 (WP1) - Optimising nutrient flows and pools in the soil-plant-biota system

'Soil health' is an as yet imprecise concept recently taken up by scientists and policy makers. It relates to a range of factors which influence the capacity of soil to support the productivity, efficiency and resilience of a given production system. This work package (WP) will develop the scientific basis for the concept of soil health by describing and modelling the biological, chemical and physical processes in soil and the dynamics between them that act singly or together to promote efficiency of nutrient utilization (ENU) and enhanced crop performance. This will provide fundamental empirical and mathematical evidence to determine the mechanisms which mediate the nutrient and energy (C flow) cascade from complex organic and simple inorganic inputs to plant-available nutrients in soils. The role of rhizosphere microbial community structure and function on nutrient transformations and supply to plant roots is a central theme of this WP, including the potential for self-organisation of soil structure at the aggregate scale that is mediated by root and microbial activity and the interaction with the mineral matrix. The trade-offs between the rate, efficiency and resilience of macro- and micronutrient flows to plants in contrasting arable and managed grassland systems will provide an operating envelope for a given soil and production system subject to external stressors, imposed by climatic variability and management. The cumulative knowledge will inform the development of the next generation of soil models (building on RothC) that link macronutrient (N, P, and C) dynamics to physical properties including water storage and availability using directly-measurable mechanistic parameters. Critically, this WP will deliver a set of sustainability indicators related to enhanced ENU from soil-to-plant that will provide mechanistic scale targets for the field, farm and landscape-scale interventions that are researched in this strategic programme (WP2 I0320 and WP3 I0330).

Scientific Theme

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