Associate Professor Peter Kopittke

Associate Professor - Soil Science

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Faculty of Science

Affiliate Principal Research Fellow

Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
+61 7 334 69149


Peter Kopittke is Associate Professor at The University of Queensland. As a Soil Scientist, Peter is actively involved in the management and conservation of soil; one of the basic elements which sustain life. Whilst soil takes hundreds or thousands of years to form, it can be destroyed in a matter of years if not managed correctly. The management and conservation of the soil-environment is arguably the biggest challenge we face as we move into the future. We need new ideas to solve the world’s problems.

Whilst Peter's research spans the areas of agricultural production, water chemistry, and waste disposal, it currently focuses on (i) improving plant nutrition through efficient and environmentally friendly use of fertilisers in soils, (ii) the toxicity of trace metals to plants, and (iii) overcoming nutritional constraints through the use of foliar fertilisers.

Peter is Past President of Soil Science Australia (QLD), a former ARC Future Fellow, recipient of the JK Taylor Gold Medal in Soil Science (2018), and recipient of the CG Stephens Award in Soil Science (2005).

Research Interests

  • Behaviour of nutrients, fertilizers, and carbon in soils
    My research is providing important insights into the behaviour and cycling of nutrients in soils. This includes the behaviour of fertilizers upon their addition to soils, as well as the long-term effects of agricultural cropping on the cycling and loss of nutrients from soils. For example, my research is currently investigating how to increase the profitability of deep-banded P fertilizers in soils of northern Australia. This research is utilizing novel approaches for understanding how P behaves following its addition to a range of soils, including synchrotron-based approaches that are allowing in situ analyses of the P within the soil. Research within my group is also investigating soil organic carbon, with the storage of carbon in soils is vital for maintaining soil fertility for food production. Indeed, soil carbon is the largest pool of terrestrial carbon (ca. 2,000 Gt). My research is combining advanced spectroscopic techniques with conventional approaches to understand the mechanisms influencing the sequestration and degradation of soil organic matter and the cycling of associated nutrients. My group is one of the first in the world to utilize high-flux synchrotron radiation to examine the speciation and distribution of carbon in soil micro-aggregates.
  • Plant-ion interactions
    Plant-ion interactions underlie many problems currently facing Australia’s environmental and agricultural systems. My research aims to improve our understanding of plant-ion interactions, including: (i) improving plant mineral nutrition through foliar-application of fertilisers, (ii) managing saline soils and acid soils, in which either salts or Al toxicity reduce agricultural yields, and (iii) regulation and management of sites contaminated with trace metals at levels which are potentially toxic to plants.
  • Application of wastes / potential wastes to soils
    The beneficial of wastes (or potential wastes) can potentially result in improved environmental, agronomic, and social outcomes. However, the addition of these resources should not result in significant net change in the environment beyond acceptable limits. Thus, for waste-disposal systems, there is a need to identify how potentially limiting factors (such as excess salt or nutrients) impact upon the soil-plant-animal continuum and hence ecosystem functioning. My research investigates the environmental sustainability of the land-disposal of a variety of wastes. I am currently a Chief Investigator on several research projects which explicitly aim to inform policy-makers regarding the development of safe limits for the land-application of wastes.


  • Graduate Certificate in Education, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Land Resource Science, The University of Queensland
  • PhD in Agricultural Science, The University of Queensland


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  • (2020) Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • (2019) Doctor Philosophy

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Featured Publications


Book Chapter

  • Gei, Vidiro, Erskine, Peter D., Harris, Hugh H., Echevarria, Guillaume, Mesjasz-Przybylowicz, Jolanta, Barnabas, Alban D., Kopittke, Peter M. and van der Ent, Antony (2018). Tools for the discovery of hyperaccumulator plant species and understanding their ecophysiology. In Antony Van der Ent, Guillaume Echevarria, Alan J. M. Baker and Jean Louis Morel (Ed.), Agromining: farming for metals (pp. 117-133) Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-61899-9_7

  • Wang, Peng, Kopittke, Peter M., McGrath, Steve P. and Zhao, Fang-Jie (2017). Cadmium in soils and plants as a threat to human health. In Bal Ram Singh, Michael J. McLaughlin and Eric Brevik (Ed.), The nexus of soils, plants, animals and human health (pp. 138-147) Stuttgart, Germany: Schweizerbart Sceince Publishers.

  • Dalal, Ram C., Kopittke, Peter M. and Menzies, Neal W. (2017). Impact of climate change on soil carbon storage. In Bal Ram Singh, Michael J. McLaughlin and Eric Brevik (Ed.), The nexus of soils, plants, animals and human health (pp. 156-163) Stuttgart, Germany: Schweizerbart Science Publishers.

  • Kopittke, Peter M., Dalal, Ram C. and Wang, Peng (2017). Soil physicochemical properties impacting upon animal and human health. In Bal Ram Singh, Michael J. McLaughlin and Eric Brevik (Ed.), The Nexus of Soils, Plants, Animals and Human Health (pp. 34-41) Stuttgart, Germany: Schweizerbart Science Publishers.

  • Blamey, F. Pax C., Kopittke, Peter M., Wehr, J. Bernhard and Menzies, Neal W. (2015). Aluminum. In Allen V. Barker and David J. Pilbeam (Ed.), Handbook of Plant Nutrition 2nd ed. (pp. 567-606) Boca Raton Florida, United States: CRC Press. doi:10.1201/b18458-21

  • Donner, Erica, de Jonge, Martin D., Kopittke, Peter M. and Lombi, Enzo (2013). Mapping element distributions in plant tissues using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence techniques. In Frans J. M. Maathuis (Ed.), Plant mineral nutrients: methods and protocols (pp. 143-159) New York, NY, United States: Humana Press. doi:10.1007/978-1-62703-152-3_9

  • Kopittke, Peter M., Lombi, Enzo, Menzies, Neal W. and Naidu, Ravi (2010). Principles of plant-based remediation of contaminated soils. In Bharat P. Singh (Ed.), Industrial crops and uses (pp. 446-469) Oxfordshire, U.K. ; Cambridge, MA., U.S.A.: CABI. doi:10.1079/9781845936167.0446

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Joint Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision