Elucidating and promoting sustainable agriculture across the world

Sustainable Agroecosystems

In order to understand sustainable agriculture and implement it, we need to elucidate the feedbacks between ecosystem management options (e.g., tillage, cover cropping, green manuring, sustainable farming, and grazing), global change (e.g., elevated CO2 and climate change), and biogeochemical cycling.

Hence, we need to unravel the complex interactions between plants (e.g., diversity, nutrient uptake, and root growth), soil (e.g, structure, texture and mineralogy), soil biota (e.g. fungi, bacteria, and earthworms), and the carbon and nitrogen cycles in agroecosystems across spatial and temporal scales. Furthermore, since agriculture is an human enterprise, not only biophysical aspects, but also social and economic dimensions of sustainable agriculture needed to be elucidated. One approach to do so is bio-economic modeling through which the sustainability of agricultural practices are holistically assessed.


Recent Publications

  • Combining organic and mineral fertilizers as a climate-smart integrated soil fertility management practice in sub-Saharan Africa: A meta-analysis
    Gram, Gil; Roobroeck, Dries; Pypers, Pieter; Six, Johan; Merckx, Roel; et al.
    Plos One   DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239552  SEP 24 2020
  • Reduction of nitrogen pollution in agriculture through nitrogen surplus quotas: an analysis of individual marginal abatement cost and different quota allocation schemes using an agent-based model
    Schmidt, Alena; Mack, Gabriele; Mann, Stefan; Six, Johan
    Journal Of Environmental Planning And Management  DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2020.1823344  NOV 2020
  • Linking soil engineers, structural stability, and organic matter allocation to unravel soil carbon responses to land-use change
    Franco, Andre L. C.; Cherubin, Mauricio R.; Cerri, Carlos E. P.; Six, Johan; Wall, Diana H.; et al.
    Soil Biology & Biochemistry  DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2020.107998 Published: NOV 2020
  • Du Feu a l'Eau: Source and Flux of Dissolved Black Carbon From the Congo River
    Drake, Travis W.; Wagner, Sasha; Stubbins, Aron; Wabakanghanzi, Jose N.; Dinga, Jean Bienvenu; et al.
    Global Biogeochemical Cycles   DOI: 10.1029/2020GB006560  Published: AUG 2020
  • Soil fertility andTheobroma cacaogrowth and productivity under commonly intercropped shade-tree species in Sulawesi, Indonesia
    Wartenberg, Ariani C.; Blaser, Wilma J.; Roshetko, James M.; Van Noordwijk, Meine; Six, Johan
    Plant And Soil  DOI: 10.1007/s11104-018-03921-x  Published: AUG 2020
  • What can we learn from N2O isotope data? - Analytics, processes and modelling
    Yu, Longfei; Harris, Eliza; Lewicka-Szczebak, Dominika; Barthel, Matti; Blomberg, Margareta R. A.; et al.
    Rapid Communications In Mass Spectrometry  DOI: 10.1002/rcm.8858  Published: OCT 30 2020
  • Control of Fusarium graminearum in Wheat With Mustard-Based Botanicals: From in vitro to in planta
    Drakopoulos, Dimitrios; Meca, Giuseppe; Torrijos, Raquel; Marty, Anja; Kaegi, Andreas; et al.
    Frontiers In Microbiology  DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01595  Published: JUL 21 2020
  • Denitrification Is the Main Nitrous Oxide Source Process in Grassland Soils According to Quasi-Continuous Isotopocule Analysis and Biogeochemical Modeling
    Ibraim, Erkan; Denk, Tobias; Wolf, Benjamin; Barthel, Matti; Gasche, Rainer; et al.
    Global Biogeochemical Cycles  DOI: 10.1029/2019GB006505 Published: JUN 2020
  • The soil organic carbon stabilization potential of old and new wheat cultivars: a (CO2)-C-13-labeling study
    Van de Broek, Marijn; Ghiasi, Shiva; Decock, Charlotte; Hund, Andreas; Abiven, Samuel; et al.
    Biogeosciences  DOI: 10.5194/bg-17-2971-2020 Published: JUN 11 2020
  • Simulation of a regional soil nitrogen balance in Swiss croplands
    Lee, Juhwan; Necpalova, Magdalena; Calitri, Francesca; Six, Johan
    Nutrient Cycling In Agroecosystems  DOI: 10.1007/s10705-020-10078-6 Published: SEP 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
  • N2O isotopocule measurements using laser spectroscopy: analyzer characterization and intercomparison
    Harris, Stephen J.; Liisberg, Jesper; Xia, Longlong; Wei, Jing; Zeyer, Kerstin; et al.
    Atmospheric Measurement Techniques   DOI: 10.5194/amt-13-2797-2020  Published: MAY 28 2020
  • Biophysical potential of organic cropping practices as a sustainable alternative in Switzerland
    Lee, Juhwan; Necpalova, Magdalena; Six, Johan
    Agricultural Systems ‏ 181  DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2020.102822  MAY 2020
  • Soil greenhouse gas budget of two intensively managed grazing systems
    Voglmeier, Karl; Six, Johan; Jocher, Markus; Ammann, Christof
    Agricultural and Forest Metereology ‏ 287DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2020.107960 ‏ JUN 15 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 ‏ 177  DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2019.102694   ‏ JAN 2020
  • Differential effects of wetting and drying on soil CO2 concentration and flux in near-surface vs. deep soil layers
    Min, Kyungjin; Berhe, Asmeret Asefaw; Khoi, Chau Minh; van Asperen, Hella; Gillabel, Jeroen; et al.
    Biogeochemistry  DOI: 10.1007/s10533-020-00658-7, APR 2020
  • Whole-profile soil organic matter content, composition, and stability under cropping systems that differ in belowground inputs
    Poffenbarger, Hanna J.; Olk, Daniel C.; Cambardella, Cynthia; Kersey, Jordan; Liebman, Matt; et al.
    Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 291 Article Number: UNSP 106810 DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2019.106810 APR 1 2020
  • Land-use controls on carbon biogeochemistry in lowland streams of the Congo Basin
    Drake, Travis W.; Podgorski, David C.; Dinga, Bienvenu; Chanton, Jeffrey P.; Six, Johan; et al.
    Global Change Biology 26(3): 1374-1389 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14889 MAR 2020
  • Prevention of Fusarium head blight infection and mycotoxins in wheat with cut-and-carry biofumigation and botanicals
    Drakopoulos, Dimitrios; Kagi, Andreas; Gimeno, Alejandro; Six, Johan; Jenny, Eveline; et al.
    Field Crops Research,  DOI: 10.1016/j.fcr.2019.107681, Published: FEB 1 2020
  • Comparable bacterial-mediated nitrogen supply and losses under organic reduced tillage and conventional intensive tillage
    Puerta, Viviana Loaiza; Six, Johan; Wittwer, Raphael; van der Heijden, Marcel; Pereira, Engil Isadora Pujol
    European Journal Of Soil Biology,  DOI: 10.1016/j.ejsobi.2019.103121, NOV-DEC 2019
  • Use of Botanicals to Suppress Different Stages of the Life Cycle of Fusarium graminearum
    Drakopoulos, Dimitrios; Luz, Carlos; Torrijos, Raquel; Meca, Giuseppe; Weber, Pascal; et al.
    Phytopathology,  DOI: 10.1094/PHYTO-06-19-0205-R, DEC 2019
  • Soil carbon storage informed by particulate and mineral-associated organic matter
    Cotrufo, M. Francesca; Ranalli, Maria Giovanna; Haddix, Michelle L.; Six, Johan; Lugato, Emanuele
    Nature Geoscience,  DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0484-6  DEC 2019
  • Assessing the Climate Regulation Potential of Agricultural Soils Using a Decision Support Tool Adapted to Stakeholders' Needs and Possibilities
    Van de Broek, M; Henriksen, CB; Ghaley, BB; Lugato, E; Kuzmanovski, V; Trajanov, A; Debeljak, M; Sanden, T; Spiegel, H; Decock, C; Creamer, R; Six, J
    FRONTIERS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE, 7 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00131 SEP 11 2019
  • Potential of indicators to unveil the hidden side of cropping system classification: Differences and similarities in cropping practices between conventional, no-till and organic systems
    Buchi, L; Georges, F; Walder, F; Banerjee, S; Keller, T; Six, J; van der Heijden, M; Charles, R
    EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF AGRONOMY, 109 10.1016/j.eja.2019.125920 SEP 2019
  • Attribution of N2O sources in a grassland soil with laser spectroscopy based isotopocule analysis
    Ibraim, E; Wolf, B; Harris, E; Gasche, R; Wei, J; Yu, LF; Kiese, R; Eggleston, S; Butterbach-Bahl, K; Zeeman, M; Tuzson, B; Emmenegger, L; Six, J; Henne, S; Mohn, J
    BIOGEOSCIENCES, 16 (16):3247-3266; 10.5194/bg-16-3247-2019 AUG 29 2019
  • Applying the Aboveground-Belowground Interaction Concept in Agriculture: Spatio-Temporal Scales Matter
    Veen, GF; Wubs, ERJ; Bardgett, RD; Barrios, E; Bradford, MA; Carvalho, S; De Deyn, GB; de Vries, FT; Giller, KE; Kleijn, D; Landis, DA; Rossing, WAH; Schrama, M; Six, J; Struik, PC; van Gils, S; Wiskerke, JSC; van der Putten, WH; Vet, LEM
    FRONTIERS IN ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 7 10.3389/fevo.2019.00300 AUG 14 2019
  • Mobilization of aged and biolabile soil carbon by tropical deforestation
    Drake, TW; Van Oost, K; Barthel, M; Bauters, M; Hoyt, AM; Podgorski, DC; Six, J; Boeckx, P; Trumbore, SE; Ntaboba, LC; Spencer, RGM
    NATURE GEOSCIENCE, 12 (7):541-+; 10.1038/s41561-019-0384-9 JUL 2019
  • Nitrified Human Urine as a Sustainable and Socially Acceptable Fertilizer: An Analysis of Consumer Acceptance in Msunduzi, South Africa
    Wilde, BC; Lieberherr, E; Okem, AE; Six, J
    SUSTAINABILITY, 11 (9):10.3390/su11092456 MAY 1 2019
  • Distinct responses of soil fungal and bacterial nitrate immobilization to land conversion from forest to agriculture
    Li, XB; He, HB; Zhang, XD; Yan, XY; Six, J; Cai, ZC; Barthel, M; Zhang, JB; Necpalova, M; Ma, QQ; Li, ZA
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 134 81-89; 10.1016/j.soilbio.2019.03.023 JUL 2019
  • Long-term recovery of the functional community assembly and carbon pools in an African tropical forest succession
    Bauters, M; Vercleyen, O; Vanlauwe, B; Six, J; Bonyoma, B; Badjoko, H; Hubau, W; Hoyt, A; Boudin, M; Verbeeck, H; Boeckx, P
    BIOTROPICA, 51 (3):319-329; 10.1111/btp.12647 MAY 2019
  • Earthworm Lumbricus terrestris mediated redistribution of C and N into large macroaggregate-occluded soil fractions in fine-textured no-till soils
    Sheehy, J; Nuutinen, V; Six, J; Palojarvi, A; Knuutila, O; Kaseva, J; Regina, K
    APPLIED SOIL ECOLOGY, 140 26-34; 10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.04.004 AUG 2019
  • Grazing-related nitrous oxide emissions: from patch scale to field scale
    Voglmeier, K; Six, J; Jocher, M; Ammann, C
    BIOGEOSCIENCES, 16 (8):1685-1703; 10.5194/bg-16-1685-2019 APR 25 2019
  • Soil microhabitats mediate microbial response in organic reduced tillage cropping
    Puerta, VL; Pereira, EP; Huang, P; Wittwer, R; Six, J
    APPLIED SOIL ECOLOGY, 137 39-48; 10.1016/j.apsoil.2019.01.009 MAY 2019
  • On-farm study reveals positive relationship between gas transport capacity and organic carbon content in arable soil
    Colombi, T; Walder, F; Buchi, L; Sommer, M; Liu, KX; Six, J; van der Heijden, MGA; Charles, R; Keller, T
    SOIL, 5 (1):91-105; 10.5194/soil-5-91-2019 MAR 19 2019
  • Contrasting nitrogen fluxes in African tropical forests of the Congo Basin
    Bauters, M; Verbeeck, H; Rutting, T; Barthel, M; Mujinya, BB; Bamba, F; Bode, S; Boyemba, F; Bulonza, E; Carlsson, E; Eriksson, L; Makelele, I; Six, J; Ntaboba, LC; Boeckx, P
    ECOLOGICAL MONOGRAPHS, 89 (1):10.1002/ecm.1342 FEB 2019
  • Conservation tillage and organic farming reduce soil erosion
    Seitz, S; Goebes, P; Puerta, VL; Pereira, EIP; Wittwer, R; Six, J; van der Heijden, MGA; Scholten, T
    AGRONOMY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, 39 (1):10.1007/s13593-018-0545-z FEB 2019
  • Early season N2O emissions under variable water management in rice systems: source-partitioning emissions using isotope ratios along a depth profile
    Verhoeven, E; Barthel, M; Yu, LF; Celi, L; Said-Pullicino, D; Sleutel, S; Lewicka-Szczebak, D; Six, J; Decock, C
    BIOGEOSCIENCES, 16 (2):383-408; 10.5194/bg-16-383-2019 JAN 24 2019
Johan Six

Prof. Dr. Johan Six
ETH Zurich
Institute of Agricultural Sciences
8092 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 632 84 83

Research topics

  • Sustainable agriculture across the world
  • Carbon cycling in terrestrial and aquatic systems
  • Soil fertility management
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture
  • Global change effects terrestrial ecosystem functioning
  • Bioeconomic modeling


  • Soil microbiology
  • Economic and social aspects of sustainable agriculture
  • Plant-soil interactions
  • Nutrient use efficiency