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 interprise, 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 agricutural practices are holistically assesed.


Recent Publications

  • 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
  • Resilience Assessment of Swiss Farming Systems: Piloting the SHARP-Tool in Vaud
    Diserens, F; Choptiany, JMH; Barjolle, D; Graeub, B; Durand, C; Six, J
    SUSTAINABILITY, 10 (12):10.3390/su10124435 DEC 2018
  • Social network to inform and prevent the spread of cocoa swollen shoot virus disease in Ghana
    Andres, C; Hoerler, R; Home, R; Joerin, J; Dzahini-Obiatey, HK; Ameyaw, GA; Domfeh, O; Blaser, WJ; Gattinger, A; Offei, SK; Six, J
    AGRONOMY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, 38 (5):10.1007/s13593-018-0538-y OCT 2018
  • Mapping Crop Calendar Events and Phenology-Related Metrics at the Parcel Level by Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA) of MODIS-NDVI Time-Series: A Case Study in Central California
    de Castro, AI; Six, J; Plant, RE; Pena, JM
    REMOTE SENSING, 10 (11):10.3390/rs10111745 NOV 2018
  • Isolating organic carbon fractions with varying turnover rates in temperate agricultural soils - A comprehensive method comparison
    Poeplau, C; Don, A; Six, J; Kaiser, M; Benbi, D; Chenu, C; Cotrufo, MF; Derrien, D; Gioacchini, P; Grand, S; Gregorich, E; Griepentrog, M; Gunina, A; Haddix, M; Kuzyakov, Y; Kuhnel, A; Macdonald, LM; Soong, J; Trigalet, S; Vermeire, ML; Rovira, P; van Wesemael, B; Wiesmeier, M; Yeasmin, S; Yevdokimov, I; Nieder, R
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 125 10-26; 10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.06.025 OCT 2018
  • Legacy effects of long-term nitrogen fertilizer application on the fate of nitrogen fertilizer inputs in continuous maize
    Poffenbarger, HJ; Sawyer, JE; Barker, DW; Olk, DC; Six, J; Castellano, MJ
    AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 265 544-555; 10.1016/j.agee.2018.07.005 OCT 1 2018
  • Potentials to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from Swiss agriculture
    Necpalova, M; Lee, J; Skinner, C; Buchi, L; Wittwer, R; Gattinger, A; van der Heijden, M; Mader, P; Charles, R; Berner, A; Mayer, J; Six, J
    AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 265 84-102; 10.1016/j.agee.2018.05.013 OCT 1 2018
  • Links among warming, carbon and microbial dynamics mediated by soil mineral weathering
    Doetterl, S; Berhe, AA; Arnold, C; Bode, S; Fiener, P; Finke, P; Fuchslueger, L; Griepentrog, M; Harden, JW; Nadeu, E; Schnecker, J; Six, J; Trumbore, S; Van Oost, K; Vogel, C; Boeckx, P
    NATURE GEOSCIENCE, 11 (8):589-+; 10.1038/s41561-018-0168-7 AUG 2018
  • Climate-smart sustainable agriculture in low-to-intermediate shade agroforests.
    Blaser WJ, Oppong J, Hart SP, Landolt J, Yeboah E, Six J.
    Nature Sustainability, volume 1, pages 234–239 (2018). doi: 10.1038/s41893-018-0062-8
  • Assessing Short-Term Impacts of Management Practices on N2O Emissions From Diverse Mediterranean Agricultural Ecosystems Using a Biogeochemical Model
    Deng, J; Li, CS; Burger, M; Horwath, WR; Smart, D; Six, J; Guo, L; Salas, W; Frolking, S
    JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-BIOGEOSCIENCES, 123 (5):1557-1571; 10.1029/2017JG004260 MAY 2018
  • Role of Soil Erosion in Biogeochemical Cycling of Essential Elements: Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus
    Berhe AA; Barnes RT; Six J; Marin-Spiotta E; Jeanloz R; Freeman KH (Ed.)
    ANNUAL REVIEW OF EARTH AND PLANETARY SCIENCES, VOL 46, 46 521-548; 10.1146/annurev-earth-082517-010018 2018
  • Improvement of soil structure through organic crop management, conservation tillage and grass-clover ley
    Puerta, VL; Pereira, EIP; Wittwer, R; van der Heijden, M; Six, J
    SOIL & TILLAGE RESEARCH, 180 1-9; 10.1016/j.still.2018.02.007 AUG 2018
  • Farmer perceptions of plant-soil interactions can affect adoption of sustainable management practices in cocoa agroforests: a case study from Southeast Sulawesi
    Wartenberg, Ariani C.; Blaser, Wilma J.; Janudianto, K. N.; Roshetko, James M.; van Noordwijk, Meine; Six, Johan
    ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY, 23 (1):10.5751/ES-09921-230118 2018
  • Nitrification and coupled nitrification-denitrification at shallow depths are responsible for early season N2O emissions under alternate wetting and drying management in an Italian rice paddy system
    Verhoeven, Elizabeth; Decock, Charlotte; Barthel, Matti; Bertora, Chiara; Sacco, Dario; Romani, Marco; Sleutel, Steven; Six, Johan
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 120 58-69; 10.1016/j.soilbio.2018.01.032 MAY 2018
  • Assessing the degree of localness of food value chains
    Schmitt, Emilia; Dominique, Barjolle; Six, Johan
    AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS, 42 (5):573-598; 10.1080/21683565.2017.1365800 2018
  • Identifying viable nutrient management interventions at the farm level: The case of smallholder organic Basmati rice production in Uttarakhand, India 
    Ditzler, L.; Breland, T. A.; Francis, C.; Chakraborty, M.; Singh, D. K.; Srivastava, A.; Eyhorn, F.; Groot, J. C. J.; Six, J.; Decock, C.
    AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS, 161: 61-71  10.1016/j.agsy.2017.12.010 MAR 2018
  • The century experiment: the first twenty years of UC Davis' Mediterranean agroecological experiment 
    Wolf, Kristina M.; Torbert, Emma E.; Bryant, Dennis; et al. 
    ECOLOGY, 99 (2): 503-503 10.1002/ecy.2105  FEB 2018
  • Development of a field-deployable method for simultaneous, real-time measurements of the four most abundant N2O isotopocules 
    Ibraim, Erkan; Harris, Eliza; Eyer, Simon; et al. 
    ISOTOPES IN ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH STUDIES 54 (1):1-15 10.1080/10256016.2017.1345902  2018
  • Phosphorus cycling within soil aggregate fractions of a highly weathered tropical soil: A conceptual model 
    Garland, Gina; Bunemann, E. K.; Oberson, A.; Frossard, E; Snapp, S; Chikowo, R; Six, J
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 116: 91-98 10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.10.007 JAN 2018
  • Agroforestry systems can mitigate the severity of cocoa swollen shoot virus disease 
    Andres, Christian; Blaser, Wilma J.; Dzahini-Obiatey, Henry K.; et al. 
    AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 252: 83-92  10.1016/j.agee.2017.09.031 JAN 15 2018

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