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Soils and sustainable production

Photograph of potatoes (Courtesy of Carlos R. Galan-Diaz)
Understanding soils and how they impact crops is essential for the sustainable intensification of agriculture.

We face a huge challenge. More food, from less land, with fewer resources is essential right now and it will only get worse as the global population grows and finite resources like fuel and potash continue to diminish. Understanding soils and how they impact crops is essential for the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Most of the untapped potential in crops lies in their roots below the surface. They have been studied less than shoots and leaves simply because they are out of sight, out of mind and more difficult to monitor. 

Photograph of plant growing in soil (Courtesy of Carlos R. Galan-Diaz)

We have a strong team of researchers who look specifically at how roots and soil interact, with targeted outcomes including the extraction of nutrients like phosphorus that are bound up in soil, greater tolerance of drought and soil compaction, decreased emissions of greenhouse gases, improved cycling of nutrients and a capacity to stabilise soils against erosion or structural collapse. Improving soil conditions for crop production is another major research area. We are seeking alternative nutrient sources, finding ways to lock up more carbon in soil, assessing the benefits of different management systems and monitoring soil conditions for crop production. 

Research

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.