Scottish Soil Discussion Group

Scottish Soil Discussion Group

The Scottish Soils Discussion Group was recently re-formed, and is intended to encourage interest and discussion, and to foster ideas and debate in relation to Scottish soils. We aim to provide a forum for people from science, industry and other interest groups to share ideas and discuss problems.  Our activities include the organisation of events and aiding the flow of soil-related information between and within BSSS and other groups.

Group Chair: Dr Matt Aitkenhead (James Hutton Institute) and Dr Sarah Buckingham (Scotland’s Rural College)

Group Secretary: Dr Jennifer Carfrae (Scotland’s Rural College)

Group Treasurer: Dr Nikki Baggerly

Contact SSDG


Latest posts

Workshop 16-17 June: soil health, structure and drainage


Soil health, structure and drainage – taught by experts

This workshop provides training on soil examination and management, particularly in relation to water quality and flood risks. It is aimed at
specialists in catchment management, diffuse pollution, natural flood management, field drainage, water quality soil protection and farm inspections.


CREW recently commissioned 3 reports:

Guest speaker at JHI Aberdeen

On Monday 30th May 2016, John Triantafilis from the University of New South Wales will give a talk on Digital Soil Mapping at field and district scale using proximal and remotely sensed data, including EM induction and gamma-ray spectrometry. The talk will be held at 2pm at JHI's Aberdeen site, with videoconferencing to the Dundee site.

SSDG joint meeting with the Scottish Hydrological Group: Land Management for Soil Preservation and Flood Mitigation

Event date: 
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Event venue: 
SRUC King’s Buildings, Edinburgh, Scotland
Event description: 

This will be a joint meeting between the Scottish Soils Discussion Group and the Scottish Hydrological Group. The meeting will consist of speakers and a discussion session, and lunch will be provided.

Speakers will cover topics including land management advice to farmers to maintain soil and reduce flood risk, practicalities of implementing relevant management options, and ongoing research in reducing flood risk through different approaches.

The discussion session will be focussed on practicalities of informing land managers of their options in relation to land management for soil preservation and flood mitigation.


09.30 Arrival and tea/coffee

10.00 Allan Lilly – “A soil scientist’s view of the HOST (Hydrology of Soil Types) classification”

10.30 Mark Wilkinson – “The role of natural flood management in managing flood runoff”

11.00 Tea/coffee

11.30 Mark Aitken – “Improving land management practices to protect soils and reduce diffuse pollution”

12.00 Paul Hallett – “Slumping in the rain – winter soil structure across Scotland and its physical degradation from extreme weather”

12.30 Lunch

13.30 Discussion session with breakout groups

15.00 Tea/coffee

15.30 Final discussion

16.30 Close

Speaker biographies

Allan Lilly

Dr Allan Lilly has over 35 years’ experience in soil survey, land evaluation and soil hydrology. He was co-responsible for the development of the Hydrology of Soil Types (HOST) classification and for the development of European datasets of soil hydrological properties. He has authored or co-authored over 50 peer reviewed papers.

Mark Wilkinson

Mark is a senior catchment hydrologist at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen. The primary focus of his work is designing and investigating the impact of natural flood management with the main aim to reduce and attenuate flood peaks. He is also interested in the multi-purpose benefits associated with these measures (such as for water quality) using an integrated catchment management approach, as well as in the barriers to uptake of NFM. Mark is currently coordinating research that will provide scientific evidence to inform the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division on mitigating and adapting to flood risk using NFM and green infrastructure techniques. He has worked on a wide variety of case study examples throughout Scotland and Northern England.

Mark Aitken

Mark has been with SEPA for last 12 years – his current job is Principal Policy Officer and he leads SEPA's policy on on land and soil issues.
Prior to that he worked for 12 years with the Scottish Agricultural College and his final position there was Team Leader and Principal Consultant in Land Management.
Prior to that Mark worked for 6 years with ADAS, Ministry of Agriculture as a Soil Science Advisor.

Paul Hallett

Paul Hallett is Professor of Soil Physics at the University of Aberdeen who studies how soil structure forms and changes over time, particularly in relation to farming practice and soil biology.  This talk will present the results of about 850 field measurements of soil structure taken from 4 catchments across Scotland in winter 2015/2016.  We found about 20% of topsoils and 10 % of subsoils to have extremely poor soil structure, with knock-on impacts to water-logging, runoff and erosion.  Included in the study was a resampling of fields before and after the extreme precipitation in December and January, which we found exacerbated soil structure degradation through prolonged wetting. Soil structure degradation and its impact over winter is certainly an important issue that requires mitigation in some areas and is not adequately considered when examining drainage and flood risk.

Lunch is included.

Registration is free for BSSS members, and £20 for non-members.




SEESOIL Early Career Researcher event - careers in soil science

A careers event at Cranfield University on Thurs 19 May is FREE to attend for BSSS members and is open to all . Hear from experts in different sectors and get tips on effective CVs and interviews. Come along and network!
Please register for the event here as places are limited:
Alex Cooke & Jack Hannam

Root-soil/slope Workshop, 25th May

The Root-soil/slope Workshop & ISRR Medal Lecture in Root Research is a 1-day workshop to be held at the James Hutton Institute's Dundee site on Wednesday 25th May from 9.30 onwards. This year, the ISRR Medal Lecture will be given by Prof. Peter Gregory, with short talks and a poster session on any aspect of root-soil interactions.

Special Interest Groups discussion

Dear all,
There has been some discussion in BSSS about forming ‘special interest’ groups that would enable people with interests and skills in specific areas of soil science to discuss things more effectively. Examples of special interest groups could be Soil Physics, Modelling or relating to particular soil types, such as Peatland. If you have any thoughts on this idea or on specific groups that you would like to see, please let me know.
Matt Aitkenhead

UK PlantSci 2016

Event date: 
Monday, April 11, 2016 to Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Event venue: 
John Innes Centre, Norwich
Event description: 

UK PlantSci is the annual conference of the UK Plant Sciences Federation, established to showcase the wealth of plant sciences in the UK.

This meeting provides a unique forum for all those interested in the plant sciences to come together and share their knowledge and expertise. Delegates will have the opportunity to interact with stakeholders, industry and different research communities.

Session topics include:

  • Heterosis and epigenetics
  • Abiotic stress
  • Ecosystem resilience
  • The plant microbiome
  • The molecular basis of signal transduction in plants
  • Plant signalling
  • Future generations


Keynote speakers:

Giles Oldroyd, John Innes Centre, will give the opening keynote presentation

Philip Poole, University of Oxford will present a keynote lecture on The plant microbiome and the importance of the Rhizosphere to plant growth and resilience.


For more details or to register, visit



Welsh Soil Discussion Group meeting

The Welsh Soil Discussion Group have arranged a meeting in Aberystwyth for 26 April 2016. They have thought about meeting formats and are inviting discussion on what members want to see from the WSDG.

There will be a 30 minute update at each meeting on EC soil activities, UK and Welsh policy development, R&D updates, ‘hot topics’ and student / university updates.