Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Congratulations Dr Tegan Darch

photo by Soil & Water Science
photo, a photo by Soil & Water Science on Flickr.

Congratulations Dr Tegan Darch who today defended her PhD on soil phosphorus. Another PhD student success! Well done Tegan, Happy Days!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Congratulations Dr Roberts!

Untitled by Soil & Water Science
Untitled, a photo by Soil & Water Science on Flickr.

Congratulations to my PhD student Will who successfully defended his thesis on phosphorus bio-geochemistry today! Well done Will!

Friday, 18 October 2013

On wheat-maize rotations and nutrient flows in Huantai County, Shandong Province, 14th-16th October 2013

Untitled by Soil & Water Science

This visit was separated into four parts. Firstly, we met farmers and growers at a local village that was closely connected to an experimental station. We also met an agricultural entrepreneur who ran a corn and wheat processing company, and then we visit the institute itself and met officials from the Huantai Agricultural Bureau. Finally, when we were in Beijing on 16th we visited the west campus of the China Agriculture University (CAU) and spoke with Professors Wu and Meng, who were the academic leaders of the experiments. We were shown a useful presentation by Wu Lingfen who is an MSc student doing an N balance for Huantai County 1980-2012. Huantai county claims to be the most productive county in China (this seems to be a legitimate claim) and we were shown a film that promoted it in an extremely positive and production centric light, although there were some references to ‘mitigating’ non point source pollution that did not match with our analysis of things when we interviewed people. The rotations seem to plough in the straw stubble and consequently the soil organic matter is seemingly not declining and there are claims for it to have been actually increasing.

A few key learning outcomes for me were:

•The nitrate levels in the groundwater seemed to be approximately 3x the UK standard
•The water flows in this region are almost all to groundwater, so there is a sense of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
•There was little real regard or concern for water quality
•According to the Agricultural Bureau, the water quality monitoring is the ‘job for the provisional government’ and that the information is ‘classified’. The bureau did not seem to be aware of any county level programme for protecting water resources.
•Generally there seems to be a nitrogen centric view here, phosphorus was little mentioned although it is used with N and K (in a bagged fertilizer NPK 15-15-15)

My photos from the trip to Huantai can be viewed here.


Monday, 14 October 2013

On Rice and Wheat rotations, nutrient management, and Lake Taihu in Jiangsu Province….

Untitled by Soil & Water Science
Untitled, a photo by Soil & Water Science on Flickr.
We have just spent the last 2 days in the vicinity of Suzhoe and Wuxi in the Lake Taihu catchment in Jaingsu Province. We were visiting as part of the Defra SAIN (Strategic Agriculture Innovation Network) collaboration between the UK and China Governments. Our aim was to visit local rice-wheat rotations with a view to learning about how the agricultural systems ‘worked’ and in particular focusing on the nutrient management. On Friday 11th October 2013 we visited Xingeng Village, to the Northeast of Wangting Town. On the following day we visited a Demonstration site west of Wuxi, the Sandongqiao Village Demonstration Site. On the 11th, firstly were shown some mature rice that was due for harvest later in the autumn. Of course rice production involves flooding the field and that happens earlier in the year. I understand there is a top dressing of fertilizer input at time of sowing, and that this is applied when the padi is flooded. This is intriguing as there is potentially considerable potential for direct nutrient transfers to water at times of flooding. There is also potential for groundwater transfers through potentially cracking clay soil. Additionally, as there is the potential in this extreme wetting and drying to drive nutrient cycling and accelerate nutrient mobilization from soil in these circumstances – it would be interesting to investigate this hypothesis. I would be interested to see how much nutrient was lost in detached soil or sediment around times of sowing when the crop is immature. We asked questions of the team about the nutrient management and as far as we could understand they seemed to have a very agronomic centric view, inasmuch as they spoke of monitoring the system wholly in terms of fertilizer and recycled manure inputs. When questioned about transfers to water they did not seem to have a sense of the potential kg/ha losses, nor any sense of the hydrologic dynamics. There was not any evidence of measuring water flow so therefore I cannot see how they have any sense of nutrient flows to water. On the Saturday at Sandongqiao we met the impressive Prof Yudong Li (Shanghai Jiantong University) who appeared to have a much greater sense of the importance of flows to water. However, the Sandongqiao site is only in its infancy and although the rotation has the potential to offer some useful data in the future.

In summary:
•There are no data on flows to water and there seems to be a lack of emphasis on this
•The systems appear to be constrained and driven by agronomic production with only an emerging regard for losses to the environment
•It reminds me of my own work in the UK in the early 1990s, with systems driven by soil P tests and fertilizer levels, occasional concentration in water. The next step is that they need to learn to determine the nature of the losses to the water, including the hydrological flows and dynamics, not just the concentrations in water.
•A great ‘problem’ for these systems is the density of the population; therefore one cannot manage the water quality without a sense of the agriculture combined with the human inputs. There are governance and communication challenges here
•The work at Sandongqiao is promising and I see analogies with other studies in the past.

My photos from this trip can be viewed here.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Caption competition!

Originally uploaded by Soil & Water Science
We have been having a bit of fun trying to think up cations for this photo of John and Ed.

e.g 1:

I think we were deciding to move Haygarth to play wide on the left, with Allton as the lone striker.

e,g. 2:

Ed (thought bubble) ‘I wish he’d stop going on about soil erosion’

Any suggestions welcome.....

Soil Scientists footloose in the north Pennines!

Untitled by Soil & Water Science

Recently working with my colleagues in the British Society of Soil Science, we hosted the annual conference based at Lancaster but had a field trip in the Eden Valley and on Hartside.  The weather was terrific.  Thanks to all the team for a great effort - here are the photos that I took on the day 

Friday, 12 July 2013

Checking out the Venue for the World Congress of Soil Science 2022

Originally uploaded by Soil & Water Science
Yesterday I had an inspiring visit to Glasgow (and a first 'out' for me for a while post my accident) along with the team of colleagues from the British Society of Soil Science to explore the City of Glasgow as a venue for the 2022 Congress. We are bidding as a Society to host this bid and were impressed by the team from If you click on the picture you will see some more shots of the proposed venue and the beautiful riverside.

Glasgow calling.....

Monday, 1 July 2013

Farmers, Defra and the Agency learning together

Untitled by Soil & Water Science
Untitled, a photo by Soil & Water Science on Flickr.

I have just been part of a most inspiring gathering.......With my partners from EdenDTC, Eden Rivers Trust and Newton Rigg College, we brought together national Defra staff with farmers in the Eden to talk about solutions for future farming and water quality. After visiting a number of farms, we came together for drinks and dinner in the Mil Yard Cafe, Morland. The spirit of the day was terrific and I think provides some useful inspiration for making a difference. It was particularly exciting to see the farmers - the local land experts - gaining confidence from the dialogue so that they might be empowered to lead the way on new innovations and solutions. Farmer power!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Recruiting two soil and water phosphorus scientists

I am looking to recruit two post doctoral researchers to be based at Lancaster University in the UK. Two successful applicants will join a NERC funded project to study phosphorus and the changing water cycle and be part of a team that includes Lancaster, Liverpool, Bangor, UEA and Anglia Ruskin Universities as well as the Met Office Hadley Centre (Exeter), ADAS and the James Hutton Institute in Scotland. Both positions are fixed for 3 years and the details are: 

Soil/Water Catchment Biogeochemist 

Soil/Water Catchment Modeller

The closing date for both applications is 24th May (not long!) and interviews will be held on the 13th June. Please contact me if you wish to know more details or apply through the web site.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Mount Etna Fireworks Live: LEC students chose to work rather than eat pizza.....

Excuse the departure from soil and water, but I just got this exciting email this morning from Dr Mike James and colleagues who are on a field trip in Sicily.

Mike's email said:

"LEC's 2013 Volcanic Processes Field Course to Sicily has been treated to some of Mt. Etna's best firework displays. On Wednesday the group of 20 undergraduate and postgraduate students, along with three visiting students from across Europe saw small ash plumes from Etna's active vent. However, this was only the prelude to a sustained fire fountaining event that started on Thursday evening and is continuing now (06:30, Friday morning). The fireworks have been accompanied by explosions that have been large enough to rattle windows where we stay in Nicolosi, 10 km from the volcano. In an unusual move on Thursday evening, students voted to do work (volcano observations) rather than be taken out to eat free pizza!"

The photos below were taken by LEC's Dr Mike James and Dr Steve Lane.

 Nice one folks!  


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Get behind Glasgow!

Glasgow SECC Clyde Armadillo
Originally uploaded by kenbf
Soils for a Sustainable Future

Get behind Glasgow!

Why and how the British Society of Soil Science can win the case for hosting the World Congress of Soil Science in Glasgow, Scotland

Why soils?
Soils underpin our basis for life and civilization on earth. Soils provide the food we eat and purify the pollutants that circulate around the planet. In short, soils provide the basis for the sustainable future of planet earth.

A great opportunity….
We are bidding to host the World Congress of Soil Science (ICSS) in Glasgow in 2022 and this is a great opportunity for us all; and we have never been in a better position to go for this. We can expect to bring over 2000 participants to our shores.

Why the British Society of Soil Science?
The BSSS already has close to 800 members and about a quarter of those are international members. In June 2014 we will present our case to the International Union of Soil Science in Korea – the analogy is rather like a soils version of bidding to host the Olympics. In order to prepare this bid we have formed a committee tasked with preparing the first case.

What are we doing?
At the moment we are going through a series of consultations in our BSSS meetings, through our publication ‘The Auger’ and our website (, to collect inputs and ideas about what our members and wider national stakeholders would like to see in the proposal. This first ‘consultation phase’ will conclude at the AGM of the Society in the Autumn, after which we will merge into new phase of bid preparation, to be presented in Korea in June 2014. After we win the bid we will enter the next phase….delivery….

Some imperatives….
•The congress has not been held in the UK since 1936 in Oxford
•The diverse nature of UK landscape presents multiple challenges to soil science both in application and practice
•The UK has a world leading soils research community and long established research stations that
•Easily accessible location
•Strong global soil science presence and links

Get behind Glasgow
We are asking for your views and registration of support for the ‘Get Behind Glasgow’ campaign. We are preparing a website for the Congress and would like you to post the ‘Get Behind Glasgow to Host the 2022 World Congress of Soil Science’#Glasgow2022WCSS on your blogs, email footers and websites and create the hashtag ”#Glasgow2022WCSS on your twitter sites.
•What would you like to see in Glasgow 2022, what is our universal selling point?
•What would you like the conference look like?
•What are the exciting things about Scotland and Britain that you would like to see us making the most of, from both a soil but also a tourist point of view?

Follow developments on Phil Haygarth’s blog ( or Tweet @ProfPHaygarth #Glasgow2022WCSS.

BSSS Glasgow 2022 Committee (Phil Haygarth, Katherine Alton, Helaina Black, Bruce Lascelles, Jason Owen, Willie Towers)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

President's Blog: A Gathering in Aberdeen.....

Untitled by Soil & Water Science
Untitled, a photo by Soil & Water Science on Flickr.

As part of my BSSS Presidential work, I spent last Tuesday night and Wednesday in Aberdeen. On Tuesday evening I met and chatted with IPSS Chair Jason and then on Wednesday, with a full day I met Liz Baggs, the new President Elect at the University, and afterwards, with Helaina, Kathryn and Willie, we met and chatted about soils education plans as well as thinking ahead to the Glasgow 2022 bid. here are some of the merry gathering just before I dashed off for the train home.....

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Tropical rainforest...the pictures

Untitled by Soil & Water Science
Untitled, a photo by Soil & Water Science on Flickr.
And here are the pictures folks!  Thanks Jeff for a great day out in the Agua Salud catchments of Panama.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Out in the rainforest

Originally uploaded by Phil Haygarth
I am currently in the Republic of Panama at Ben Turner's organic P workshop and was lucky enough to spend a day before with Jefferson Hall, as he guided us around the Agua Salud Tropical Forest Plantation experiments. It was an inspiring day for me and PhD students Vito and Will, pictured here with Jeff on the right. Thanks Jeff for a great day - more detail and photos to follow later.

Friday, 1 February 2013

A day in the life.....

President's blog 3....

Just finished a webex video meeting with Kathryn at BSSS HQ..... Planning planning and more planning (and some planning).

Have a good weekend folks......

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

BSSS Council induction meeting......

Originally uploaded by Soil & Water Science
Presidents Blog number 2.....

Yesterday I joined Kathryn Alton and a bunch of colleagues from the British Society of Soil Science's new Council Committee for an induction session, at Cranfield University. As well as being incredibly helpful, it was a great team building exercise. I think that you will agree from the photos that it is going to be a fun couple of years......

The National DTC Conference

Originally uploaded by Soil & Water Science
Last week was an exciting gathering of the nation's catchment scientists in Central London to celebrate the progress of the National Defra Demonstration Test Catchment projects. It was particularly exciting because the level of national interest was much higher than we had dreamed, with literally standing room only and many folk left on 'standby' for places as it was very well subscribed - interest was high (some pictures from me here).

My job was to observe the big array of presentations of day one and to give a sum up address. I noted and suggested that the journey so far can be summed up in three phases as:

The teams of the Eden, the Wensum and the Hampshire Avon along with Defra and the wider family of projects and players, have all done a great job setting up the platforms and starting the new way of feeding the evidence base. This is tough stuff, it is not replicable pot or plot experiments, this is catchment science and it involves people, their land and their livelihoods. Setting up such a study in its own right is difficult going - and all involved should be proud of where they have got to.

Some things do not add up, they are not perfect and are uncomfortable. But that's ok, it is not a perfect world, instead there exits much complexity and hence uncertainty. Different catchments respond at different speeds and at different rates of hysteresis. There was perhaps an over emphasis (I feel) on delivery mitigation and not so much on source and mobilisation control - take note readers and think about this. Delivery modification is simply closing the stable door. We need to be stopping the inputs and the initial detachment and solubilisation of the pollutants.

It takes time to build trust and on the time scale of partnership building the ship of trust is just leaving the harbor and heading towards open waters (sorry for over stretching the ship analogy there!). We raised issues 'what farmers and, what science?' and it was pointed out that 98% of CSF farmers thought that their farms were contributing 'little if not at all' to diffuse pollution.  Clearly there is work to be done.  New ways of managing data and knowledge through the data archiving and the hub were suggested and a new tool kit proposed.

The next phase will need lots of patience, lots of careful eyes on the detail of the science and lots of KT.

Step by step.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Starting the Presidency of the British Society of Soil Science....

On 1 January I started my two year service as President of the British Society of Soil Science. As part of my new role, I will be starting a series of 'President's Blogs' with the society, the first of which is pasted below:

Presidents blog number 1 – Here we go…..

As the 1 January passed reality dawned: No longer could I hide behind the mighty Heliana any more, no longer was I president elect, it was my turn to carry the can. What better way to kick off the New Year and my new term than a two-day meeting with Vice Pres Heliana, Exec Officer Kathryn and Hon Treasurer Adam …. Taking advantage of the fact that Adam, Heliana and I live within a few miles of one another, we used Lancaster and the Lune Valley as our place to meet. On Wednesday I picked up Kathryn on the 1209 into Lancaster and we spent the first afternoon at my house in Docker, dided by Helaina’s shortbread and my tea. Day two we met at Lancaster University and were joined by Adam and Ed Tipping (who is helping on the Committee of the Annual Meeting coming up in September) (a few photos of our meeting can be viewed here). There was no formal agenda, but the two days were a terrific means for some strategic planning for the months ahead.

One of the key things that I want to highlight to all members is our planning for the bid to host the IUSS World Congress of Soil Science Meeting in Glasgow in 2022. As a society this is a great opportunity for us to welcome the world to our shores and put on a great soils jamboree. At the World Congress next year we will need to raise a competitive bid to the council and this is no easy task. Over the coming months I want to start a process of consultation and welcome BSSS members to a Glasgow 2022 Committee. We shall start with an open discussion at the Early Career Conference in York in March, followed by a similar around the AGM in September. If you feel you can help with planning the case, developing the unique selling product, thinking about the Glasgow science, the Glasgow legacy, then please do get I touch with me and Kathryn and we will gratefully welcome you to the fold. Onward…

Phil, Docker Garth, January 20th 2013