The rhizosphere and soil health: from bench to field and back again

The world is facing the monumental task of feeding an ever-increasing population with dwindling resources coupled with the impact of climate change. This warrants for sustainable resource use, especially arable soil. Soil health lies at the heart of global food security: healthy soils are productive and make crops resilient to biotic and abiotic stresses.

However, our scientific understanding of soil health is limited. This is unsurprising given the complexity and dynamic nature of the rhizosphere – the region of the soil that is influenced by root exudates and associated complex microbial communities (the rhizobiome).

Achieving soil health is both a scientific and a social challenge. Research findings about soil health have to be meaningful to land managers if they are to act on improving the health of their soils. Farmers use their experience to classify soils as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but we do not know what indicators farmers use when making these designations nor how this relates to scientific understanding of soil health.

This project aims to advance our understanding of soil health by studying the rhizobiome and linking these scientific findings with farmers’ assessments of soil quality.

Nancy Muringai

Supervisor

Dr Stephen A Rolfe

Director of Teaching, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences

Co-Supervisors

Dr Anna Krzywoszynska

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Dept. of Geography