School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

Staff Profile

Dr Julia Cooper

Lecturer in Soil Science



BSc Agr 1986 University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Major: Soil Science, Minor: International Agriculture
MSc Biology 1994 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
PhD Biology 2007 Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Research Interests

My main areas of research interest are soil C and N cycling in agroecosytems, with particular emphasis on: reductions in N losses via leaching and denitrification; greenhouse gas emissions; and C sequestration. I have considerable experience using a range of techniques to study soil C and N processes. These include basic nutrient extractions, enzyme assays, soil C and N mineralization incubations, and nucleic acid techniques to study soil biodiversity.

Other Expertise

I work in the area of organic farming and sustainability and have practical and research experience in organic sources of plant nutrients including compost, manure, green manures and cover crops.

Current Work

I am coordinator of NUE-CROPS, which is a large integrating, research project related to the identification of genetic markers for improved nutrient use efficiency in wheat, potatoes, maize and oilseed rape ( At Nafferton farm we have trials on wheat and potatoes as part of this project.  This project will finish at the end of April 2014. 
Part of the NUE-CROPS project involves detailed studies of C and N cycling processes in the rhizosphere of wheat, and investigations of genotypic effects on rhizosphere microbiology (especially diversity and activity of fungi and bacteria).

I am the Newcastle University lead researcher on the TILMAN project ( which is a project that investigates the challenges associated with implementing reduced tillage methods in organic farming systems.  This is funded by the EU CORE ORGANIC II programme and runs until July 2014. 

I am also involved in another CORE ORGANIC programme: IMPROVE-P, which is a new project to investigate opportunities to recycle P more effectively in organic farming systems and looks at alternative P sources as well.  This project started in June 2013 and will run up to the end of May 2016.  We will be running field trials with wheat and potatoes in this project in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Future Research

In the future I will continue to develop my research into the effects of soil management on soil-plant interactions, especially processes that control the cycling of C and N.  I have two new CASE studentship projects (one started autumn 2013 and a second one for autumn 2014). Both of these focus on the use of Brassicas as biofumigating crops for the control of potato cyst nematodes and are conducted in collaboration with researchers at Science Advice for Scottish Agriculture in Edinburgh.   I also supervise a student based at Scottish Rural University College in Edinburgh, who will study the soil food web in our long-term field trial plots and investigate the links between foodweb structure and incidence of pests. 

Research Roles

My research roles include the management of the research activities described above, as well as preparation of future grant applications, statistical analysis of data and writing and editing manuscripts for publication (my own, as well as those of other members of our research group). I am also actively involved in postgraduate student supervision.

Postgraduate Supervision

I currently supervise:

Mftah Almadni - Impacts of agriculture management on risks of nitrate leaching in crop rotations with potatoes and cereals (2010-2014)

Guillaume Barral-Baron - Investigation and validation of winter barley yield and nitrogen use efficiency QTLs (2010-2014)

Jodi Handley-Bell - Genotype-soil interactions regulating nutrient use efficiency in winter wheat (2010-2016)

Claire Wood - Working towards and understanding of the inhibitory effects of plant derived isothiocyanate compounds on the potato cyst nematodes (PCN) (2013-2017)

Celine Delabre - title to be confirmed (2013-2017)


Undergraduate Teaching

I co-teach ACE1015 Soil Management for Crop and Animal Production with Dr. Robert Shiel.

Postgraduate Teaching

I lead the postgraduate module ACE8062 in Soil Management in Ecological Farming Systems.