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The Brian Chambers International Award for early career researchers in crop nutrition

Organised by the International Fertiliser Society, a new award scheme for researchers working at the M.Sc or Ph.D levels, or equivalent, who can demonstrate how their work will provide practical benefits to farm crop nutrition.

The Brian Chambers award, organised and funded by the IFS, was launched in 2015, with a cash prize of £1,000 for the winner, plus £500 each for two runners-up. 

In 2018 the award attracted a record number of entries, as its profile and status start to grow and be recognised. Entries were received from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, India, Iran, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Uruguay, the UK, the USA and Zimbabwe.  Overall, researchers from 26 countries have now entered the award.  It was very pleasing that several of the finalists were able to come to the conference.

The judges found the task of selecting the three winners to be just as challenging in previous years. Eventually, however they concluded that the research that justified winning the first prize of £1,000 was by Klara Gunnarsen, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  Her research is looking at the use of Greenland glacial rock flour (GRF) to rejuvenate nutrient poor soil. Because of the action of the glaciers, rock flour from this source is particularly fine, which improves its availability to crops. Klara's research involved different pot trials (single and double-pot) to look at plant responses to GRF amendment. Soil incubation trials are ongoing to follow-up on some of the nutrient release dynamics. Semi-field trials are also ongoing, to look at long term effects, plus effects under less controlled conditions that are closer to realistic farm practise.  So far her work has shown that GRF added to Danish and Brazilian soils enhanced soil fertility and significantly increased yields and nutrient uptake by plants. K, Mg and Si were supplied to plants by the GRF. Under low P conditions, enhanced Si uptake led to enhanced P uptake, even though the GRF is relatively poor in P. Her poster explains more, and shows the results of her trials.

A short interview with Klara about her research has been recorded. To hear it, click on the small white 'play' triangle in the middle of the new screen that will appear.


Of the two 2018 Runners up, Linxi Jiang, of the University of Nottingham, UK, is studying how to minimise the antagonist blocking effect of sulphur fertilisers on the uptake of selenium by plants.  This is a growing issue in parts of the world where cleaner air means that there is an increasing need for fertilisers to contain sulphur, while at the same time biofortification of crops with selenium has public health benefits. The cause of this antagonism is that sulphate and selenate compete for uptake via plant roots as they share the same root transporter. Linxi Jiang's research is running trials with ryegrass to measure the level of selenium update when different types of sulphur fertiliser is used.  It involved 'double-labelling' with two enriched stable isotopes 74Se and 77Se to monitor speciation changes in added selenate and selenite following application of the fertiliser to the soil. His poster shows the results.

A short interview with Linxi about his research has been recorded. You can see his poster here.


Finally, Bradley Kennedy, also of the University of Copenhagen, is studying the potential for the bio-acidification of manure by adding sugar to stimulate bacterial production of organic acids through anaerobic fermentation. The benefit of acidification is a reduction of ammonia emissions. The research determined how much sugar should be added to achieve a stable reduction in pH, and then quantified the effect this had on ammonia loss. It also evaluated whether and how bio-acidification might change the fertiliser properties of slurry: first, by measuring N and P availability over time after the slurry is added to soil, and then by measuring height and biomass of maize in a 35-day greenhouse pot trial. Bradley's poster shows the results.

An interview with Bradley about her research has been recorded. amd can be listened to here.


Information about the winners of the 2017 award can be found here, for the 2016 award here , and for the 2015 award here.


The Brian Chambers award will running again in 2019. Submissions will be invited from researchers in all countries; attending our Conference in the UK will be unnecessary. Entries will be welcome from researchers working in both academic and extension organisations.

The 2019 award is now open for submissions in June, and will remain open until 30 September 2019.

Participation in the award will be open to the following people:

  • Anyone carrying out relevant research work at an MSc, PhD or equivalent level of scientific rigour.
  • Researchers and workers at the interface of research, development and extension, from all countries.
  • People whose work has either been completed, or at an advanced stage of research study. Work that has not yet been started will not qualify.
  • People whose research activity is based on field, controlled environment or laboratory studies, modelling work, or other data analysis.
  • People whose research applies to the nutrition of arable and horticultural crops, grassland, permanent crops such as fruit trees, and other perennial crops, covering all types of plant nutrients and nutrient dynamics in soils or growth media.
  • People who have either completed their last academic qualification (MSc or PhD) within four years, OR who have been undertaking relevant professional work for up to seven years.

Qualifying research activity must either have been completed, or be at an advanced stage of study.

Submission requirements:

  • Participants will be required to submit a 1 page abstract of their working, using our pro-forma, explaining how they consider it meets the evaluation criteria.
  • The ten submissions that the award evaluation panel consider to be the strongest will be invited to produce a poster detailing their work. ( Download the pdf for detailed guidance on poster format.)
  • All ten posters will be displayed at the IFS Agronomic Conference and the winners will be selected by the evaluation panel.
  • Attendance at the Agronomic Conference will be free to participants showing posters, but anyone unable to attend the Conference can send us their poster in digital format and we will print and display it for them.

The evaluation criteria that will be used to judge award entries are:

  • Novelty / distinctiveness of approach (Is the methodology novel in being integrative and/or bringing together approaches from different disciplines?).
  • Novelty / distinctiveness of results (Is there a clear conclusion and has this information generated new knowledge or provided a solution to advance the science or practical management in the area?).
  • Scientific soundness / rigour (Are the experimental design, measurement approach, data collection and statistical methodology appropriate?).
  • Practical relevance (Are the results or approaches not just novel and sound scientifically, but will the outcome have any relevance/practical application for farmers or for society as a whole?).
  • Comprehensiveness (Does the abstract / poster attempt to quantify and show the trade off(s) between (i) yield benefits/loss, (ii) the costs/gains of the 'implementational actions needed' and (iii) the environmental loss/benefits?)
  • Clarity and conciseness of both the abstract and poster.
  • The look and structure of the poster (Is the poster able to attract attention from people and does it convey the major message by finding the right balance between completeness and the time needed to digest the contents?) This criteria applies to the finalists only.

Benefits of participation

In addition to the cash prizes for the three submissions judged to best meet the award criteria, the participants who go through to the second stage will also benefit from having their work viewed by the Conference delegates.  In addition all the posters will be displayed on the IFS website.  Depending on the topic and practical considerations, we may also invite the winner to present a paper at a future IFS Conference.

For further information, please contact the IFS Secretary:

0044 (0)1206 851 819

PO Box 12220   Colchester   CO1 9PR   UK


Brian Chambers and the International Fertiliser Society

This award commemorates Professor Brian Chambers, who died in 2014. Brian was Head of the Soils and Nutrient Group at ADAS, and a Council Member of the International Fertiliser Society. Having published over 300 scientific papers, Brian was internationally renowned for his pioneering research on manure management and the minimisation of environmental pollution.

He also played an important role in the European and UK Soil Science community serving as President and Fellow of the Institute of Professional Soil Scientists (IPSS), visiting Professor at Cranfield University, a member of British Society of Soil Science, and the International RAMIRAN Network.

Brian and his work is being remembered by the creation of two different but complementary initiatives: the UK focused Brian Chambers Soils Fund the IFS International Award.  Both reflect Brian's interest in encouraging young people to enter this important and rewarding area.

The International Fertiliser Society is a scientific Society founded in 1947, with members from about 50 countries worldwide.  Its main objectives are:

To provide an international forum for discussion and dissemination of knowledge of scientific, technical, environmental, economic and safety aspects of the production, marketing, use and application of fertilisers.

The IFS provides professionals working in fertiliser production and crop nutrition with a unique combination of :

  • Technically and scientifically rigorous information
  • Independent of any commercial or political bias
  • Preferential access to our unique archive of Proceedings
  • Opportunities to network with other fertiliser professionals