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Kenneth Loades

Staff picture: Kenneth Loades
Ecological Sciences
Ecological Sciences
Research Leader
+44 (0)1382 568858

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK


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. The mechanisms roots use to do this is currently poorly understood, especially contributions from fibrous, finer, root systems. The 1930s dust bowl in the Southern Plains of the United States forced 500,000 people to flee the region and caused large scale top soil erosion. The trigger was attributed to changes from a grassland system to intensive arable production, intensifying grain production, highlighting the importance of root reinforcement. Soil erosion is still a key issue and one that will be better controlled through increasing our knowledge of root reinforcement.

Current research interests

Plant and soil interactions

Roots will stabilise soil, however, choosing the right root system for a specific application is key for long term soil stabilisation and erosion control. The physical properties of soil play a key role in many aspects of the root system, from development to long term vigour. I am interested in understanding the complex interactions of plant roots and soil, including:

  • 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. I am interested in looking, and harnessing, other traits to improve soil stabilisation.
  • Commercial technologies
    Application of research to develop ‘greening’ technologies through the re-use of waste.

Increasing our understanding will help mitigate potential effects of climate change, reducing soil erosion and ensuring sustainable food production.


  • 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)

  • Neilson, R.; Roberts, D.; Loades, K. (2019) Project 102272 SoilBio - Assessment of SOIL quality using a BIOindicator - Period 1 report., Confidential Consortium Report of activities for Period 1of SoilBio, submitted to Innovate UK.
  • 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.

Scientific posters/conferences

Printed from /staff/kenneth-loades on 21/08/19 11:16:45 AM

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.