Johannes Lehmann is the Liberty Hyde Bailey professor of soil biogeochemistry and soil fertility management at Cornell University, with appointments in the School of Integrative Plant Science and the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and served as editor-in-chief of the journal Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems from 2014-2020. He was born and grew up in Munich, Germany, received his undergraduate degree in Geoecology and his graduate degrees in Soil Science at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. He was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize, the International Research Award by the Soil Science Society of America, the Marion L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Science Award, and the SUNY Chancellor Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Development and Institutional Development. He is recognized as Highly-Cited Researcher by Thomson Reuter/Clarivate since 2014, is member of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) and Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, he was named Humboldt Fellow at the Freie University Berlin, Hans-Fischer Senior Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Technical University of Munich, and McMasters Fellow by CSIRO.

Research Interests

Dr. Lehmann’s group focuses on nano-scale investigations of soil organic matter, the biogeochemistry of pyrogenic carbon and sequestration in soil, sustainable soil management, biochar systems science, climate change mitigation and adaptation through soil management, and the circular bionutrient economy. The group’s interests span both applied and basic research, follow an interdisciplinary approach, and include developing new approaches to creativity. They study fundamental aspects of soil processes, its management, and develops global projections and decision support systems. Using high-resolution microscopy they investigate what natural organic matter looks like; this work started to question the existence of humic substances to propose functional complexity as a more appropriate framework to explain the persistence of soil organic carbon. Through studies of Amazonian Terra Preta soils, Lehmann became interested in the persistence of fire-derived organic matter and its effect on nutrient and gas cycles in soil, which led to the proposal of biochar as a soil management and climate change mitigation tool. The group is evaluating ways to recycle human excreta as fertilizers, recognizing that in many countries, more nutrients are flushed down the toilet than added to agricultural crops. Together with artists, Lehmann develops art-science tools to identify problems, engage stakeholders, and create questions.

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Primary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences