Contact Professor Wilfred Otten
Areas of expertise
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.
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.
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.
Articles In Journals
- Otten W, Haygarth PM & Baggs EM (2018) A profile of 70 years of soil research [Editorial], European Journal of Soil Science, 69 (1) 21-22.
- Houston AN, Otten W, Falconer R, Monga O, Baveye PC & Hapca SM (2017) Quantification of the pore size distribution of soils: assessment of existing software using tomographic and synthetic 3D images, Geoderma, 299 (August) 73-82.
- Schnee LS, Knauth S, Hapca S, Otten W & Eickhorst T (2016) Analysis of physical pore space characteristics of two pyrolytic biochars and potential as microhabitat, Plant and Soil, 408 (1-2) 357-368.
- Roose T, Keyes S, Daly K, Carminati A, Otten W, Vetterlein D & Peth S (2016) Challenges in imaging and predictive modeling of rhizosphere processes, Plant and Soil, 407 (1-2) 9-38.
- Archer N, Otten W, Schmidt S, Bengough A, Shah N & Bonell M (2015) Rainfall infiltration and soil hydrological characteristics below ancient forest, planted forest and grassland in a temperate northern climate, Ecohydrology, 9 (4).
- Hapca S, Baveye P, Wilson C, Lark R & Otten W (2015) Three-dimensional mapping of soil chemical characteristics at micrometric scale by combining 2D SEM-EDX data and 3D X-Ray CT images, PLoS ONE, 10 (9).
- Falconer R, Battaia G, Schmidt S, Baveye P, Chenu C & Otten W (2015) Microscale heterogeneity explains experimental variability and non-linearity in soil organic matter mineralisation, PLoS ONE, 10 (5).
- Downie H, Adu M, Schmidt S, Otten W, Dupuy L, White P & Valentine T (2015) Challenges and opportunities for quantifying roots and rhizosphere interactions through imaging and image analysis, Plant, Cell and Environment, 38 (7) 1213-1232.
- Falconer R, Otten W & White N (2015) Toward modeling the resistance and resilience of "Below-ground" fungal communities: a mechanistic and trait-based approach, Advances in Applied Microbiology, 93 1-44.
- Baveye P, Palfreyman J & Otten W (2014) Research efforts involving several disciplines: Adherence to a clear nomenclature is needed, Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 225 (6).
- Downie H, Valentine T, Otten W, Spiers A & Dupuy L (2014) Transparent soil microcosms allow 3D spatial quantification of soil microbiological processes in vivo, Plant Signaling and Behavior, 9 (10).
- Monga O, Garnier P, Pot V, Coucheney E, Nunan N, Otten W & Chenu C (2014) Simulating microbial degradation of organic matter in a simple porous system using the 3-D diffusion-based model MOSAIC, Biogeosciences, 11 (8) 2201-2209.
- Juarez S, Nunan N, Duday A, Pouteau V, Schmidt S, Hapca S, Falconer R, Otten W & Chenu C (2013) Effects of different soil structures on the decomposition of native and added organic carbon, European Journal of Soil Biology, 58 81-90.
- Wellington E, Boxall A, Cross P, Feil E, Gaze W, Hawkey P, Johnson-Rollings A, Jones D, Lee N, Otten W, Thomas C & Williams A (2013) The role of the natural environment in the emergence of antibiotic resistance in Gram-negative bacteria, Lancet Infectious Diseases, 13 (2) 155-165.
- Cazelles K, Otten W, Baveye P & Falconer R (2013) Soil fungal dynamics: Parameterisation and sensitivity analysis of modelled physiological processes, soil architecture and carbon distribution, Ecological Modelling, 248 165-173.
- Poggi S, Neri F, Deytieux V, Bates A, Otten W, Gilligan C & Bailey D (2013) Percolation-based risk index for pathogen invasion: Application to soilborne disease in propagation systems, Phytopathology, 103 (10) 1012-1019.
- Hapca S, Houston A, Otten W & Baveye P (2013) New local thresholding method for soil images by minimizing grayscale intra-class variance, Vadose Zone Journal, 12 (3).
- Houston A, Schmidt S, Tarquis A, Otten W, Baveye P & Hapca S (2013) Effect of scanning and image reconstruction settings in X-ray computed microtomography on quality and segmentation of 3D soil images, Geoderma, 207-208 (1) 154-165.
- Hallett PD, Karim KH, Bengough AG & Otten W (2013) Biophysics of the vadose zone: From reality to model systems and back again, Vadose Zone Journal, 12 (4).
- Houston A, Otten W, Baveye P & Hapca S (2013) Adaptive-window indicator kriging: A thresholding method for computed tomography images of porous media, Computers and Geosciences, 54 239-248.
- Otten W, Pajor R, Schmidt S, Baveye PC, Hague R & Falconer RE (2012) Combining X-ray CT and 3D printing technology to produce microcosms with replicable, complex pore geometries, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 51 53-55.
- Ludlam JJ, Gibson GJ, Otten W & Gilligan CA (2012) Applications of percolation theory to fungal spread with synergy, Interface, 9 (70) 949-956.
- Perez-Reche FJ, Taraskin SN, Otten W, Viana MP, Costa L & Gilligan CA (2012) Prominent effect of soil network heterogeneity on microbial invasion, Physical Review Letters, 109 (9).
- Falconer RE, Houston AN, Otten W & Baveye PC (2012) Emergent behavior of soil fungal dynamics: Influence of soil architecture and water distribution, Soil Science, 177 (2) 111-119.
- Downie H, Holden N, Otten W, Spiers A, Valentine T & Dupuy L (2012) Transparent soil for imaging the rhizosphere, PLoS ONE, 7 (9).
- Schmidt S, Bengough A, Gregory P, Grinev D & Otten W (2012) Estimating root-soil contact from 3D X-ray microtomographs, European Journal of Soil Science, 63 (6) 776-786.
- Neri FM, Bates A, Fuchtbauer WS, Perez-Reche FJ, Taraskin SN, Otten W, Bailey DJ & Gilligan CA (2011) The effect of heterogeneity on invasion in spatial epidemics: From theory to experimental evidence in a model system, PLoS Computational Biology, 7 (9).
- De Bartolo S, Otten W, Cheng Q & Tarquis AM (2011) Preface "Modeling soil system: Complexity under your feet", Biogeosciences, 8 (11) 3139-3142.
- Kravchenko A, Falconer RE, Grinev D & Otten W (2011) Fungal colonization in soils with different management histories: Modeling growth in three-dimensional pore volumes, Ecological Applications, 21 (4) 1202-1210.
- Baveye PC, Rangel D, Jacobson AR, Laba M, Darnault C, Otten W, Radulovich R & Camargo FAO (2011) From dust bowl to dust bowl: Soils are still very much a frontier of science, Soil Science Society of America Journal, 75 (6) 2037-2048.
- Koza A, Moshynets O, Otten W & Spiers AJ (2011) Environmental modification and niche construction: Developing O2 gradients drive the evolution of the Wrinkly Spreader, The ISME Journal, 5 (4) 665-673.
- Lubbers IM, Brussaard L, Otten W & Van Groenigen JW (2011) Earthworm-induced N mineralization in fertilized grassland increases both N2O emission and crop-N uptake, European Journal of Soil Science, 62 (1) 152-161.
- Hapca SM, Wang ZX, Otten W, Wilson C & Baveye PC (2011) Automated statistical method to align 2D chemical maps with 3D X-ray computed micro-tomographic images of soils, Geoderma, 164 (3-4) 146-154.
- Lin H, Fluhler H, Otten W & Vogel HJ (2010) Editorial. Soil architecture and preferential flow across scales, Journal of Hydrology, 393 (1-2) 1-2.
- Baveye PC, Laba M, Otten W, Bouckaert L, Dello Sterpaio P, Goswami RR, Grinev D, Houston A, Hu Y, Liu J, Mooney S, Pajor R, Sleutel S, Tarquis A, Wang W, Wei Q & Sezgin M (2010) Observer-dependent variability of the thresholding step in the quantitative analysis of soil images and X-ray microtomography data, Geoderma, 157 (1-2) 51-63.
- Pajor R, Falconer R, Hapca S & Otten W (2010) Modelling and quantifying the effect of heterogeneity in soil physical conditions on fungal growth, Biogeosciences, 7 (11) 3731-3740.
- Jeger MJ, Lamour A, Gilligan CA & Otten W (2008) A fungal growth model fitted to carbon-limited dynamics of Rhizoctonia solani, New Phytologist, 178 (3) 625-633.
- Young IM, Crawford JW, Nunan N, Otten W & Spiers A (2008) Microbial distribution in soils: Physics and scaling, Advances in Agronomy, 100 81-121.
- Cook AR, Otten W, Marion G, Gibson GJ & Gilligan CA (2007) Estimation of multiple transmission rates for epidemics in heterogeneous populations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104 (51) 20392-20397.
- Otten W & Gilligan CA (2006) Soil structure and soil-borne diseases: using epidemiological concepts to scale from fungal spread to plant epidemics, European Journal of Soil Science, 57 (1) 26-37.
- Gibson GJ, Otten W, Filipe JAN, Cook A, Marion G & Gilligan CA (2006) Bayesian estimation for percolation models of disease spread in plant populations, Statistics and Computing, 16 (4) 391-402.
- Otten W, Filipe JAN & Gilligan CA (2005) Damping-off epidemics, contact structure, and disease transmission in mixed-species populations, Ecology, 86 (7) 1948-1957.
- Otten W, Harris K, Young IM, Ritz K & Gilligan CA (2004) Preferential spread of the pathogenic fungus Rhizoctonia solani through structured soil, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 36 (2) 203-210.
- Filipe JAN, Otten W, Gibson GJ & Gilligan CA (2004) Inferring the dynamics of a spatial epidemic from time-series data, Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 66 (2) 373-391.
- Otten W, Bailey DJ & Gilligan CA (2004) Empirical evidence of spatial thresholds to control invasion of fungal parasites and saprotrophs, New Phytologist, 163 (1) 125-132.
- Otten W, Filipe JAN & Gilligan CA (2004) An empirical method to estimate the effect of soil on the rate for transmission of damping-off disease, New Phytologist, 162 (1) 231-238.
- Otten W, Filipe JAN, Bailey DJ & Gilligan CA (2003) Quantification and analysis of transmission rates for soilborne epidemics, Ecology, 84 (12) 3232-3239.
- Harris K, Young IM, Gilligan CA, Otten W & Ritz K (2003) Effect of bulk density on the spatial organisation of the fungus Rhizoctonia solani in soil., FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 44 (1) 45-56.
- Harris K, Crabb D, Young IM, Weaver H, Gilligan CA, Otten W & Ritz K (2002) In situ visualisation of fungi in soil thin sections: problems with crystallisation of the fluorochrome FB 28 (Calcofluor M2R) and improved staining by SCRI Renaissance 2200., Mycological Research, 106 (Part 3) 293-297.
- Otten W, Gilligan CA, Hall D, Harris K, Ritz K & Young IM (2001) Soil physics, fungal epidemiology and the spread of Rhizoctonia solani., New Phytologist, 151 (2) 459-468.
- Bailey DJ, Otten W & Gilligan CA (2000) Saprotrophic invasion by the soil-borne fungal plant pathogen Rhizoctonia solani and percolation thresholds, New Phytologist, 146 (3) 535-544.
- Otten W, Watts CW & Longstaff D (2000) Method to quantify short-term dynamics in carbon dioxide emission following controlled soil deformation, Soil Science Society of America Journal, 64 (5) 1740-1748.
- Otten W, Gilligan CA, Watts CW, Dexter AR & Hall D (1999) Continuity of air-filled pores and invasion thresholds for a soil-borne fungal plant pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani, Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 31 (13) 1803-1810.
- Otten W & Gilligan CA (1998) Effect of physical conditions on the spatial and temporal dynamics of the soil-borne fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, New Phytologist, 138 (4) 629-637.
- Otten W, Gilligan CA & Thornton CR (1997) Quantification of fungal antigens in soil with a monoclonal antibody-based ELISA: Analysis and reduction of soil-specific bias, Phytopathology, 87 (7) 730-736.
- 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.