Contact Dr Sarah De Baets

Areas of expertise

  • Carbon, Climate and Risk
  • Plants and microbes
  • Soil
  • Sustainable Land Systems
  • Water Science and Engineering


I am a physical geographer (M.Sc) and obtained a PhD degree at the University of Leuven (Belgium). My research focusses on the effects of plant roots on the resistance of soils to erosion and the selection of suitable species for erosion control, on the vulnerability and recovery of soils following disturbances, on the fundamentals of root-soil cohesion and on how plant roots can be used to bio-engineer soil and make agricultural systems more sustainable.

I study interactions between vegetation (with special focus on plant roots!) and related soil quality properties (e.g. soil cohesion, soil fertility) in relation to soil degradation processes and disturbances (e.g. erosion, fire, compaction).

Current activities

Whereas the effects of the aboveground biomass on soil degradation processes are quite well understood, the effects of plant roots on the vulnerability and recovery of soils to and following disturbances are much less understood. My research tries to contribute to better understanding the fundamentals of root-soil cohesion and its implications for restoration and sustainable land management.

Current projects:

- BBSRC New Investigator grant BB/R003440/1, £532.5k, Feb 2018-Jan 2021: `Using roots to bio-engineer soil` (PI).

- STARS PhD student project ` Resilience of novel grass species and mixtures for erosion control in grassed waterways designs`, Sep 2017- Feb 2021.

- AHDB-Cranfield Industrial Partnership PhD studentship, FV450a: Sustainable soil management for stand longevity and yield optimization in asparagus £48.5, March 2018-Feb 2021.

- NIAB- Felix Cobbold and Chadacre Agricultrual Trust - Cranfield Industrial Partnership PhD student project: `Quantifying and alleviating deep seated compaction in arable soils`, £54.75





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