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Johannes Lehmann


909 Bradfield Hall
(607) 254-1236

Research and teaching in soil biogeochemistry and soil fertility management. Specialization in soil organic matter and nutrient studies of managed and natural ecosystems. Focus on soil degradation and sustainable agriculture in the tropics (especially Africa), bio-energy, greenhouse gas emissions from soil and headwaters, and synchrotron-based methods for soil research.

Research Focus

I am interested to advance our general understanding of biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrient elements in soil, providing important insight into regional and global element cycles such as the carbon or sulfur cycle. This field of research has global and local relevance with implications for climate change and environmental pollution.
The strong background in the chemistry, biology and physics of soils and its cycles provide the basis for the development of intelligent solutions for sustainable soil and land use management. The most exciting examples include the discovery of stabilization mechanisms of organic matter in soil nano-structures and the development of a biochar soil management technology that improves soil fertility, sequesters carbon and reduces off-site pollution. Recent efforts involve the conversion of wastes to valuable fertilizers and the discovery of novel reactions and pathways of nitrogen in soil organic matter and plant uptake.

Teaching Focus

Nutrient Management in Agroecosystems and Nutrient Cycling in Natural and Managed Ecosystems, Environmental Science Colloquium and support of introductory courses in Environmental Sciences, Traditional Agriculture in Developing Countries and Tropical Cropping Systems.

The goals of my teaching program is to create enthusiasm in students for the study of soil biogeochemistry, soil fertility and nutrient cycling, as they realize the importance of these topics not only for agricultural production but also for environmental protection. I am particularly interested in the intersection of artistic practice, sustainability and scientific pursuit in general. In the area of environmental sciences, we focus on the pollution of soils and aquifers with inorganic and organic fertilizers, on the effects of atmospheric emissions and on questions regarding soil processes and climate change. The students should get familiar with critical thinking about the impact of land use management on the environment such as soil degradation, climate change or pollution of waterways with agrochemicals. Apart from covering processes and dynamics in temperate agro-ecosystems, particular emphasis is placed on the understanding of constraints and options for nutrient management in tropical environments. The sustainable management of fragile ecosystems under low-input conditions is at the center of such discussions. These three constraints: limited input, environmental protection and sustainability of food production force creative thinking. In order to achieve scientifically sound solutions students need to acquire a profound and integrated understanding of the biological, physical and chemical processes in soil. The students are faced with the challenge to develop previously acquired disciplinary knowledge into more integrated and multidisciplinary thinking.

Awards and Honors

  • Fellow (2018) German National Academy of Sciences – Leopoldina
  • Hans Fischer Senior Award (2019) Institute for Advanced Studies
  • Highly Cited Researcher (2017) Thomson Reuter/Clarivate
  • Highly Cited Researcher (2016) Thomson Reuter
  • Sir Frederick McMaster Award (2007) CSIRO

Selected Publications

Journal Publications

  • Vermeulen, S., Bossio, D., Lehmann, J., Luu, P., Paustian, K., Webb, C., Augé, F., Bacudo, I., Baedeker, T., Havemann, T., Jones, C., King, R., Reddy, M., Sunga, I., Von Unger, M., & Warnken, M. (2019). A global agenda for collective action on soil carbon. Nature Sustainability. 2:2-4.
  • Hestrin, R., Hammer, E. C., Mueller, C. W., & Lehmann, J. (2019). Emergent microbial synergies increasing plant nitrogen acquisition from soil organic matter. Communications Biology.
  • Hestrin, R., Torres-Rojas, D., Hook, J. M., Regier, T. M., Gillespie, A. W., Smernik, R. S., & Lehmann, J. (2019). Fire-derived organic matter retains ammonia through covalent bond formation. Nature Communications. 10.
  • Woolf, D., & Lehmann, J. (2019). Microbial models with minimal mineral protection can explain long-term soil organic carbon persistence. Scientific Reports. 9:6522.
  • Rumpel, C., Lehmann, J., & Chabbi, A. (2018). Boost soil carbon for food and climate. Nature. 553:27.
  • Caruso, T., De Vries, T., Franciska, B., Richard, D., & Lehmann, J. (2018). Soil organic carbon dynamics matching ecological equilibrium theory. Ecology and Evolution. 8:11169-11178.
  • Woolf, D., Solomon, D., & Lehmann, J. (2018). Land restoration in food security programmes: synergies with climate change mitigation. CLIMATE POLICY. 18:1260-1270.
  • Chabbi, A., Lehmann, J., Ciais, P., Loescher, H. W., Cotrufo, M. F., Don, A., Sanclements, M., Schipper, L., Six, J., Smith, P., & Rumpel, C. (2017). Aligning agriculture and climate policy. Nature Climate Change. 7:307-309.
  • Sun, T., Levin, B. D., Guzman, J. J., Enders, A., Muller, D. A., Angenent, L. T., & Lehmann, J. (2017). Rapid electron transfer by the carbon matrix in natural pyrogenic carbon. Nature Communications. 8:12.
  • Paustian, K., Lehmann, J., Ogle, S., Reay, D., Robertson, G. P., & Smith, P. (2016). Climate-smart soils. Nature. 532:49-57.