Improve nutrient-use efficiency in agro-ecosystems

Plant Nutrition

One of the challenges of this century is to sustainably meet the needs of the growing world population. Increased food production goes along with an increased nutrient demand for crops. Severe problems arise when too little or too much nutrients are added to agro-ecosystems. Using the most recent tools from plant and soil sciences, the Group of Plant Nutrition unravels mechanisms controlling nutrient cycles in the soil plant system, in order to contribute to the development of agricultural systems that maximize nutrient use efficiency and limit nutrient losses to the environment.

We study abiotic and biotic processes determining the availability of nutrients for plants. Besides classical methods, we use in our research radioactive and stable isotopes, mycorrhizal cultures, molecular markers and enzymatic methods. Research projects address nutrient-limited and nutrient-rich situations in the temperate and tropical zone and consider interactions between different nutrients. In nutrient-poor systems we elaborate biological approaches to alleviate phosphorus and nitrogen limitations while in nutrient-rich systems the focus is on optimizing nutrient recycling to crops.

Recent Publications

  • Agricultural management and pesticide use reduce the functioning of beneficial plant symbionts
    Edlinger, Anna; Garland, Gina; Hartman, Kyle; Banerjee, Samiran; Degrune, Florine; Garcia-Palacios, Pablo; Hallin, Sara; Valzano-Held, Alain; Herzog, Chantal; Jansa, Jan; Kost, Elena; Maestre, Fernando T; Pescador, David Sanchez; Philippot, Laurent; Rillig, Matthias C; Romdhane, Sana; Saghai, Aurelien; Spor, Ayme; Frossard, Emmanuel; van der Heijden, Marcel G. A.
    Nature Ecology & Evolution, 10.1038/s41559-022-01799-8  AUG 2022
  • Utilization of research knowledge in sustainable development pathways: Insights from a transdisciplinary research-for-development programme
    Jacobi, J.; Llanque, A.; Bieri, S.; Birachi, E.; Cochard, R.; et al.
    Environmental Science & Policy 10.1016/j.envsci.2019.10.003 JAN 2020
  • Estimation of soil properties with mid-infrared soil spectroscopy across yam production landscapes in West Africa
    Baumann, Philipp; Lee, Juhwan; Frossard, Emmanuel; Schoenholzer, Laurie Paule; Diby, Lucien; Hgaza, Valerie Kouame; Kiba, Delwende Innocent; Sila, Andrew); Sheperd, Keith; Six, Johan
    Soil 10.5194/soil-7-717-2021 OCT 27 2021
  • Tracing the fate of phosphorus fertilizer derived cadmium in soil-fertilizer-wheat systems using enriched stable isotope labeling
    Bracher, Christoph; Frossard, Emmanuel; Bigalke, Moritz; Imseng, Martin; Mayer, Jochen; et al.
    Environmental Pollution 10.1016/j.envpol.2021.117314, OCT 15 2021
  • Soil microbial community coalescence and fertilization interact to drive the functioning of the legume-rhizobium symbiosis
    Ramoneda, Josep; Le Roux, Johannes; Stadelmann, Stefanie; Frossard, Emmanuel; Frey, Beat; et al.
    Journal Of Applied Ecology 10.1111/1365-2664.13995  NOV 2021
  • Green manure effect on the ability of native and inoculated soil bacteria to mobilize zinc for wheat uptake (Triticum aestivum L.)
    Costerousse, Benjamin; Quattrini, Joel; Grueter, Roman; Frossard, Emmanuel; Thonar, Cecile
    Plant And Soil 10.1007/s11104-021-05078-6  OCT 2021
  • The time it takes to reduce soil legacy phosphorus to a tolerable level for surface waters: What we learn from a case study in the catchment of Lake Baldegg, Switzerland
    von Arb, Cacilia; Stoll, Sebastian; Frossard, Emmanuel; Stamm, Christian; Prasuhn, Volker
    Geoderma 10.1016/j.geoderma.2021.115257  DEC 1 2021
  • Towards circular phosphorus: The need of inter- and transdisciplinary research to close the broken cycle
    Stamm, Christian; Binder, Claudia R.; Frossard, Emmanuel; Haygarth, Philip M.; Oberson, Astrid; et al.
    Ambio 10.1007/s13280-021-01562-6  MAY 2021
  • Evaluation of Image-Based Phenotyping Methods for Measuring Water Yam (Dioscorea alata L.) Growth and Nitrogen Nutritional Status under Greenhouse and Field Conditions
    Frossard, Emmanuel; Liebisch, Frank; Hgaza, Valerie Kouame; Kiba, Delwende Innocent; Kirchgessner, Norbert; Mueller, Laurin; Mueller, Patrick; Pouya, Nestor; Ringger, Cecil; Walter, Achim
    Agronomy-basel, 10.3390/agronomy11020249 FEB 2021
  • Nitrogen transformations across compartments of an aquaponic system
    Schmautz, Zala; Espinal, Carlos A.; Smits, Theo H. M.; Frossard, Emmanuel; Junge, Ranka
    Aquacultural Engineering, 10.1016/j.aquaeng.2021.102145  FEB 2021
  • The chemical nature of soil organic phosphorus: A critical review and global compilation of quantitative data
    McLaren, Timothy I.; Smernik, Ronald J.; McLaughlin, Michael J.; Doolette, Ashlea L.; Richardson, Alan E.; et al.
    Advances In Agronomy, Vol 160, 10.1016/bs.agron.2019.10.001 Published: 2020
  • Environmental parameters and microbial community profiles as indication towards microbial activities and diversity in aquaponic system compartments
    Schmautz, Zala; Espinal, Carlos A.; Bohny, Andrea M.; Rezzonico, Fabio; Junge, Ranka; et al.
    Bmc Microbiology,  10.1186/s12866-020-02075-0 JAN 6 2021
  • Repeated drying and rewetting differently affect abiotic and biotic soil phosphorus (P) dynamics in a sandy soil: A P-33 soil incubation study
    Chen, Hao; Jarosch, Klaus A.; Meszaros, Eva; Frossard, Emmanuel; Zhao, Xiaorong; et al.
    Soil Biology & Biochemistry,  10.1016/j.soilbio.2020.108079  FEB 2021
  • Microspectroscopy reveals dust-derived apatite grains in acidic, highly-weathered Hawaiian soils
    Vogel, Christian; Helfenstein, Julian; Massey, Michael S.; Sekine, Ryo; Kretzschmar, Ruben; et al.
    Geoderma  DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2020.114681  JAN 1 2021
  • Identification of lower-order inositol phosphates (IP5 and IP4) in soil extracts as determined by hypobromite oxidation and solution P-31 NMR spectroscopy
    Reusser, Jolanda E.; Verel, Rene; Zindel, Daniel; Frossard, Emmanuel; McLaren, Timothy, I
    Biogeosciences  DOI: 10.5194/bg-17-5079-2020  OCT 21 2020
  • Geographical patterns of root nodule bacterial diversity in cultivated and wild populations of a woody legume crop
    Ramoneda, Josep; Le Roux, Johannes J.; Frossard, Emmanuel; Frey, Beat; Gamper, Hannes Andres
    Fems Microbiology Ecology  DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiaa145  OCT 2020
  • Phosphorus desorption and isotope exchange kinetics in agricultural soils
    Braun, Sabina; McLaren, Timothy I.; Frossard, Emmanuel; Tuyishime, J. R. Marius; Borjesson, Gunnar; et al.
    Soil Use And Management  DOI: 10.1111/sum.12674  NOV 2020
  • In or Out of Equilibrium? How Microbial Activity Controls the Oxygen Isotopic Composition of Phosphate in Forest Organic Horizons With Low and High Phosphorus Availability
    Pistocchi, Chiara; Meszaros, Eva; Frossard, Emmanuel; Buenemann, E. K.; Tamburini, Federica
    Frontiers In Environmental Science  DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.564778  SEP 29 2020
  • A dual isotopic (P-32 and O-18) incubation study to disentangle mechanisms controlling phosphorus cycling in soils from a climatic gradient (Kohala, Hawaii)
    Siegenthaler, Maja Barbara; Tamburini, Federica; Frossard, Emmanuel; Chadwick, Oliver; Vitousek, Peter; et al.
    Soil Biology & Biochemistry  DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2020.107920  OCT 2020
  • Experimental assembly reveals ecological drift as a major driver of root nodule bacterial diversity in a woody legume crop
    Ramoneda, Josep; Le Roux, Johannes J.; Frossard, Emmanuel; Frey, Beat; Gamper, Hannes Andres
    Fems Microbiology Ecology  DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiaa083  JUN 2020
  • Quantitative measures ofmyo-IP(6)in soil using solution(31)P NMR spectroscopy and spectral deconvolution fitting including a broad signal
    Reusser, Jolanda E.; Verel, Rene; Frossard, Emmanuel; McLaren, Timothy, I
    Environmental Science-processes & Impacts  DOI: 10.1039/c9em00485h   APR 1 2020
  • Uranium Budget and Leaching in Swiss Agricultural Systems
    Bigalke, Moritz; Imseng, Martin; Schneider, Stephan; Schwab, Lorenz; Wiggenhauser, Matthias; et al.
    Frontiers In Environmental Science  DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.00054 Published: JUN 5 2020
  • A Transdisciplinary Approach for the Development of Sustainable Yam (Dioscorea sp.) Production in West Africa
    Kiba, Delwende Innocent; Hgaza, Valerie Kouame; Aighewi, Beatrice; Ake, Severin; Barjolle, Dominique; et al.
    Sustainability  DOI: 10.3390/su12104016 Published: MAY 2020
  • Nutrient flows and intensification options for smallholder farmers of the Lao uplands
    Epper, CA; Paul, B; Burra, D; Phengsavanh P; Ritzema R; Syfongxay C; Groot JCJ; Six J; Frossard E; Oberson A; Douxchamps S
    AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS   Volume: 177  DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2019.102694 JAN 2020
  • Selenium accumulation and speciation in soils along a climate gradient
    Tolu, J.; Bouchet, S.; Chekifi, S. D.; Hausheer, O.; Chadwick, O. A.; et al.
    Selenium Research For Environment And Human Health: Perspectives, Technologies And Advancements, 67-68, 2020
  • Soil quality and phosphorus status after nine years of organic and conventional farming at two input levels in the Central Highlands of Kenya
    von Arb, C.; Buenemann, E. K.; Schmalz, H.; Portmann, M.; Adamtey, N.; Musyoka, MW; Frossard, E; Fliessbach, A
    Geoderma 362 Article Number: 114112 DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2019.114112  MAR 15 2020
  • Estimates of mean residence times of phosphorus in commonly considered inorganic soil phosphorus pools
    Helfenstein, Julian; Pistocchi, Chiara; Oberson, Astrid; Tamburini, Federica; Goll, Daniel S.; et al.
    Biogeosciences,  DOI: 10.5194/bg-17-441-2020, JAN 30 2020
  • Insights from invasion ecology: Can consideration of eco-evolutionary experience promote benefits from root mutualisms in plant production?
    Ramoneda, Josep; Le Roux, Johannes; Frossard, Emmanuel; Bester, Cecilia; Oettle, Noel; et al.
    Aob Plants,  DOI: 10.1093/aobpla/plz060, DEC 2019
Emmanuel Frossard ETHZ

Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Frossard
ETH Zurich
Institute of Agricultural Sciences
8315 Lindau

Tel: +41 (0)52 354 91 40

Research topics

  • Microbial functions in nutrient dynamics, with emphasis on nutrient mineralization, immobilization and the role of enzymes
  • Functional diversity of myccorhizal fungi
  • Use of 18O to assess P fluxes and processes at ecosystem level
  • Role of abiotic processes in phosphorus and heavy metals cycling
  • Phosphorus and nitrogen (re-)cycling in agro-ecosystems: Use of nutrients contained in animal manure, plant residues and recycling fertilizers
  • Nutrient cycles and eco-efficiency: integrated nutrient management, conservation agriculture, organic farming, nutrient cycles and biodiversity in agro-ecosystems



  • Crop sciences
  • Soil microbiology
  • Soil chemistry
  • Plant and microbial ecology
  • Plant physiology
  • Molecular biology