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

  • 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
  • The Use of Q-ICPMS to Apply Enriched Zinc Stable Isotope Source Tracing for Organic Fertilizers
    Duerr-Auster, Thilo; Wiggenhauser, Matthias; Zeder, Christophe; Schulin, Rainer; Weiss, Dominik J.; et al.
    Frontiers In Plant Science,  DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2019.01382, Published: NOV 13 2019
  • Is the enzymatic hydrolysis of soil organic phosphorus compounds limited by enzyme or substrate availability?
    Jarosch, K. A.; Kandeler, E.; Frossard, E.; Bunemann, E. K.
    Soil Biology & Biochemistry,  DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2019.107628, DEC 2019
  • Influence of long-term phosphorus fertilisation history on the availability and chemical nature of soil phosphorus
    van der Bom, FJT; McLaren, TI; Doolette, AL; Magid, J; Frossard, E; Oberson, A; Jensen, LS
    GEODERMA, 355 10.1016/j.geoderma.2019.113909 DEC 1 2019
  • The nitrogen nutrition of yam (Dioscorea spp)
    Hgaza, KV; Oberson, A; Kiba, ID; Diby, LN; Akef, S; Frossard, E
    JOURNAL OF PLANT NUTRITION, 10.1080/01904167.2019.1659315  2019
  • Food Systems Approach to Improve Diet and Nutritional Outcomes: Integration of Three Studies Conducted in Rural Communities in Sri Lanka
    Joshepkumar, T; Madumali, C; Mohotti, J; Frossard, E; Nanayakkara, J; Silva, KDRR; Jayasinghe, JMUK
  • Understanding fertilizer adoption and effectiveness on maize in Zambia
    Burke, WJ; Frossard, E; Kabwe, S; Jayne, TS
    FOOD POLICY, 86 10.1016/j.foodpol.2019.05.004 JUL 2019
  • Phosphorus Allocation to Leaves of Beech Saplings Reacts to Soil Phosphorus Availability
    Meller, S; Frossard, E; Luster, J
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 10 10.3389/fpls.2019.00744 JUN 6 2019
  • The structural composition of soil phosphomonoesters as determined by solution P-31 NMR spectroscopy and transverse relaxation (T-2) experiments
    McLaren, TI; Verel, R; Frossard, E
    GEODERMA, 345 31-37; 10.1016/j.geoderma.2019.03.015 JUL 1 2019
  • Predicting Phosphate Release from Sewage Sludge Ash Using an Ion Sink Assay
    Nanzer, S; Oberson, A; Eggenberger, U; Frossard, E
    JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, 48 (3):746-754; 10.2134/jeq2018.11.0394 MAY-JUN 2019
  • Residual phosphorus availability after long-term soil application of organic waste
    Lemming, C; Oberson, A; Magid, J; Bruun, S; Scheutz, C; Frossard, E; Jensen, LS
    AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 270 65-75; 10.1016/j.agee.2018.10.009 FEB 1 2019
  • Zinc Absorption From Agronomically Biofortified Wheat Is Similar to Post-Harvest Fortified Wheat and Is a Substantial Source of Bioavailable Zinc in Humans
    Signorell, C; Zimmermann, MB; Cakmak, I; Wegmuller, R; Zeder, C; Hurrell, R; Aciksoz, SB; Boy, E; Tay, F; Frossard, E; Moretti, D
    JOURNAL OF NUTRITION, 149 (5):840-846; 10.1093/jn/nxy328 MAY 2019
  • The Fate of Zn in Agricultural Soils: A Stable Isotope Approach to Anthropogenic Impact, Soil Formation, and Soil-Plant Cycling
    Imseng, M; Wiggenhauser, M; Muller, M; Keller, A; Frossard, E; Wilcke, W; Bigalke, M
    ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, 53 (8):4140-4149; 10.1021/acs.est.8b03675 APR 16 2019
  • Long-term organic matter application reduces cadmium but not zinc concentrations in wheat
    Gruter, R; Costerousse, B; Mayer, J; Mader, P; Thonar, C; Frossard, E; Schulin, R; Tandy, S
    SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, 669 608-620; 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.112 JUN 15 2019
  • Boron and zinc deficiencies and toxicities and their interactions with other nutrients in soybean roots, leaves, and seeds
    Pawlowski, ML; Helfenstein, J; Frossard, E; Hartman, GL
    JOURNAL OF PLANT NUTRITION, 42 (6):634-649; 10.1080/01904167.2019.1567782 APR 3 2019
  • Pseudomonas protegens CHA0 does not increase phosphorus uptake from P-33 labeled synthetic hydroxyapatite by wheat grown on calcareous soil
    Meyer, G; Maurhofer, M; Frossard, E; Gamper, HA; Mader, P; Meszaros, E; Schonholzer-Mauclaire, L; Symanczik, S; Oberson, A
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 131 217-228; 10.1016/j.soilbio.2019.01.015 APR 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