Meet the Team

Prof. Jonathan Leake – University of Sheffield

Prof. Jonathan Leake is Professor of Plant-Soil Interactions at the University of Sheffield and is the Principle Investigator on the SARIC project ‘Restoring soil quality through re-integration of leys and sheep into arable rotations.’ His research focuses on how plants and associated organisms in and around their roots influence soil properties and functions. A major part of his recent research has been leading two consortium projects, SoilBioHedge and MycoRhizaSoil funded through the Soil Security Programme. These projects have been investigating the effects of reintroducing grass-clover leys into arable rotations as a means of biologically restoring earthworm populations and mycorrhiza communities, to deliver improved soil structure, hydrological functioning, and soil organic matter storage. Soil quality improvement by the leys has been verified by monitoring wheat yields and resilience to drought and excess rainfall and reduced requirements for nitrogen fertilizer.

Dr Lydia Smith – NIAB Innovation Farm

Dr Lydia Smith is the Head of NIAB Innovation Farm and the Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub NIAB, Cambridge UK. She is a Co-Investigator on the project. She leads interactive farmer-facing research into sustainable farming; especially soil health, crop genetic improvement and waste minimisation.

NIAB Innovation Farm was conceived and set up by Lydia, providing a practical, grower-facing research facility, with knowledge exchange and route to application for industry and end-users at its core. She set up the Eastern Agri-tech Innovation Hub to provide a pilot study resource for farmers and researchers to minimise or valorise waste in farming. She remains committed to soil structure and health and genetic improvement, specialising in crop microbial interactions of forage legumes with probiotic applications.

Lydia leads the NIAB contribution to the project working closely with a full time PDRA and expert input from field technical experts. NIAB has set up the main split field study site being used by project partners to determine the impact of grass ley or species rich herbal ley on an arable rotation.

Dr Patrick McKenna – NIAB Innovation Farm

Dr Patrick McKenna is a soil scientist and agronomist working on the SARIC project as a Post-Doctoral Researcher at NIAB Innovation Farm, Cambridge, UK. Patrick carries out soil and plant sampling at five field trials around the country and aims to describe the effects of herbal leys on soil quality and subsequent cereal production. He was originally trained in botany but received his PhD from Royal Agricultural University in Agronomy in 2017. He then spent a year studying the potential for wastewater-derived fertilizers to mitigate climate change, before coming to NIAB in 2019 to join the project.

Prof. Davey Jones – Bangor University

Prof. Davey Jones holds a Professorial Chair in Soil and Environmental Science at Bangor University and a Professorial Chair position at the University of Western Australia. He is a Co-Investigator on the project. A major focus of his research is on understanding below-ground processes with specific focus on nutrients and human pathogen behaviour in water-food-soil-plant-microbial systems. Current applications of his work include (1) promoting carbon sequestration in agricultural systems and understanding the factors regulating carbon cycling and greenhouse gas emissions, (2) developing ways to improve nutrient use efficiency in cropping systems with specific focus on nitrogen and phosphorus, (3) soil microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning, (4) modelling nutrients dynamics in the plant-soil-microbial and freshwater ecosystems.

Emily Cooledge – Bangor University

Emily Cooledge is a Research Support Technician on the project based at Bangor University. She is currently studying for her PhD alongside her technician role, supervised by Prof. Davey Jones and Prof. Dave Chadwick at Bangor. Her PhD project will investigate greenhouse gas emissions from livestock grazing multispecies ‘herbal’ leys, using the project field sites in England and a field trial established at Bangor University’s Henfaes Research Farm. These experiments will investigate the effect of plant secondary metabolites in herbal leys on grazing ruminants and the subsequent N cycling. Her role on the project is to assist with the farmer-participatory network, sheep productivity experiments and scaling up and policy implications.

Dr Lisa Norton – UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK-CEH)

Dr Lisa Norton is a plant and landscape ecologist at the Land Use Group at UK-CEH Lancaster, where she has worked for 20 years. She is a Co-Investigator on the SARIC project. Her research focuses on monitoring and management of natural capital for ecosystem service (ES) delivery and she works closely with social and economic scientists as well as stakeholders in interdisciplinary approaches towards sustainable environmental management of farmland. She is a Principle Investigator on a Global Food Security funded project ‘Sustainable economic and ecological grazing systems – Learning from innovative practitioners,’ and is currently working on a range of other projects including the Defra Clean Growth project, the ELM’s Test and Trials evaluation, and with an Innovative Farmers Group investigating how to maintain diverse swards on permanent grassland in Cumbria.

Prof. Adrian Collins – Rothamsted Research North Wyke

Prof. Adie Collins’ research interests broadly encompass the sustainability of agriculture. They specifically include a number of themes: 1) characterising pollutant emissions to water and air; 2) the development and application of pollutant source tracing procedures; 3) understanding cross-sector water pollution at different scales and the development of screening tools for contextualising the role of agriculture in water quality problems; 4) the impacts of agricultural pollution on aquatic ecology; 5) measuring and modelling the efficacy of on-farm interventions for managing agricultural sustainability; and 6) scenario-based evaluation of technically feasible mitigation impacts for strategic policy support. He is a Co-Investigator on the SARIC project.

Dr Sami Ullah – University of Birmingham

Dr Sami Ullah is Reader in Biogeochemistry at the University of Birmingham and a Co-Investigator on this research project. His research is centred on nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas fluxes from natural and agricultural ecosystems under land use and climate change. His current funded projects are focused on evaluating the response of biogeochemical processes in soils in response to the elevated atmospheric CO2 fumigation, chronic reactive nitrogen deposition and agricultural best management practices to answer fundamental questions about changes in process rates, nitrogen and carbon stocks in soils and greenhouse gas emission into air. His research is underpinned by the development and application of novel analytical field techniques including stable isotopes, and high-resolution sensor technologies to explore novel relationships between nutrient cycling and environmental conditions. The outcomes of his research are fundamental for designing soil, land use and ecosystem management strategies, and predicting the future functioning of soils under global change.

Dr Ian Pattison – Heriot Watt University

Dr Ian Pattison is an Associate Professor in Physical Geography at Heriot Watt University. He is a Co-I on this project. He is a Co-Lead of WP2 (soil quality and sheep production) and WP5 (scaling up and policy implications) and contributing to WP3 (reducing tillage). His research focusses on catchment hydrology and how land management impacts soil, runoff, flood risk. Ian led a recent NERC Soil Security Programme grant entitled “COMPACT: The role of soil management in Catchment Flood Risk” (NE/P014399/1), which investigated the impact of agricultural practices on soil compaction using both experimental field methods and hydrological modelling.