The theme 'Fertile Soils' deals with the functioning and management of soil biota in agricultural systems. We study the role of soil life in the cycles of nutrient elements (N, P, micronutrients) to enhance soil ecosystem services and warrant a more efficient agriculture that is more sustainable with the environment.
Increased nutrient use efficiencies are essential to sustainable agricultural production. A better understanding of the role of soil biota (including plant roots and mycorrhiza) in supplying the plants with nutrients, as well as the human impact on soil processes, is crucial to get a reliable agriculture able to feed the increasing world population.
From the microscale to the broad worldwide context, we study how earthworms affect bioavailability of phosphate and how plant mixtures interact to enhance soil quality and reduce nutrient losses both in Europe and China, partly through interactions with mycorrhizas.
Together with social and plant scientists, we study how to close the P cycle from human excreta to crop production and how to create fertile soil in the Amazon basis. Furthermore, we study how crop production can be increased by an improved application of micro- and macronutrients in low fertile soils in Sub-Saharan Africa, to eventually improve the nutritional quality of grains for human consumption.