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Tim George

Staff picture: Tim George
Ecological Sciences
Ecological Sciences
Rhizosphere Scientist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK


Current research interests

Understanding how plants react to and alter their external environment is key to optimising their nutrition and therefore the sustainability of agriculture and natural ecosystems. I am specifically interested in understanding the physiology of and genetic controls on plant responses to P-deficiency and drought. I have specific expertise in understanding how the external environment mitigates plant physiological and genetic responses to a lack of phosphorus in the rhizosphere. In addition, I am interested in how plants interact with the soil chemical, biological and physical environment to impact nutrient cycles, specifically organic P turnover and nitrification. This work will help identify useful traits and cultivars for future agricultural environments which are more nutrient efficient so that agriculture can be managed at less nutrient replete levels reducing its impact on the wider environment.



Past research

  • April 2011-present: Rhizosphere Scientist, James Hutton Institute, UK.
  • 2007-April 2011: Rhizosphere Scientist, SCRI, UK. Holder of Royal Society of Edinburgh Personal Fellowship
  • 2004-2007: Marie Curie International Fellowship. CSIRO Plant Industry, Australia and SCRI, UK.
  • 2001–2004: Post Doctoral Research Fellow. CSIRO Plant Industry, Australia.
  • 1997–2000: PhD Soil Science. Department of Soil Science, University of Reading, UK and ICRAF, Kenya.
  • 1993–1996: BSc Natural Resources (First Class, Honours). Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK.

My personal research and that of the group which I manage, has produced a number of research highlights in the last 5 years:

Exudation of phytase and citrate by plants:Demonstration that plants exuding phytase and citrate change rhizosphere biochemistry to the plants benefit and that interactions between plants with different traits is important. We are currently developing 2D techniques for assessing organic P dynamics in-situ and in the future will apply knowledge into designing tools which allow better management of the rhizosphere.

Root hairs and rhizosheaths:  Demonstration that root hairs are critical to the ability of cereals to yield under P-deficient conditions and that their absence is not compensated by mycorrhizae.  In addition, the presence of root hairs is implicit in the development of rhizosheaths. We know that the rhizosheath trait is highly heritable, making it a good target for breeding of improved cultivars of cereal crops for future agricultural environments.  In the future we aim to identify the genetic control and evolutionary origin of this trait and understand the physiology of how root hairs generate rhizopsheres.

Using traditional landraces for sustainability: Demonstration that extant barley landraces selected over many generations on marginal soils have adapted to tolerate limited micronutrient availability. We show that Bere barley has unprecedented abilities to tolerate Mn deficiency and constitutes a valuable resource of untapped adaptive genetic variation. In the future we will use genetics approaches to identify useful cultivars and genes controlling the key adaptive traits to underpin crop improvement in marginal soils 

In the last five years I have supervised 8 Ph.D. students and have hosted visiting scientists from China, Australia, Turkey and Denmark. I am section editor for Plant and Soil and have examined 10 PhD theses in five different countries. Also in the last 5 years, the group has attracted over £5m in grants to fund our research and have produced over 50 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.  



  • George, T.S.; Brown, L.K.; Bengough, A.G. (2021) Advances in understanding plant root hairs in relation to nutrient acquisition and crop root function., In: Gregory, P. (ed.) Understanding and Improving Crop Root Function. Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing Ltd., Chapter 5, pp127-162.
  • George, T.S.; White, P.J. (2020) Advances in understanding crop processing of phosphorus., In: Rengel, Z. (ed.). Achieving Sustainable Crop Nutrition. Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing, Part 2, Chapter 4, pp83-114.
  • Gregory, P.J.; Bengough, A.G.; George, T.S.; Hallett, P.D. (2013) Rhizosphere engineering by plants: quantifying soil-root interactions., In: Timlin, D., Ahuja, L. (eds.) Enhancing Understanding and Quantification of Soil-Root Growth Interactions. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, USA.
  • Gregory, P.J.; George, T.S.; Hallett, P.D.; Bengough, A.G. (2012) Advances in rhizosphere effects on soil-root growth interactions., In: Advances in Modeling Agricultural Systems: Trans-disciplinary Research, Synthesize, Modeling, and Applications (eds. Dennis Timlin and Laj Ahuja). ASA-SSSA-CSSA, Madison, WI.
  • Stockdale, E.A.; Goulding, K.W.T.; George, T.S.; Murphy, D.V. (2011) Soil Fertility., In:
  • George, T.S.; Fransson, A.; Hammond, J.P.; White, P.J. (2011) Phosphorus nutrition: Rhizosphere processes, plant response and adaptations., In: Buenemann, E., Oberson, A. & Frossard, E. (eds.). Phosphorus in Action - Biological Processes in Soil Phosphorus Cycling. Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands, Chapter 10, 245-271.
  • White, P.J.; Bengough, A.G.; Bingham, I.J.; George, T.S.; Karley, A.J.; Valentine, T.A. (2009) Induced mutations affecting root architecture and mineral acquisition in barley., In: Shu, Q.Y. (ed.). Induced Plant Mutations in the Genomics Era. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, Italy, pp381-384
  • George, T.S.; Richardson, A.E. (2008) Potential and limitations to improving crops for enhanced phosphorus utilisation., In: White, P.J. & Hammond, J.P. (eds.). The Ecophysiology of Plant-Phosphorus Interactions. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Chapter12, pp247-270.

  • Blackstock, K.L.; Brooker, R.; Pakeman, R.J.; Ellis, C.; George, T.; Iason, G.; Gilbert, L.; Artz, R,.R.E.; Irvine, R.J.; McVittie, A.; Newey, S.; Mitchell, R.; Gimona, A.; Fischer, A.; Begg, G.; Maxwell, J. (2017) Ecosystems and Land Use Stakeholders Engagement Group (ELSEG) Workshop Report., Workshop, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, 20 November 2017.
  • McKenzie, B.M.; Stobart, R.; Brown, J.L.; George, T.S.; Morris, N.; Newton, A.C.; Valentine, T.A.; Hallett, P.D. (2017) Platforms to test and demonstrate sustainable soil management: integration of major UK field experiments., AHDB Final Report RD-2012-3786, 178pp.
  • Prashar, A.; George, T.S.; Ramsay, G.; Hallett, P.D.; Jones, H.G.; Hedley, P.E.; McNicol, J.W.; Dale, M.F.B.; White, P.J.; Bryan, G.J. (2010) Water use efficiency in potato., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2009, pp42-44.
  • George, T.S.; Wishart, J.; Brown, L.K.; Ramsay, G.; Bradshaw, J.E.; Gregory, P.J.; White, P.J. (2009) Variation in drought tolerance in potatoes., BPC Report.
  • George, T.S.; Brown, L.; Wishart, J.; Thompson, J.; Wright, G.M.; Ramsay, G.; Bradshaw, J.E.; White, P.J. (2008) Phosphorus efficient potatoes., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2007, pp42-43.

Printed from /staff/tim-george on 01/12/21 03:26:00 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.