Soil Fertility

Within the theme Soil Fertility, we study how the chemical processes in our soils influence the availability of plant nutrients.

Soil fertility is the ability of a soil to sustain plant growth. This means that a fertile soil provides a habitat for plants and can supply them with nutrients and water in the right quantities and qualities over a sustained period of time. Soil fertility is therefore determined by soil chemical, soil biological and soil physical characteristics. At the Soil Chemistry Group, we study the soil chemical controls on the bioavailability of nutrients and how these are coupled to for instance soil biological processes. Thereby we aim to support sustainable nutrient management and food security.

Research topics within this research theme are for example the availability of the important plant macronutrient phosphorus, but also that of micronutrients like iron, boron and zinc. We study how the availability of these nutrients for plant uptake is determined by abiotic factors like pH, organic matter, the type of soil minerals, and the presence of other nutrients, but also the role of biotic factors like earthworms is considered. These factors are studied at a variety of scales, ranging from adsorption processes at the nanoscale to understand the underlying mechanisms, to large field experiments where the effects are tested under more realistic conditions.