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Emeritus Professor Stephen Nortcliff


Areas of interest

  • Tropical soils and their management
  • Soil:tree interactions, in particular agroforestry systems
  • The effects of soil acidification on tree root behaviour
  • The use of recycled organic wastes as soil amendments
  • Manufactured soils

Research centres and groups

Environmental Science Research Division


Stephen Nortcliff joined the Department as lecturer in Soil Science in 1978, became a Senior Lecturer in 1991, became Reader in Soil Science in 1994 and was promoted to Professor in 2003 and was Head of Department on a number of occasions, most recently from 2000 to 2006.

He is Adjunct Professor of Soil Science at Clemson University, USA. From 1984 to 2003 he was chair of the Technical Committee of the British Standards Institute addressing Soil Quality and has had a substantial involvement in the ISO technical Committee in this area being a co-author of a number of standards.

From 2003-6 he was actively involved in the development of the European Commission's Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection, co-chairing the Working Group on Soil Organic Matter and participating as a member of the Steering Committee.

He is also involved in the development of a soil strategy for England. In recent years he has worked on the potential beneficial impacts on soils of organic amendments including composts, sewage sludge and anaerobic digestates and the procedures to ensure these materials are suitable for land application. He has a longstanding interest in the manufacture of soils from waste materials.

Since retirement he has been working with a charity ‘Wherever the Need’, which aims to provide sanitation for households and schools in parts of India and Africa using Ecosan toilets. He is advising on the use of composted faeces and urine from these toilets as soil amendments to increase crop yields for smallholder farmers.

From 2002 to 2010 Stephen held the position of Secretary General of the International Union of Soil Sciences, and is now the chair of the IUSS Budget and Finance Committee.


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