Kenneth Loades

Research Leader
Ecological Sciences
T: +44 (0)1382 568858

Soil is critical for food production but can often be poorly managed resulting in erosion and physical degradation. Research I perform ranges from soil stabilisation, physics, and root mechanics, to the development of tools and approaches for the quantification of soil condition. Understanding the services required of soil in the future, and soils ability to deliver these services, will be vital in managing soils to be resilient under changing environmental conditions.

My research also looks into furthering our fundamental understanding of root mechanical properties and what contributes to differences in the plant root properties allowing some species to thrive and others to struggle. Plant roots play a critical role in mechanically stabilising soil with both the roots of trees and finer root systems, such as grasses, having the potential to control and stabilise soil significantly.

Key to all reseach outputs is communication to those able to utilise knowledge gained from research. Knowledge transfer and exchange is something that I am passionate about which has led to representing soils and crops research within the SEFARI Gateway. As part of my research and SEFARI Gateway roles I regularly engage with stakeholders and policy departments to increase awareness of the most relevant ressearch findings.

Soil physics and soil quality

  • Soil physical characterisation – Currently we are investigating the use of novel tools to predict soil water properties, such as water holding capacity and pore size distribution, in arable fields. Historically soil physcial property characterisation has been an expensive and time consuming measure of soil quality.
  • Proxy measures of soil physics – In the long term we are hoping to develop a proxy to measure of soil physical properties which would enable not only quicker, but also lower cost, measurement of key soil parameters missing in many soil quality measurements.
  • Composts – The circular economy is a growing area with the production and use of compost requiring further research in understanding the optimal requirements for differing production systems. European funding is allowing us to investigate, and develop, ‘bespoke’ composts with the intention of increasing the use of such materials.

Plant and soil interactions

  • Root failure mechanisms – Roots enmesh themselves into the soil matrix with stress taken up by roots during failure events, such as landslides. Understanding the way in which stress is taken up by roots will enable better predictions of their contribution to soil stabilisation and resistance of agricultural crops to lodging.
  • Root biomechanics – The structure of the root tissue underlies the strength and elasticity of plant roots. Lignin and cellulose potentially hold the key to where changes in strength and elasticity, between species, is derived from and one of my key research interests.
  • Impacts of different root traits – Root hair traits have been shown to increase resource efficiency but they may also increase plant anchorage, increasing soil resistance to failure.Through increasing understanding we are working towards improving soil stabilisation and mitigating potential effects of climate change, reducing soil erosion, and ensuring sustainable food production.


Books / chapters

  • Loades, K.W.; Bengough, A.G.; Bransby, M.F.; Hallett, P.D. (2012) Reinforcement of soil by fibrous roots., In: Advances in Modeling Agricultural Systems: Trans-disciplinary Research, Synthesize, Modeling, and Applications. Vol 3. Enhancing Understanding and Quantification of soil-Root Growth Interactions (eds. Dennis Timlin and Laj Ahuja). ASA-SSSA-CSSA, Madison, WI
  • Hallett, P.D.; Loades, K.W.; Krummelbein, J. (2012) Soil physical degradation: threats and opportunities to food security., In: Montanarella, L., Hester, R.E. & Harrison, R.M. (eds.). Soil Quality and Food Security, Issues in Environmental Science and Technology. Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, London, 198-226. (ISBN: 978-1-84973-426-4)

Technical / contract reports

  • Matthews, K.; Blackstock, K.L.; Wardell-Johnson, D.H.; Miller, D.G.; Tavana, M.; Thomson, S.; Moxey, A.; Neilson, R.; Baggaley, N.; Giles, M.; Karley, A.; Loades, K.; Paterson, E.; Pakeman, R.; Hawes, C.; Stockan, J.; Stutter, M.; Addy, S.; Wilkinson, M.E.; Juarez-Bourke, A.; Waylen, K.A.; Rivington, M.; Aitkenhead, M.J.; Coull, M.C. (2023) Synthesis Report: Screening Enhanced Conditionality Measures, An output of RESAS commissioned project Supporting
    Scotland’s Land Use Transformations (JHI-C3-1),59pp, Published online
  • Lilly, A.; Baggaley, N.; Loades, K.; Potts, J. (2023) A potential approach to monitoring soil health in Scotland based on existing datasets, Report to Chief Scientific Adviser for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, Scottish Government.
  • Rivington, M.; Duckett, D.; Iannetta, P.; Hawes, C.; Begg, G.; Polhill, G.; Loades, K.; Newton, A.; Aitkenhead, M.; Lozada-Ellison, L.; Neilson, R.; Gandossi, G.; Stewart, D.; Wardell-Johnson, D.; Udugbezi, E.; Lorenzo-Arribas, A.; Benton, T.; King, R., Burgess, P. (2021) An overview assessment of the COVID19 pandemic on the UK food and nutrition security, Online.
  • Rivington, M.; King, R.; Duckett, D.; Iannetta, P.; G. Benton, T.; Burgess, P. J.; Hawes, C.; Wellesley, L.; Polhill, G.; Aitkenhead, M.; Lozada-Ellison, L. M.; Begg, G.; Williams, A. G.; Newton, A.; Lorenzo-Arribas, A.; Neilson, R.; Watts, C. (2021) UK Food and nutrition security during and after the COVID19 pandemic Project Report and Recommendations, The James Hutton Institute.
  • Neilson, R.; Lilly, A.; Aitkenhead, M.; Artz, R.R.E.; Baggaley, N.; Giles, M.E.; Holland, J.; Loades, K.; Ovando Pol, P.; Rivington, M.; Roberts, M.; Yeluripati, J. (2020) Measuring the vulnerability of Scottish soils to a changing climate., ClimateXChange Report, 42pp.
  • Loades, K.W. (2020) Not all roots are equal – so what?, Project Report on SEFARI Gateway.
  • Lilly, A.; Baggaley, N.J.; Loades, K.W.; McKenzie, B.M.; Troldborg, M. (2018) Soil erosion and compaction in Scottish soils: adapting to a changing climate., ClimateXChange Report, 21pp.
  • Baggaley, N.J.; Addy, S.; Hough, R.L.; Loades, K.; Stutter, M.I.; Vinten, A.J.A. (2013) A scoping study into BSI PAS100 compost use to mitigate field and riverbank erosion in Scotland., Contract Report for Zero Waste Scotland, ZWS ORI003-005 PO:538.
  • Wheatley, R.E; McKenzie, B.M; Hallett, P.D; Wright, P.; Loades, K.W. (2012) Quality Green Compost Amendments and Cultivation and Equipment Wear ORI003-003., Zero Waste Scotland Report, 31 March 2012.
  • Bengough, A.G.; Hallett, P.D.; Loades, K.W.; McKenzie, B.M.; Wheatley, R.E. (2011) Green engineering for sustainable environmental solutions., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2010, pp12-13.

Conference papers

  • Matthews, K.; Blackstock, K.; Wardell-Johnson, D.; Miller, D.; Tavana, M.; Thomson, S.; Moxey, A.; Nielson, R.; Baggaley, N.; Loades, K.; Paterson, E.; Pakeman, R.; Hawes, C.; Stockan, J.; Stutter, M.; Addy, S.; Wilkinson, M. (2023) Cross-scale analysis of social-ecological systems: Policy options appraisal for delivering NetZero and other environmental objectives in Scotland, In: Vaze, J., Chilcott, C., Hutley, L. and Cuddy, S.M. (eds.) MODSIM2023, 25th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, 9-14 July 2023, Darwin, NT, Australia, 7pp
  • Bruneau, P.; Dobbie, K.; Lilly, A.; Loades, K.; Marks, S. (2022) Lessons learned from the development and use of Scotland’s soils website , The World Congress of Soil Science 2022, 31 July – 5 August 2022, Glasgow
  • Meijer, G.J.; Knappett, J.A.; Bengough, A.G.; Loades, K.W.; Nicoll, B.C. (2018) Effect of root spacing on interpretation of blade penetration tests-full-scale physical modelling., In: McNamara, A., Divall, S., Goodey, R., Taylor, N., Stallebrass, S. and Panchal, J. Physical Modelling in Geotechnics, Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Physical Modelling Geotechnics (ICPMG 2018). Volume 1, 425-430.
  • Liang, T.; Knappett, J.A.; Meijer, G.J.; Wood, D.M.; Bengough, A.G.; Loades, K.W.; Hallett, P.D. (2018) Scaling of plant roots for geotechnical centrifuge tests using juvenile live roots or 3D printed analogues., 9th International Conference on Physical Modelling in Geotechnics (ICPMG), University of London, 17-20 July 2018. Physical Modelling in Geotechnics, 1, 401-406.
  • Loades, K.; Bengough, A.G.; Brown, J.; Taylor, A. (2018) Assessing root contributions to soil stabilisation in remote locations., The James Hutton Annual Research Symposium 2018, Aberdeen, 29 November 2018.
  • Neilson, R.; Roberts, D.M.; Loades, K.W.; Lozana, A.; Daniell, T. (2018) Healthy soils for crop production., Crop Protection in Northern Britain 2018: The Dundee Conference, Environmental Management and Crop Production, Apex City Quay Hotel, Dundee, 27-28 February 2018. Conference Proceedings, 17-20.
  • Hallett, P.D.; Barre, P.; Bengough, A.G.; Loades, K.W.; Duckett, N.R.; Knappett, J.A.; Paterson, E.; Daniell, T.; Caul, S.; Zhang, B. (2012) Influence of plant roots on the physical behaviour of soils., The 8th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research (ISRR); Roots to the Future, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee, 26-29 June 2012.
  • Hallett, P.D.; Loades, K.W.; Mickovski, S.B.; Bengough, A.G.; Bransby, M.F.; Davies, M.C.R.; Sonnenberg, R. (2009) An assessment of models that predict soil reinforcement by plant roots., European Geosciences Union, Vienna, Austria, 18-22 April 2009.
  • Hallett, P.D.; Bengough, A.G.; Bransby, M.F.; Davies, M.C.R.; Loades, K.W.; Mickovski, S.B.; Sonnenberg, R. (2008) Ecoengineering soil by reinforcement with plant roots., Eurosoil 2008, Vienna, Austria, 25-29 August 2008.

Conference posters / abstracts

  • Baggaley, N.; Roberts, M.; Loades, K.; Parker, T.; Zhang, Z.; Lilly, A.; Rivington, M.; Sharififar, A.; Jabloun, M.; Hallett, P.; Fraser, F. (2023) Assessing the socio-economic impacts of soil degradation on Scotland’s water environment, Catchment Science 2023 Conference, 7-9 November 2023, Wexford
  • Baggaley, N.; Lilly, A.; Loades, K. (2023) Developing a soil monitoring framework for Scotland, BSSS and SSSI Conference: Soil Management and Monitoring, 4-5 December 2023, Belfast
  • Polhill, G.; Baggaley, N.; Castellazzi, M.; Gimona, A.; Hare, M.; Ibiyemi, A.; Lilly, A.; Loades, K.; Macdiarmid, J.; Macleod, K.; McCormick, B.; McKeen, M.; Rivington, M.; Roxburgh, N.; Salt, D.; Smith, B.; Udugbezi, E.; Wang, C.; Wilkins, B. (2022) Developing agile approaches to scientific modelling in policyrelevant contexts, iEMSs 2022, 3-8 July 2022, Brussels, Belgium.
  • Loades, K.W.; Taylor, A.; Neilson, R.; Preedy, K.; Daniell, T.J.; Griffiths, B.; Roberts, D.M.; Beattie, P.; Anderson, E. (2018) SoilBio – Measurement of soil physical condition using the soil biological community., European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2018, Vienna, Austria, 8-13 April 2018. SSS7.1/HS8.3.9 – Interactions and Feedbacks between Soil Structure and Biogeochemical Processes in Micro-Aggregates and Beyond (co-organized). Geophysical Research Abstracts, Volume 20, EGU2018-19209.
  • Bruneau, P.; Dobbie , K.; Lilly, A.; Loades, K.; Garritt, J.; Marks, S. (2018) Unlocking the potential of soil information in Scotland – lessons learned., British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) Conference, Soils and Sustainable Development Goals, Lancaster University, 4 September 2018. Poster.
  • Pongrac, P.; Duncan, J.; Wishart, J.; Loades, K.; Dupuy, L.; Bengough, G.; Bingham, I.; Kelemen, M.; Vavpetic, P.; Pelicon, P.; Shelef, O.; White, P.J. (2017) The beauty of roots., CECHR Annual Symposium, West Park Conference Centre, Dundee, 22 February 2017.
  • Aitkenhead, M.J.; Donnelly, D.; Loades, K. (2016) PotatoSize poster., Interface 2016 Event, Moredun, 9 November 2016.
  • McKenzie, B.M.; Loades, K.W.; Lewis, T.D.; Baxter, C.; Gorman, A.; Hawes, C.; Neilson, R.; Rowan, J.S. (2014) Linking soil biodiversity to agriculture – understanding the importance of soil erosion., Agriculture in Nature and Environment Protection, Vukovar, Republic of Croatia, 28-30 May 2014.
  • Loades, K.W.; Bengough, A.G.; Bransby, M.F.; Hallett, P.D. (2012) Root biomechanics: Effects of soil density, waterlogging and root type., Poster presentation.