Contact Professor Wilfred Otten

Areas of expertise

Background

Wilfred Otten joint Cranfield University in May 2016 as Professor of Soil Biophysics. Before that he worked 9 years at Abertay University in Dundee as Chair of Biophysics of Soil Ecosystems and co-Director of the Scottish Informatics Mathematics Biology and Statistics Centre where he developed innovative methods to characterize soil structure. Prior to that he worked for 16 years in the Epidemiology and Modeling Group of the Department of Plant Sciences at Cambridge University working on invasion and persistence of soil borne fungal plant diseases. He has a degree in Agricultural Engineering with special reference to Soil Science and Fertilizer Use (Wageningen University, The Netherlands) and a PhD degree in Horticultural Sciences, focusing on closed fertigation systems (Wageningen University, The Netherlands). He is the incoming President of the British Society of Soil Science, a member of the NERC Peer-review College, a Fellow of the Institute of Soil Science (F.I. Soil Sci.) and a member of the organizing committee of the World Conference of Soil Science which will be held in Glasgow 2022.

Current activities

Professor Otten has a general research interest in physical, biological and chemical processes in soil. His current and past research has equipped him with multidisciplinary expertise in soil physics, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, epidemiology and mathematical, modelling. He applies this expertise to develop a quantitative, integrative and predictive approach that forwards our understanding of soil processes to enable sustainable management. His main research activities to date include:


  • Biological invasions in heterogeneous crop and soil environments

    This work developed and tested a framework that identifies how soil conditions control the spread of pathogens through soil pores, root systems and plant populations to cause large scale epidemics. The work has consequences for the dynamics of epidemics in natural and managed populations and identified novel ways for assessing soil suppressiveness and efficacy of control.

     

  • Emergent soil properties: critical behaviour in response to environmental change

    This work characterises the response of soil and microbial systems to change. The work challenges the concept that soil are buffered systems and investigates the conditions where relative small environmental changes can lead to sudden and abrupt changes in soil behaviour.

     

  • Novel technologies to characterize porous media

    This research focuses on characterisation of micro habitats in soil driven from a belief that small scale heterogeneities in soil are critical to our understanding of microbial processes. Research techniques include the use of transparent soil, Xray CT to characterise internal pore geometries and root growth, SEM-EDX and biological thin sections.

Clients

Research funding has been obtained from a variety of sources including BBSRC, NERC, British Council, DAAD, and ANR (France) for diverse topics ranging from consultancy, application of research methods to dental research, characterisation of soil microhabitats and soil organic matter degradation.


Publications

Articles In Journals

Conference Papers

  • Otten W, Harris K, Hall D, Young IM, Ritz K & Gilligan CA (2003) Impact of structural heterogeneity on growth of Rhizoctonia solani in soil.. In: BES Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function,, Lancaster, U.K., 1 January 2003.
  • Otten W, Harris K, Young IM, Ritz K & Gilligan CA (2002) Soil structure, fungal exploration and consequences for biocontrol. In: Influence of Abiotic and Biotic Factors on Biocontrol Agents: 7th Meeting of the IOBC/OILB Working Group on Biological Control of Fungal and Bacterial Plant Pathogens, Kusadasi, Turkey, 1 January 2002.
  • Otten W, Harris K, Hall D, Young IM, Ritz K & Gilligan CA (2002) The heterogeneous soil environment: are there preferential pathways for fungal spread?. In: Influence of Abiotic and Biotic Factors on Biocontrol Agents: 7th Meeting of the IOBC/OILB Working Group on Biological Control of Fungal and Bacterial Plant Pathogens, Kusadasi, Turkey, 1 January 2002.
  • Harris K, Ritz K, Young IM, Gilligan CA & Otten W (2001) Effect of soil bulk density on growth and spatial organisation of pathogenic fungi. In: ISME 9 Interactions in the Microbial World, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1 January 2001.