Professor David Powlson - Biography


David Powlson has over 40 year’s post-doctoral research in soil science following his B.Sc. in Chemical Sciences (University of East Anglia, 1968) and Ph.D. in Soil Science (University of Reading, 1972). He is author or co-author of over 130 papers in peer-reviewed journals, plus numerous other publications. He contributed to early IPCC Reports so is proud to have a (very) small share in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded jointly to the IPCC and Al Gore.  He retired from Rothamsted Research in 2006 where he had been Head of the Soil Science Department for 13 years. He was then appointed to the Emeritus position of Lawes Trust Senior Fellow at Rothamsted Research. He was elected an Honorary member of the British Society of Soil Science for services to soil science research. He is Visiting Professor in Soil Science at the University of Reading, UK, and Nanjing Agricultural University, China, and an Associate Editor of the European Journal of Soil Science. During his period as President of the British Society of Soil Science he was instrumental in establishing the Eurosoil series of conferences.

His research has mainly focussed on:

1. The dynamics of carbon and nitrogen in soils, including the development of methods for quantifying the soil microbial biomass and implications of soil carbon changes for soil functioning and climate change mitigation.

2. Management practices to increase the efficiency of use of nitrogen fertilizer.

3. The use of long-term experiments to assess the sustainability of agricultural systems and impacts of management practices on soil quality and cycling of nutrients.

Early in his career he had a 2-year digression from carbon and nitrogen to study the management of acid sulphate soils in southeast Asia. Later international collaborations included a UNEP GEF project to investigate management impacts on soil C stocks in contrasting regions (Brazilian Amazon, Indo-Gangetic Plains, Kenya, Jordan) and an FAO/IAEA study using 15N labelling to measure the fate of N from fertilizer and crop residues in a range of tropical and sub-tropical regions in 9 countries in South America, Africa and Asia.

More recently he has been co-leader of major UK/China collaborative projects on the use and misuse of nitrogen fertilizer in China, including interactions with senior Chinese policy makers regarding the climate change benefits of more rational N fertilizer use. These projects came under the UK/China Sustainable Agriculture Innovations Network, SAIN, . He currently contributes to the UK-China Virtual Joint Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy (CINAg ). He collaborated with CIMMYT colleagues to evaluate the impacts of conservation agriculture on soil C stocks in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indo-Gangetic Plains and implications for climate change mitigation.