Shoots growing in soil
Healthy soil sustains life on land. It underpins the food system, contains nutrients, filters water, supports biodiversity and helps to regulate the climate by storing carbon. But soil health is in crisis across the world. Agriculture, industrial development and population growth have resulted in soils being polluted, eroded or simply discarded, putting our future food security in jeopardy.

The UK Government's 25 Year Environment Plan calls for progress towards establishing specific targets and a code of practice for achieving the vision of sustainably managed soils by 2030.
At Plymouth, we have a demonstrable track record of impactful soil health and land use research, much of which has been carried out in situ – on working farms or in collaboration with community and industry partners.
We have worked with academic partners to develop baseline environmental data against which land management and soil carbon practices can be measured.
Internationally, we are building upon community-driven soil carbon research, as well as our long track record of using environmental diagnostics and radioactive tracers, to monitor soil erosion in Latin America and in East Africa.
Our work in the Global South could provide valuable insight into adaptation strategies as the climate crisis continues to intensify in the UK.

Our areas of expertise include:


Featured soil health and land use research

The Environmental Land Management Strategic Knowledge Exchange Hub (ELMS Exchange)

Exploring the validation of on-farm soil assessment and land management actions from the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) is a core activity for our ELMS-Exchange programme.
Working with farmers and landowners, our interdisciplinary research and workshops examine the practical value, utility and applicability of on-farm assessment, and support policymakers by contributing to evidence bases required to adapt to new schemes and implement them effectively.
ELMS-Exchange event
We have worked with the Sustainable Soils Alliance and DEFRA, as well as regional agricultural partners, to bring soil analysis and accessible agri-tech to fields and farms.

Safeguarding sustainable soils for future farming

Landfill, rubbish, waste, soil, shutterstock.

Addressing the challenges facing healthy soils

The UK is suffering from extensive soil degradation, leading to loss of carbon, nutrient imbalances, erosion, compaction, and contamination. Reconstructed soils, regenerative agriculture and global carbon storage targets can all help to improve soil health and mitigate climate change – but implementing effective management policies will require a significant cultural shift.
Without urgent action, the UK’s soil quality could degrade to such a degree that it no longer provides sufficient food for the population.
Read the evidence summary:

Could fabricated soils be the key to global food security?

Find out how the development of custom-made artificial soils, created from recycled and waste materials, could revolutionise an industry in crisis.

dry soil earth cracked getty

The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself
Reconstructed soils could reduce the pressure on valuable topsoils and support both sustainable development and food security.

FABSOIL - samples

The FABSOIL project developed sustainable soils, manufactured from recycled and waste materials, that are fertile and resilient.

ReCon Soil

ReCon Soil
Bringing scientists, industry and educators together to revolutionise methods for reusing construction waste soils safely.


Building climate resilience in the Global South

Pastoral communities in developing countries face cultural and political barriers when it comes to implementing soil conservation measures, meaning that huge swathes of former pastureland are being lost or degraded.
Our team conducted international, field-based research studies, from soil erosion surveys and sampling, to satellite mapping and aerial photography analysis. Finding solutions is not an easy task but an interdisciplinary approach that engages local communities might help to secure real and lasting change.
Read the evidence summary:
Man in stood in soil eroded field in Tanzania

Tackling soil erosion at the community level

Empowering farming communities to take an active role in solving climate mitigation challenges, underpinned by interdisciplinary research.

University of Plymouth Invenite magazine.  Issue 2. Sustainable Earth

'Jali Ardhi' Care for the Land project
Working with community leaders and local champions to understand barriers to change and opportunities to overcome them.

Ardhi na Kujifunza (Land and Learning): Research project

Ardhi na Kujifunza (Land and Learning)
Delivering interdisciplinary capacity building and skills training for the next generation of in-country researchers, agronomists and policy makers.

Using the soil scanner

SoilSCAN: Soils, Science and Community ActioN
Coupling accessible agricultural technology with citizen science to develop evidence-based solutions to land management problems.




Collaborate with us

We are keen to collaborate with farmers, landowners and industry partners to further develop our research-driven approach to on-site soil analysis. For more information about our work, or to enquire about partnerships, please contact:
Professor Richard Preziosi, Director, CRISPS, and Head of School, Biological and Marine Sciences:
Dr Jennifer Rowntree, Deputy Director, CRISPS, and Associate Professor of Ecological Genetics:
Centre for Systems Thinking

Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society

The Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society champions a whole-system transdisciplinary approach to solutions-oriented research to improve planetary health. The Centre brings together an unrivalled critical mass of catchment-coast-ocean expertise from across the University’s Strategic Research Institutes to address 21st-century challenges alongside national and international policy. 

Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy 

In response to climate change imperatives, we are bringing together a critical mass of leading research and expertise from across the University of Plymouth. Through co-creation and collaboration with partners from business, government and key communities from across the globe, the Centre aims to be a beacon for the University’s whole-system transdisciplinary approach to solutions-oriented research, accelerating sustainable developments in decarbonisation and renewable energy.
Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy

Interdisciplinary Strategic Institutes

Our diverse research spans three Strategic Institutes. Collaborative endeavour in rich, natural environments drives solutions to global challenges.

Aerial view from high altitude of little planet earth with small village houses and distant green cultivated agricultural fields with growing crops on bright summer evening

Sustainable Earth Institute
Science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business, with community, businesses and individuals, innovate to build resilience for our planet.

Close-up wave

Marine Institute
Marine, maritime, education and innovation expertise integrate to train scientists, engineers, policymakers, artists, technicians and business.

abstract medical pharmacy healthcare innovative concept background

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research (PIHR)
Transformation in life course, ageing, methodologies, e-health, technology and interventions in health, social care, lifestyle, health and wellbeing.