Soil scientist honoured in ‘Landmark’ publication

Posted on January 19, 2012

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Dr Tisdall, right, with PhD student Karma Dorji

A La Trobe University soil scientist has been honoured in the latest issue of a leading publication, the European Journal of Soil Science, for her enormous contribution to understanding how soils are formed and stabilised.

Dr Judith Tisdall was recognised for the ‘huge relevance’ of her work to modern farming techniques and many critical environmental issues such as water quality, pollution, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions.

The just-released February issue of the journal has chosen joint research carried out in the 1980s by Dr Tisdall and Professor Malcolm Oades from Adelaide to launch a ‘Landmark’ series of the most influential scientific papers that have appeared in its pages over the last sixty years.

Dr Tisdall, a senior lecturer in soil science, graduated from La Trobe with a Masters degree in Agricultural Science in 1977. She says the paper built on research in the two decades leading up to the 1980s when Australian farming land experienced massive wind and water erosion.

La Trobe Dean of Science, Technology and Engineering, Professor Brian McGaw, congratulated Dr Tisdall on the widespread impact of her research.

He said it was wonderful international recognition for Dr Tisdall personally, as well as for La Trobe agricultural science research and education at a time when the new $288  million AgriBio Centre was about to be opened on the University’s Melbourne campus.

Soil – one of our most precious resources

Paper spawned many new concepts

In its pre-amble, the European Journal of Soil Science says the paper by Tisdall and Oades was unique because it outlined the first model of how aggregate formation and stabilization in soils were affected by chemical, microbial, plant, animal and physical processes.

‘It emphasized the importance of biota – especially roots, bacteria, fungal hyphae and earthworms –  and the materials they produced for aggregate dynamics in soils that are mainly stabilized by organic matter.

‘These concepts embody a holistic perspective of aggregation that is one of the most significant theoretical advances of the last fifty years towards our understanding of the interactions between aggregates and soil organic matter dynamics.
 
‘The seminal paper by Tisdall and Oades … spawned many new concepts related to aggregation and soil structure,’ the journal concluded.  ‘We are confident (the work) will continue to inspire future scientists to study soil – one of our most precious resources.’    

Dr Tisdall says the scientific paper was published in Chinese, in Advances of Soil Science, Nanjing, in 1995.

It has been quoted in research on topics such as carbon sequestration, greenhouse emissions, mathematical modelling of organic matter, dynamics of soil aggregation, food webs, indicators of soil quality and sustainable land use.