Professor Paul Hallett

Professor Paul Hallett
Professor Paul Hallett

Professor Paul Hallett

Chair in Soil Physics


Room 2.23, Cruickshank Building, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen Aberdeen, AB24 3UU


Previous Employment

2011  -  2013

Head of Sustainable Production Theme, The James Hutton Institute

2008  -  2011

Head of Plant-Soil Interface Group, Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI)

1997  -  2008

Research Scientist, SCRI

1995  -  1997

Postdoctoral Scientist, Silsoe Research Institute, Silsoe, UK


BSc Agriculture, University of Guelph (1992)

PhD Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham (1996)

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

Postgraduate Research Coordinator, School of Biological Sciences

Member of Senate

MSc Soil Science, Course Coordinator


External Memberships

NERC Peer Review College, Core Panel Member

Technical Editor, SOIL

Associate Editor, European Journal of Soil Science

Co-Editor, Journal of Hydrology and Hydromechanics


Research Overview

I am a Soil Physicist working on solutions to food and environmental security, mainly focussed on the interactions between plants, microorganisms and the physical behaviour of soil. My work spans from understanding the fundamental processes driving changes in soil physical properties by biology, through to applied research examining soil degradation and the underlying causes.  Recent and current projects study the capacity of different plant root traits to physically engineer soil, crop selection impact on hydrological cycling in southern China, the use of vegetation to mechanically stabilise engineered slopes, soil physical impacts on nitrogen fertiliser use efficiency in Brazil and the better use of organic resources in Ethiopia to improve soils and their capacity to produce food. This research is funded by a number of research councils.

Research Areas

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Research Specialisms

  • Environmental Sciences
  • Agriculture
  • Soil Science

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

My current research has four main areas: (1) engineering of the soil physical environment by plant roots, (2) impact of soil physical conditions on microbial processes, pollutant transport and root growth, (3) biophysical resilience of soil to stresses and (4) management of soil physical conditions for crop productivity.  It is underpinned by a cross-disciplinary team of staff and collaborators that includes plant scientists, soil biologists, geotechnical engineers, chemists and hydrologists.  The research uses a range of approaches including micron scale non-invasive imaging up to larger scale critical zone observatories.

Research Group


Jaime Buckingham - Soil Physics Research Technician

XRay CT Manager

Dr Stewart Chalmers

Postdoctoral Scientists

Dr Maria Marin - NERC Signals in the Soil

Research Students

Annette Raffan, Do plant communities manipulate soil for drought resistance? 2020-2024. QUADRAT DTP. Co-supervised by Prof. Mark Emmerson (QUB) and Dr. Ken Loades (JHI)

Getahun Yakob, Interventions to combat land degradation in agricultural landscapes in southern Ethiopia to improve livelihoods: from exclosures to soil fertility management. 2020-2023. Co-supervised by Prof. Jo Smith, Prof. Euan Phimister (Business School) and Dr Wolde Bori (IWMI – Addis Ababa)

Martyn Roberts, The role of place and scale on effectiveness of temporary storage areas for surface runoff attenuation. 2020-2024. Principal Supervisors – Dr. Mark Wilkinson (JHI) and Dr Josie Geris (Geosciences)

Luke Harrold, The interactions of plant, microbial and physico-chemical controls on carbon and nutrient cycling in the rhizosphere. 2019-2022. Co-supervised by Dr. Eric Paterson and Dr. Barry Thornton (JHI), Dr. Gareth Norton and Dr Ashish Malik.

Md. Dhin Islam, Effects of soil physical conditions and alternate wetting and drying on the performance of rice. 2019-2022. Co-supervised by Prof. Adam Price.

Catriona Willoughby, Designing Crop Rotations that are For for the Future. 2019-2022.  Principal Supervisor - Prof. Christine Watson (SRUC).  Co-supervised by Dr Kairsty Topp, Dr Robin Walker, Dr Alex Hilton and Prof. Graeme Paton.

Alysha Knight, The roots of soil and food security. 2018-2022. Co-supervised by Dr. Tim George (JHI) and Dr. Gareth Norton.

Yang Gao, Modelling and measuring soil organic carbon under different tillage practices in agricultural soils of the UK. 2017-2020. Principal Supervisor – Prof. Pete Smith

Licida Giuliani  - Does the Casparian strip influence plant root biomechanics? 2014-2020. Co-supervised by Dr. Kenneth Loades (JHI) and Dr. Gordon McDougall (JHI)

Rong Qu - Soil carbon cycling as affected by aggregate structure collapse and reformation.  Co-supervised by Prof. J. Smith. 2015-2020. Elphinstone Scholarship.

Tom Inglis - Soil biophysical heterogeneity impacts on the transport and fate of pesticides. (Registered at Robert Gordon University). 2015-2018.  Principal Supervisor - Dr. Zulin Zhang (JHI).  Co-supervisors - Dr Kyari Yates (RGU) and Dr Mads Troldbord (JHI)


Mohsin Raza, Development of green value chemicals from renewable sources and their physical properties. 2017-2020. Principal Supervisor -  Dr Waheed Afzal (School of Engineering)

Mike Ogden - Habitat engineering by ectomycorrhizal fungi. 2013-2019. Co-supervised by Prof. D. Johnson.

Taupik Rahman, Influence of soil physical structure on nutrient capture by plants. 2018-2019 (MSc by Research)

Ewan Oleghe - Physical priming of rhizosphere soil. Co-supervised by Prof. Liz Baggs. 2015-2018.

Anastasia Fountouli - Are pH driven shifts to soil physical structure caused by chemical or biological process? 2013-2017. Co-supervised by Prof. Graeme Paton, Prof. Christine Watson (SRUC) and Dr Robin Walker (SRUC).

Xin Shu - Sustainability of nutrient cycling processes associated with arable land management (U. Aberdeen and SRUC). 2014-2017. Principal Supervisor - Prof. Bryan Griffiths (SRUC)

Purnomo Sidi - The suitability of Eichomia cressipes as loss circultion material on oil and gas drilling industry. 2013-2017. Principal Supervisor - Dr. Waheed Afzal (School of Engineering). Funded by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Republic of Indonesia.

Marianne Kuntz – Does soil organic matter, matter? (U. Aberdeen and SRUC). 2013-2016. Principal Supervisor – Prof. Liz Baggs


Funding and Grants

Recent Grants

NERC/NSF: SitS NSF-UKRI: Wireless In-Situ Soil Sensing Network for Future Sustainable Agriculture. NE/T011068/1. Natural Environment Research Council/National Science Foundation USA. D. Young (Utah, PI), E. Yeatmans (Imperial), G. Norton (Aberdeen) and other partners, 2019-2021, £1500k - Co-PI

ESRC: Reducing land degradation and carbon loss from Ethiopia's soils to strengthen livelihoods and resilience (RALENTIR). ES/T003073/1. Economic and Social Research Council. E. Phimister (Aberdeen, PI), J. Smith (Aberdeen),W. Mekuria (IWMU), T. Tefera (U. Hawassa), A. Byg (The James Hutton Institute, G. Edo (Southern Agricultural Research Institute, Hawassa), A. Fischer (SLU) and others, 2019-2022, £921k - CoI

NERC: MIDST-CZ: Maximising Impact by Decision Support Tools for sustainable soil and water through UK-China Critical Zone science. NE/S009167/1. Natural Environment Research Council/Newton Fund.  56 partners in the UK and China, 2019-2021, £1097k - PI

BBSRC: NUCLEUS: a virtual joint centre to deliver enhanced Nitrogen Use effiCiency via an integrated SoiL-plant systEms approach for the Uk & BraSil. BB/N013204/1. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)/Newton Fund. with S. Mooney (Nottingham, PI), Bangor, Rothamsted and 7 Brazilian partners, 2016-2019, £2241k - CoI

ESRC: Improving Organic Resource use in rural Ethiopia (IPORE). ES/P002501/1. ESRC/NEXUS. with E. Phimister (Aberdeen, PI), J. Smith (Aberdeen), A. Fekadu (S. Nations, Ethiopia), W. Bori (IWMI, Ethiopia), T. Tefera (Hawassa, Ethiopia), G. Yakub (SARI, Ethiopia) and A. Fekadu (SARI, Ethiopia), 2016-2018, £166k - CoI

NERC: Building Resilience in Ethiopia's Awassa region to Drought (BREAD. NERC El Nino. NE/P004830/1. with J. Smith (Aberdeen, PI), E. Phimister (Aberdeen), A. Byg (JHI), M. Rivington (JHI), H. Black (JHI), T. Tefera (Hawassa, Ethiopia) and A. Fischer (JHI), 2016-2018, £297k - CoI

NERC: Red Soil CZ: From natural to anthropogenic evolution of Red Soil and its impact on ecosystem function in the Critical Zone.  NE/N007611/1. J. Smith (SBS Aberdeen) and J. Geris (Geosciences Aberdeen), and M. Hodson (York).  In collaboration with the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2016-2019, £800k - PI

BBSRC: Rhizosphere by design: breeding to select root traits that physically manipulate soil. BB/L026058/1. T. Roose and I. Sinclair (Southampton), G. Bengough (Dundee) and T. George (JHI), 2014-18, £1363k - PI

EPSRC: Rooting for sustainable performance. EP/M019713G. Bengough (Dundee, PI), J. Knappett, D. Muir Wood, J. Smethurst (Southampton), T. Roose, I. Sinclar, W. Powrie. 2015-2019. £1578k - CoI

NERC: Multi-Vis: A high resolution large scale X-Ray CT Scanner to build a multi-scale environmental science focussed facility in northern UK. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Strategic Environmental Science Capital Call, with Dubravka Pokrajac. 2015. £350k - PI

ESRC: Network of Organic Resource use in rural Africa (NORA). Nexus research partnership programme  Networking Grant. E. Phimister (PI), J. Smith, B. Balana (IWMI, Ghana), A. Fekadu (SARI, Ethiopia), A. Fischer (JHI), H. Homans, P. Smith, T. Tefera (U. Hawassa, Ethiopia). £20k - CoI

CREW (Scottish Government). Effect of soil structure and field drainage on water quality and flood risk.  Allan Lilly and Nikki Baggaley (JHI), Bruce Ball (SRUC) and Bill Crookes (SAC Consulting). £140k - PI

AHDB - Potato Council - Platforms to test and demonstrate sustainable soil management: integration of major UK field experiments, Potato Council, with B. McKenzie (PI), T. George (JHI), Mark Stalham and David Firman (CUF), 2012-2016, £210k, Co-I

AHDB - HGCA - Platforms to test and demonstrate sustainable soil management: integration of major UK field experiments, HGCA, with B. McKenzie, T. George, T. Valentine, and A. Newton (JHI) and Ron Stobart (NIAB), 2012-2016, £644k  – PI transferred to BM on move to U. Aberdeen


Teaching Responsibilities

Course Coordinator - MSc Soil Science

EV3001/SS5008 - Global Soil Geography (Course Coordinator)

PL3309/SS5305 - Soils for Food Security (Course Co-Coordinator)

BI1509 - Ecology and Environmental Sciences (Laboratory Tutorials)

BI25P4 - Plants, People, and the Environment (Lecture)


Page 1 of 16 Results 1 to 10 of 155

  • Contrasting ability of deep and shallow rooting rice genotypes to grow through plough pans containing simulated biopores and cracks

    Islam, M. D., Price, A., Hallett, P.
    Plant and Soil, vol. 467, pp. 515–530
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Importance of short-term temporal variability in soil physical properties for soil water modelling under different tillage practices

    Geris, J., Verrot, L., Gao, L., Peng, X., Oyesiku-Blakemore, J., Smith, J. U., Hodson, M. E., McKenzie, B. M., Zhang, G., Hallett, P.
    Soil & Tillage Research, vol. 213, 105132
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Volumetric Properties of Furan and 2‑5-Dimethylfuran in Different Industrial Solvents at Temperatures from 278 to 343 K

    Raza, M. A., Valtz, A., Coquelet, C., Hallett, P., Afzal, W.
    Journal of Chemical and Engineering Data
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Significance of root hairs for plant performance under contrasting field conditions and water deficit

    Marin, M., Feeney, D. S., Brown, L., Naveed, M., Riuz, S., Koebernick, N., Bengough, A. G., Hallett, P. D., Roose, T., Puértolas, J., Dodd, I. C., George, T.
    Annals of Botany, vol. 128, no. 1, pp. 1-16
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Role of microbial communities in conferring resistance and resilience of soil carbon and nitrogen cycling following contrasting stresses

    Shu, X., Daniell, T. J., Hallett, P., Baggs, E. M., Mitchell, S., Langarica-Fuentes, A., Griffiths, B. S.
    European Journal of Soil Biology, vol. 104, 103308
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • A systematic analysis and review of the impacts of afforestation on soil quality indicators as modified by climate zone, forest type and age

    Guo, Y., Abdalla, M., Espenberg, M., Hastings, A., Hallett, P., Smith, P.
    Science of the Total Environment, vol. 757, 143824
    Contributions to Journals: Literature Reviews
  • A laboratory study to disentangle hydrological, mechanical and structural mechanisms of soil stabilization by plant mucilage between eroding and depositional zones of a slope

    Zhong, X. l., Li, J. t., Naveed, M., Raffan, A., Hallett, P. D.
    European Journal of Soil Science, vol. 72, no. 1, pp. 125-140
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Preface to the special issue on biohydrology dedicated to the memory of Dr. Louis W. Dekker

    Hallett, P. D., Steenhuis, T. S., Ritsema, C., Lichner, ?.
    Journal of hydrology and hydromechanics, vol. 68, pp. 303-305
    Contributions to Specialist Publications: Special Issues
  • Variable responses of maize root architecture in elite cultivars due to soil compaction and moisture

    Xiong, P., Zhang, Z., Hallett, P. D., Peng, X.
    Plant and Soil, vol. 455, no. 1-2, pp. 79-91
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • A framework for modelling soil structure dynamics induced by biological activity

    Meurer, K., Barron, J., Chenu, C., Coucheney, E., Fielding, M., Hallett, P., Herrmann, A., Keller, T., Koestel, J., Larsbo, M., Lewan, E., Or, D., Parsons, D., Parvin, N., Taylor, A. R., Vereecken, H., Jarvis, N.
    Global Change Biology, vol. 26, no. 10, pp. 5382-5403
    Contributions to Journals: Articles


Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals

Contributions to Specialist Publications