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Announcement

US-UK collaborate to preserve the world's diminishing soil resources

wild fire

Signals in the soil will provide answers to long-held questions about soil ecosystems
Credit: National Science Foundation

February 13, 2020

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is partnering with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) to unlock the mysteries of the chemical and biological processes occurring within our soil. The agencies will collaborate on 10 research projects that will enable American and British researchers to gain a better understanding of soil ecosystems that will continue to play a critical role in feeding the world and supporting life functions.

This research is supported through a US-UK partnership, with an overall investment of $8 million from NSF and NIFA and £8 million from UKRI. In FY 2018, NSF invested nearly $7 million in 21 Signals in the Soil projects.

"As global demands rise for food, fibers and bioenergy, and as land degradation driven by land use change, poor agricultural practices, contamination, and urbanization occurs, humans require more from diminishing soil resources," said NSF Director France Córdova. "This valued partnership will provide new ways to tap into and understand complex underground signals and the soil ecosystems that we all depend on."

"The health of soils is crucial for sustaining life across the world," said UKRI's Chief Executive Professor Sir Mark Walport. "These projects will demonstrate the power of international collaboration in addressing the major global research questions in this area, developing new ways of monitoring and maintaining soils, and increasing our understanding of how ecosystems function and interact."

Through these projects, American and British researchers will create new methods to capture, communicate and analyze soil processes in order to advance our understanding of soil ecosystems and our capacity to manage them. Research teams will design durable new sensors for biological, chemical and/or physical signals in the soil and wireless technologies that can transmit the data through the soil. Researchers will also design new data tools and dynamic models to describe and predict soil processes, organism behavior, and the interactions between these processes and behaviors.

Each three-year project will receive approximately $800,000 for US team research and £800,000 for UK team research. Below is a list of projects and links to grant abstracts:

  • Decoding Nitrogen Dynamics in Soil through Novel Integration of in-situ Wireless Soil Sensors with Numerical Modeling, USA principal investigators Baikun Li, University of Connecticut (1935599) and Md Shaad Mahmud, University of New Hampshire (1935578); UK principal investigators Dr Xize Niu, University of Southampton (NE/T010584/1) and Professor Elizabeth Shaw, University of Reading (NE/T010762/1)
  • Dynamic Coupling of Soil Structure and Gas Fluxes Measured with Distributed Sensor Systems: Implications for Carbon Modeling, USA principal investigator Kenichi Soga, University of California-Berkeley (1935551); UK principal investigator Dr Richard Whalley, Rothamsted Research (NE/T010487/1)
  • Large Area Distributed Real Time Soil (DiRTS) Monitoring, USA principal investigator Sameer Sonkusale, Tufts University (1935555); UK principal investigators Dr Aleksandar Radu, Keele University (NE/T012331/1) and Dr Sami Ullah, University of Birmingham (NE/T012323/1)
  • Phytoelectronic Soil Sensing, USA principal investigator Robert McLeod, University of Colorado at Boulder (1935594); UK principal investigator Professor George Malliaras, University of Cambridge (NE/T012293/1)
  • Rapid Deployment of Multi-Functional Modular Sensing Systems in the Soil, USA principal investigator Chloe Arson, Georgia Tech (1935548); UK principal investigator Professor Catherine O'Sullivan, University of Imperial College London (NE/T010983/1)
  • Real-time and Continuous Monitoring of Phosphates in the Soil with Graphene-Based Printed Sensor Arrays, USA principal investigator Suprem Das, Kansas State University (1935676); UK principal investigator Dr Adrien Chauvet, The University of Sheffield (NE/T010924/1)
  • Reverse engineering the soil microbiome: detecting, modeling, and optimizing signal impacts on microbiome metabolic functions, USA principal investigator Linda Kinkel, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (1935458); UK principal investigator Professor Eriko Takano, The University of Manchester (NE/T010959/1)
  • Sensors UNder snow Seasonal Processes in the evolution of ARctic Soils, USA principal investigators Trevor Irons, University of Utah (1935651) and Pacifica Sommers, University of Colorado at Boulder (1935689); UK principal investigators Dr James Bradley, Queen Mary University of London (NE/T010967/1) and Dr Oliver Kuras, British Geological Survey (NE/T010568/1)
  • Wireless In-Situ Soil Sensing Network for Future Sustainable Agriculture, USA principal investigator Darrin Young, University of Utah (1935632); UK principal investigators Professor Eric Yeatman, Imperial College London, (NE/T011467/1) and Professor Paul Hallett, University of Aberdeen (NE/T011068/1)
  • Detecting soil degradation and restoration through a novel coupled sensor and machine learning framework, USA principle investigator Professor Jason Neff University of Colorado Boulder, (1935705); UK principle investigator Professor John Quinton, Lancaster University (NE/T012307/1)

Media Contacts
Media Affairs, NSF, (703) 292-7090, media@nsf.gov