Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science Soil and Crop Sciences Section
Professor, Department of Global Development
Johannes focuses his research and teaching in soil biogeochemistry and soil fertility management. His specialization is in soil organic matter and nutrient studies of managed and natural ecosystems with a focus on soil carbon sequestration, nutrient recycling from wastes, biochar systems, circular economy, and sustainable agriculture in the tropics (especially Africa). His research stretches from ultra-fine scale microscopy to examine carbon stabilization in soils to global-scale carbon and nutrient cycles. Learn more about Johannes' work on the Lehmann Lab website.
Soil biogeochemistry, fertility management, organic matter, and carbon and nutrient cycling from wastes
Soil carbon sequestration and biochar systems
Sustainable agriculture in the tropics
I am interested to advance our general understanding of biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nutrient elements in soil, providing important insight into regional and global element cycles such as the carbon or sulfur cycle. This field of research has global and local relevance with implications for climate change and environmental pollution.
The strong background in the chemistry, biology and physics of soils and its cycles provide the basis for the development of intelligent solutions for sustainable soil and land use management. The most exciting examples include the discovery of stabilization mechanisms of organic matter in soil nano-structures and the development of a biochar soil management technology that improves soil fertility, sequesters carbon and reduces off-site pollution. Recent efforts involve the conversion of wastes to valuable fertilizers and the discovery of novel reactions and pathways of nitrogen in soil organic matter and plant uptake.
For a complete list of publications, visit the Lehmann Lab publications page.
Representative review publications for work on soil carbon, biochar, and nutrient cycle science
- Camenzind T, Mason-Jones K, Mansour I, Rillig MC and Lehmann J 2023 Formation of necromass-derived soil organic carbon determined by microbial death pathways. Nature Geoscience 16, 115–122.
- Freiband A, Dickin KL, Glass M, Gore MA, Hinestroza J, Nelson R, Platt V, Rooks N, Sachs A, Stern N and Lehmann J 2022 Undisciplining the university through shared purpose, practice, and place. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 9, 172.
- Lehmann J, Cowie A, Masiello CA, Kammann C, Woolf D, Amonette JE, Cayuela ML, Camps-Arbestain M and Whitman T 2021 Biochar in climate change mitigation. Nature Geoscience 14, 883–892.
- Lehmann J, Bossio DA, Kögel-Knabner I and Rillig MC 2020 The concept and future prospects of soil health. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 1, 544–553.
- Lehmann J, Hansel CM, Kaiser C, Kleber M, Maher K, Manzoni S, Nunan N, Reichstein M, Schimel JP, Torn MS, Wieder WR and Kögel-Knabner I 2020 Persistence of soil organic carbon caused by functional complexity. Nature Geoscience 13, 529–534.
- Bradford MA, Carey CJ, Atwood L, Bossio D, Fenichel EP, Gennet S, Fargione J, Fisher JRB, Fuller E, Kane DA, Lehmann J, Oldfield EE, Ordway EM, Rudek J, Sanderman J and Wood SA 2019 Soil carbon science for policy and practice. Nature Sustainability 2, 1070–1072.
- Kleber M and Lehmann J 2019 Humic substances extracted by alkali are invalid proxies for the dynamics and functions of organic matter in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Quality 48, 207–216.
- Lehmann J and Gaskins B 2019 Learning scientific creativity from the arts. Palgrave Communications 5, 96.
- Liang C, Amelung W, Lehmann J and Kästner M 2019 Quantitative assessment of microbial necromass contribution to soil organic matter. Global Change Biology 25, 3578-3590.
- Rillig M, Bonneval K and Lehmann J 2019 Sounds of soil: a new world of interactions under our feet? Soil Systems 3, 45.
- Vermeulen S, Bossio D, Lehmann J, Luu P, Paustian K, Webb C, Augé F, Bacudo I, Baedeker T, Havemann T, Jones C, King R, Reddy M, Sunga I, Von Unger M and Warnken M 2019 A global agenda for collective action on soil carbon. Nature Sustainability 2, 2-4.
- Chabbi A, Lehmann J, Ciais P, Loescher H, Cotrufo MF, Don A, SanClements M, Schipper L, Six J, Smith P, and Rumpel C 2017 Aligning agriculture and climate policy. Nature Climate Change 7, 307-309.
- Paustian K, Lehmann J, Ogle S, Reay D, Robertson GP and Smith P 2016 Climate-smart soils. Nature 532, 49-57.
- Lehmann J and Kleber M 2015 The contentious nature of soil organic matter. Nature 528, 60-68.
- Lehmann J and Rillig M 2014 Distinguishing variability from uncertainty. Nature Climate Change 4, 153.
- Simons A, Solomon D, Chibssa W, Blalock G and Lehmann J 2014 Filling the phosphorus fertilizer gap in developing countries. Nature Geoscience 7, 3.
- Lehmann J, Rillig M, Thies J, Masiello CA, Hockaday WC, Crowley D 2011 Biochar effects on soil biota – a review. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 43, 1812–1836.
- Schmidt MWI, Torn MS, Abiven S, Dittmar T, Guggenberger G, Janssens IA, Kleber M, Kögel-Knabner I, Lehmann J, Manning DAC, Nannipieri P, Rasse DP, Weiner S, and Trumbore SE 2011 Persistence of soil organic matter as an ecosystem property. Nature 478, 49-56.
- Lehmann J 2007 A handful of carbon. Nature 447: 143-144.
- Lehmann J 2007 Bio-energy in the black. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5: 381-387.
- Lehmann J, Kinyangi J and Solomon D 2007 Organic matter stabilization in soil microaggregates: implications from spatial heterogeneity of organic carbon contents and carbon forms. Biogeochemistry 85: 45-57.
- Glaser G, Lehmann J and Zech W 2002 Ameliorating physical and chemical properties of highly weathered soils in the tropics with charcoal – a review. Biology and Fertility of Soils 35: 219-230.
Representative publications of our experimental and modeling work
- Davenport R, Bowen BP, Lynch LM, Kosina SM, Shabtai I, Northen TR and Lehmann J 2023 Decomposition decreases molecular diversity and ecosystem similarity of soil organic matter. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120, e2303335120.
- Tao F, Huang Y, Hungate BA, Manzoni S, Frey SD, Schmidt MWI, Reichstein M, Carvalhais N, Ciais P, Jiang L, Lehmann J, Wang YP, Houlton BZ, Ahrens B, Mishra U, Hugelius G, Hocking TD, Lu X, Shi Z, Viatkin K, Vargas R, Yigini Y, Omuto C, Malik AA, Peralta G, Cuevas-Corona R, Di Paolo LE, Luotto I, Liao C, Liang YS, Saynes VS, Huang X and Luo Y 2023 Microbial carbon use efficiency promotes global soil carbon storage. Nature 618, 981–985.
- Hestrin R, Weber PK, Pett-Ridge J and Lehmann J 2021 Plants and mycorrhizal symbionts acquire substantial soil nitrogen from gaseous ammonia transport. New Phytologist 231, 1746–1757.
- Krounbi L, Enders A, Gaunt J, Ball M and Lehmann 2021 Plant uptake of nitrogen adsorbed to biochars made from dairy manure. Scientific Reports 11, 15001.
- Sun T, Guzman J, Seward J, Enders A, Yavitt J, Lehmann J and Angenent L 2021 Suppressing peatland methane production by electron snorkeling through pyrogenic carbon in controlled laboratory incubations. Nature Communications 12, 4119.
- Woolf D, Lehmann J, Stephen Ogle S, Kishimoto-Mo AW, McConkey B and Baldock J 2021 A greenhouse gas inventory model for biochar additions to soil. Environmental Science and Technology 55, 14795−14805.
- Del Valle I, Webster TM, Cheng HY, Thies JE, Kessler A, Miller MK, Ball ZT, MacKenzie KR, Masiello CA, Silberg JJ and Lehmann J 2020 Soil organic matter attenuates the efficacy of flavonoid-based plant-microbe communication. Science Advances 6, eaax8254.Zhao N, Lehmann J and You F 2020 Poultry waste valorization via pyrolysis technologies: economic and environmental life cycle optimization for sustainable bioenergy systems. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 8, 4633-4646.
- Possinger AR, Bailey SW, Inagaki TM, Kögel-Knabner I, Dynes JJ, Arthur ZA and Lehmann J 2020 Organo-mineral interactions and soil carbon mineralizability with variable saturation cycle frequency. Geoderma 375, 114483.
- Torres-Rojas D, Hestrin R, Solomon D, Gillespie AW, Dynes JJ, Regier TZ and Lehmann J 2020 Nitrogen speciation and transformations in fire-derived organic matter. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 276, 179-185.
- Fungo B, Lehmann J, Kalbitz K, Thionģo M, Tenywa M, Okeyo I and Neufeldt H 2019 Ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions from a field Ultisol amended with tithonia green manure, urea, and biochar. Biology and Fertility of Soils 55, 135–148.
- Hestrin R, Torres-Rojas D, Dynes JJ, Hook JM, Regier TM, Gillespie AW, Smernik RS and Lehmann J 2019 Fire-derived organic matter retains ammonia through covalent bond formation. Nature Communications 10, 664.
- Krounbi L, Enders A, van Es H, Woolf D, van Herzen B and Lehmann J 2019 Biological and thermochemical conversion of human solid waste to soil amendments. Waste Management 89, 366–378.
- Woolf D and Lehmann J 2019 Microbial models with minimal mineral protection can explain long-term soil organic carbon persistence. Scientific Reports 9, 6522.
- DeCiucies S, Whitman T, Woolf D, Enders A and Lehmann A 2018 Priming mechanisms with additions of pyrogenic organic matter to soil. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 238, 329-342.
- Woolf D, Solomon D and Lehmann J 2018 Land restoration in food-security programmes: synergies with climate change mitigation. Climate Policy 18, 1260–1270.
- Sun T, Levin BDA, Guzman JJL, Enders A, Muller DA, Angenent LT and Lehmann J 2017 Rapid electron transfer by the carbon matrix in natural pyrogenic carbon. Nature Communications 8, 14873.
- Solomon D, Lehmann D, Fraser JA, Leach M, Amanor K, Frausin V, Kristiansen SM, Millimouno D and Fairhead J 2016 Indigenous African soil enrichment as a climate-smart sustainable agriculture alternative. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14, 71–76.
- Woolf D, Lehmann J and Lee D 2016 Optimal bioenergy power generation for climate change mitigation with or without carbon sequestration. Nature Communications 7, 13160.
- Guerena D, Lehmann, Walter T, Enders A, Neufeldt H, Odiwour H, Biwott H, Recha J, Shepherd K, Barrios E and Wurster C 2015 Terrestrial pyrogenic carbon export to fluvial ecosystems: lessons learned from the White Nile watershed of East Africa. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 29, GB005095.
- Whitman T and Lehmann J 2015 A dual-isotope approach to allow conclusive partitioning between three sources. Nature Communications 6, 8708.
- Zwetsloot M, Lehmann J and Solomon D 2015 Recycling slaughterhouse waste into fertilizer: how do pyrolysis temperature and biomass additions affect phosphorus availability and chemistry? Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 95, 281-288.
- Cayuela ML, Sánchez-Monedero MA, Roig A, Hanley K, Enders A and Lehmann J 2013 Biochar and denitrification in soils: when, how much and why does biochar reduce N2O emissions? Nature Scientific Reports 3, 1732.
- Gatere L, Lehmann J, DeGloria S, Hobbs P, Delve R and Travis A 2013 One size does not fit all: conservation farming success in Africa more dependent on management than on location. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 179, 200-207.
- Recha JW, Lehmann J, Walter MT, Pell A, Verchot L, and Johnson M 2013 Stream water nutrient and organic carbon exports from tropical headwater catchments at a soil degradation gradient. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 95, 145-158.
- Enders A, Hanley K, Whitman T, Joseph S, Lehmann J 2012 Characterization of biochars to evaluate recalcitrance and agronomic performance. Bioresource Technology 114, 644-653.
- Hale SE, Lehmann J, Rutherford D, Zimmerman AR, Bachmann RT, Shitumbanuma V, O’Toole A, Sundqvist KL, Arp HPH and Cornelissen G 2012 Quantifying the total and bioavailable polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins in biochars. Environmental Science and Technology 46, 2830−2838.
- Mao J-D, Johnson RL, Lehmann J, Olk DC, Neves EG, Thompson ML and Schmidt-Rohr K 2012 Abundant and stable char residues in soils: implications for soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Environmental Science and Technology 46, 9571-9576.
- Rajkovich S, Enders A, Hanley K, Hyland C, Zimmerman AR, Lehmann J 2012 Corn growth and nitrogen nutrition after additions of biochars with varying properties to a temperate soil. Biology and Fertility of Soils 48, 271–284.
- Solomon D, Lehmann J, Harden J, Wang J, Kinyangi J, Heymann K, Karunakaran C, Lu Y, Wirick S, and Jacobsen C 2012 Micro- and nano-environments of carbon sequestration: Multi-element STXM-NEXAFS spectromicroscopy assessment of microbial carbon and mineral associations. Chemical Geology 329, 53-73.
- Roberts K, Gloy B, Joseph S, Scott N and Lehmann J 2010 Life cycle assessment of biochar systems: Estimating the energetic, economic and climate change potential. Environmental Science and Technology 44, 827–833.
- Woolf D, Amonette JE, Street-Perrott FA, Lehmann J and Joseph S 2010 Sustainable biochar to mitigate global climate change. Nature Communications 1:56.
- Lehmann J, Skjemstad JO, Sohi S, Carter J, Barson M, Falloon P, Coleman K, Woodbury P and Krull E 2008 Australian climate-carbon cycle feedback reduced by soil black carbon. Nature Geoscience 1: 832–835.
- Lehmann J, Solomon D, Kinyangi J, Dathe L, Wirick S, and Jacobsen C 2008 Spatial complexity of soil organic matter forms at nanometre scales. Nature Geoscience 1, 238-242.
- Johnson MS, Weiler M, Couto EG, Riha S and Lehmann J 2007 Storm pulses of dissolved CO2 in a forested headwater Amazonian stream explored using hydrograph separation. Water Resources Research 43, WR11201.
- Solomon D, Lehmann J, Kinyangi J, Amelung W, Lobe I, Ngoze S, Riha S, Pell A, Verchot L, Mbugua D, Skjemstad J and Schäfer T 2007 Long-term impacts of anthropogenic perturbations on the dynamics and molecular speciation of organic carbon in tropical forest and subtropical grassland ecosystems. Global Change Biology 13: 511-530.
- Cheng CH, Lehmann J, Thies JE, Burton SD and Engelhard MH 2006 Oxidation of black carbon by biotic and abiotic processes. Organic Geochemistry 37: 1477-1488.
- Kinyangi J, Solomon D, Liang B, Lerotic M, Wirick S and Lehmann J 2006 Nanoscale biogeocomplexity of the organo-mineral assemblage in soil: application of STXM microscopy and C 1s-NEXAFS spectroscopy. Soil Science Society of America Journal 70: 1708-1718.
- Liang B, Lehmann J, Solomon D, Kinyangi J, Grossman J, O’Neill B, Skjemstad JO, Thies J, Luizão FJ, Petersen J and Neves EG 2006 Black carbon increases cation exchange capacity in soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal 70: 1719-1730.
- Lehmann J, Liang B, Solomon D, Lerotic M, Luizão F, Kinyangi J, Schäfer T, Wirick S, and Jacobsen C 2005 Near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy for mapping nano-scale distribution of organic carbon forms in soil: application to black carbon particles. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 19: GB1013.
- Solomon D, Lehmann J and Martinez CE 2003 Sulfur K-edge XANES spectroscopy as a tool for understanding sulfur dynamics in soil organic matter. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 67: 1721-1731.
- Lehmann J, Peter I, Steglich C, Gebauer G, Huwe B and Zech W 1998 Below-ground interactions in dryland agroforestry. Forest Ecology and Management 111: 157-169.
- Lehmann J, Schroth G and Zech W 1995 Decomposition and nutrient release from leaves, twigs and roots of three alley-cropped tree legumes in central Togo. Agroforestry Systems 29: 21-36.
Awards & Honors
- US National Academy of Sciences, member (2023)
- Humboldt Research Prize (2021) Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
- Hans Fischer Senior Award (2019) Institute for Advanced Studies
- Fellow 2018 German National Academy of Sciences – Leopoldina
- Highly Cited Researcher (2017) Thomson Reuter/Clarivate
- Hans Fischer Senior Award 2016 Institute for Advanced Studies
- Highly Cited Researcher, Clarivate Analytics
- Sir Frederick McMaster Award (2007) CSIRO
ENVS/CLASS 2000: Environment and Sustainability Colloquium
PLSCS 3210: Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability
PLSCS 4720/6720: Nutrient and Carbon Cycling and Management in Ecosystems
Nutrient Management in Agroecosystems and Nutrient Cycling in Natural and Managed Ecosystems, Environmental Science Colloquium and support of introductory courses in Environmental Sciences, Traditional Agriculture in Developing Countries and Tropical Cropping Systems.
The goals of my teaching program is to create enthusiasm in students for the study of soil biogeochemistry, soil fertility and nutrient cycling, as they realize the importance of these topics not only for agricultural production but also for environmental protection. I am particularly interested in the intersection of artistic practice, sustainability and scientific pursuit in general. In the area of environmental sciences, we focus on the pollution of soils and aquifers with inorganic and organic fertilizers, on the effects of atmospheric emissions and on questions regarding soil processes and climate change. The students should get familiar with critical thinking about the impact of land use management on the environment such as soil degradation, climate change or pollution of waterways with agrochemicals. Apart from covering processes and dynamics in temperate agro-ecosystems, particular emphasis is placed on the understanding of constraints and options for nutrient management in tropical environments. The sustainable management of fragile ecosystems under low-input conditions is at the center of such discussions. These three constraints: limited input, environmental protection and sustainability of food production force creative thinking. In order to achieve scientifically sound solutions students need to acquire a profound and integrated understanding of the biological, physical and chemical processes in soil. The students are faced with the challenge to develop previously acquired disciplinary knowledge into more integrated and multidisciplinary thinking.
Johannes in the news
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on Sept. 6 to discuss programs focused on empowering farmers and finding new climate solutions that are equitable and science-based.
- Climate Change
Microbes are by far the most important factor in determining how much carbon is stored in the soil, according to a new study with implications for mitigating climate change and improving soil health for agriculture and food production.
- Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
- Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- Department of Global Development