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Eric Paterson

Staff picture: Eric Paterson
Ecological Sciences
Ecological Sciences
Root Physiologist / Biochemist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Eric has more than 25 years’ experience of working on plant-soil interactions in the context of sustainable crop production systems, soil health and mitigation of environmental impacts. His group have developed novel stable isotope approaches that allow quantification of plant-mediated impacts on soil C and N cycling processes, identifying the importance of these interactions in the contexts of soil GHG exchanges and nutrient supply in semi-natural and agroecosystems. Most recently he has applied these approaches to study interactions between plant genotype, management and environment (G x M x E) in UK, European and African agricultural systems, to optimise of crop production, while fostering the sustainability of the soil resource. He is a Subject Editor for the journals Plant & Soil and Soil Biology & Biochemistry, and has more than 90 ISI listed publications (WoK h-index = 34). His research has been supported by Scottish Government, BBSRC, NERC, British Council, EU and industry. He currently co-ordinates Soils research within the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme, is a board member of the NERC Soils Training and Research Studentships CDP (STARS) and has served as a review panel member for NERC, BBSRC and international research funders.

Current research interests

The research group has developed novel methodologies for continuous, steady-state 13CO2-labelling of plants that enable quantification of plant-derived C-fluxes to soil and to the various components of the soil biota (e.g. via compound-specific 13C-analysis of PLFA biomarkers). A key advantage of the continuous labelling approach is that isotopic mass balance can be applied to quantify turnover of soil organic matter in intact systems (i.e. including plants), such that the biological controls of soil organic matter mineralisation can be studied. A current research priority of the group is to investigate the interactions between plant-derived C-fluxes to soil and microbially mediated turnover of native soil organic matter. These interactions are being studied in the contexts of:

  1. the responses of soils to land use and environmental change (e.g. potential feedbacks to GHG-mediated climate forcing), and
  2. the sustainable productivity of agricultural systems (e.g. understanding the controls of productivity in low-input systems and optimising the use of organic amendments as fertiliser replacements).

Current research projects

  • BBSRC GCRF Foundation Award BB/P022936/1 (2017-2021): Exploiting the potential of genotype microbiome interactions to promote sustainable soil health in southern Africa. (£532k, Hutton PI).
  • BBSRC GCRF Sustainable Agriculture for Sub-Saharan Africa BBR020590/1 (2018-2022): Science-driven Evaluation of Legume Choice for Transformed livelihoods (£1.8M; Hutton PI).
  • BBSRC GCRF BB/T012552/1 (2020-2022): Africa SOIL: Soil Organic matter Improves Livelihoods (£250k, Hutton PI).
  • NERC CDP NE/M009106/1 (2017-2022): Soils Training and Research Studentships (£2.3M, Co-I)
  • PhD project, Walsh Foundation (2018-2022) Linking microbially mediated soil organic matter turnover to N availability in agricultural soils.
  • PhD project, Gatsby Foundation (2018-2022) Impacts of maize-legume intercropping on rhizosphere C:N:P stoichiometry and nutrient availability.
  • PhD project, Joint Studentship Programme (2019-2023) The interactions of plant, microbial and physico-chemical controls on carbon and nutrient cycling in the rhizosphere.


  • Paterson, E.; Kemp, J.S.; Gammack, S.M.; FitzPatrick, .A.; Cresser, M.S.; Mullins, C.E.; Killham, K. (1993) The movemnet of genetically modified bacteria through soil influence of soil type., Biology and Fertility of Soils, 15, 308-314.
  • Kemp, J.S.; Paterson, E.; Gammack, S.M.; Killham, K.; Cresser, M.S. (1992) Leaching of genetically modified Pseudomonas fluorescens through organic soils influence of temperature, soil pH, and roots., Biology and Fertility of Soils, 13, 218-224.

  • Paterson, E.; Mwafulirwa, L. (2021) Root-soil-microbe interactions mediating nutrient fluxes in the rhizosphere., In: Gupta, W.S.R. & Sharma, A.K. (eds.). Rhizosphere Biology: Interactions between Microbes and Plants. Springer, Singapore, pp75-91.
  • Paterson, E. (2013) The use of stable isotope labelling and compound-specific analysis of microbial phospholipid fatty acids to quantify the influences of rhizodeposition on microbial community structure and function., In: de Bruijn, F.J. (ed.). Molecular Microbial Ecology of the Rhizosphere. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey. Volume 1, pp141-148.
  • Balesdent, J.; Ciavatta, C.; Dennis, P.; Finlay, R.; Gessa, C.E.; Gioacchini, P.; Hacin, J.; Hodge, A.; Jones, D.; Killham, K.; Kuzyakov, Y.; Lecomte, A.; Minchin, P.E.H.; Nguyen, C.; Paterson, E.; Robin, C.; Schweizer, P.; Standing, D. (2007) Element cycling and organic matter turnover., In: Luster, J.F.R. (ed.). Handbook of Methods Used in Rhizosphere Research. Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, 333-359. ISBN: 3-905621-35-5
  • Paterson, E.; Rattray, E.A.S.; Killham, K. (1995) Rhizosphere ecophysiology., The Encyclopaedia of Environmental Biology, 3, pp237-245. Academic Press, New York.

  • Brooker, R.; Paterson E.; Glendell, M.; Ellis, C.; Eastwood, A.; Fraser, F.; Wilkinson, M.; Skuce, P.; Macleod, C.; Carvalho, L.; Fischer, A.; Comerford, D.; Holland, J.; Vinten, A.J.A.; McVittie, A. (2017) Report on natural assets theme science day, James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, 2 October 2017., Theme 1 Web pages, 6pp.
  • Owen, J.; Paterson, E. (2012) Preliminary report on the suitability of ‘Struvite’ as a soil conditioner/fertiliser to sustain the growth of barley and ryegrass., Report for William Grant & Sons Distillers Ltd.
  • Patersaon, E.; Owen, J. (2012) Report on chemical analysis and seed germination trials on soil samples from prospective football pitch., Report for Raeburn Drilling
  • Paterson, E.; Owen, J. (2011) Report on the analysis of crushed granite sample for elemental concentration, aqueous extractable elements, and C and N, Total C and N, extractable nitrate, loss on ignition, particle size distribution and ecotoxicity., Report for Cloburn Quarry Company Ltd.
  • Paterson, E.; Campbell, C.D.; Coull, M.C.; Shand, C.A. (2011) Geochemical atlas for Scottish topsoils., The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen, 43pp.ISBN 978-0-902701-007
  • Paterson, E. (2010) Copper in soils: potential impacts of distillery co-product applications to land., Report for Helius Energy PLC.
  • Owen, J.; Paterson, E. (2010) Report on drill cuttings for leachable and total elemental composition, particle size distribution and initial biological testing., Report for Chevron Energy Technology Company.
  • Paterson, E. (2009) Pot trials of soil conditioner formulations., Report for Helius Energy plc.

Scientific Posters / Conferences

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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.