Professor Susanne Schmidt

Professor

School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability
Faculty of Science
susanne.schmidt@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 51050

Overview

Susanne leads a vibrant team researching natural ecosystems and agroecosystems focussed on plants, microbes and soil. This aims to advance the circular nutrient economy, the restoration of degraded soils and landscapes, and the sustainable use of Australia's flora in a project that is led by Indigenous Australians.

Funded PhD and MPhil positions are available in the (i) Bushfood project and the (ii) Next-generation fertilisers project and soil ameliorants project. Honours and Masters projects are available in all active projects. Please register your interest emailing Susanne.Schmidt@uq.edu.au

Active projects:

  • A Deadly Solution: Combining Traditional Knowledge and Western Science for an Indigenous-led Bushfood Industry (ARC Discovery-Indigenous)
  • Realising Smart Compost Formulations (Fight Food Waste CRC)
  • Next-generation fertilisers and soil ameliorants (ARC Industry Transformation Training Centre 'Transforming Biosolids')
  • Boosting the natural regeneration of the nitrogen capital in grazing lands (Meat & Livestock Australia)
  • Validating novel phosphorus formulations augmented with beneficial microbes (Innovation Connections Partnership, EcoGrowth Fertilisers)
  • The integrated bio-economy project and the controlled biosphere (ARC Linkages)
  • Ultrahigh-resolution remote sensing for assessing biodiversity hotspots (ARC Discovery)

Completed recent projects

  • Environmentally responsive bio-composite fertilisers
  • Ecofriendly fertilisers for sustainable farming
  • Effective microbial biostimulants in horticulture
  • New technologies and management: transforming nitrogen use efficiency in cane production
  • Recycled phosphorus from waste streams as efficient sources for agriculture
  • License to farm - nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane production
  • Developing sugarcane-legume companion cropping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Spinifex desert grass - ecophysiology and nano-cellulose production for novel biomaterials
  • The role of soil microbes to restore soil carbon in tropical reforestation
  • Soil carbon sequestration in the Cooloola biosphere chronosequence
  • Advancing Livestock Waste as Low Emission-High Efficiency Fertilizers
  • Ecogenomic profiling of Queensland sugarcane soils
  • more (not listed)

Research Interests

  • Nutrient stewardship and the circular nutrient economy
    Plant nutrition, next-generation fertilisers, organic forms of nutrients, re-purposing waste streams, compost, biochar, biosolids, matching crop nutrient demand and nutrient release, risk of nutrient losses, sustainable agriculture, industry partnerships, organic and regenerative farming
  • Soil health and carbon sequestration
    Soil metabolism, microbial communities, plant-beneficial microbes, soil organic matter, compost, biochar, rhizosphere processes, quantifying fluxes in soil with innovative tools (microdialysis), carbon neutrality for agriculture, sustainable use of grazing lands
  • Responsible use of Australia's ecosystems
    Bioproduction and conservation outcomes, Australian native plants, protecting biodiversity, soil and ecosystem restoration, greenhouse gas fluxes, climate change mitigation, carbon storage
  • Indigenous-led bushfood industry and natural assets markets
    Bushfood, horticulture, carbon credits, biodiversity credits, managing bushfire by Traditional Owners, socio-cultural benefits, economic advancement of Australia's Traditional Owners
  • Plant ecophysiology and global change
    How plants - including trees - respond to changing environments with increasing carbon dioxide levels, changing water relations, altered soil conditions, and what we can do to ensure healthy landscapes and protect the genetic diversity of Australian plants and soil organisms

Research Impacts

Re-purposing nutrient-rich wastes will enable the circular economy and deliver on the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. Benefits include safe and autonomous fertiliser supply chains, potentially lower costs for farmers, improved environmental outcomes, and new industries and employment.

Drawing down the excessive carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by storing carbon in soils will restore degraded soils and boost agricultural production. Re-carbonising soils and improving nutrient use efficiencies both support climate change mitigation and the efficiency of food production systems.

Compost and other recyclates hold the key to more efficient and sustainable food production systems including organic and regenerative production systems.

Advancing the Indigenous economy with the sophisticated knowledge of Australia's First Nations people safeguarded landscapes from wildfires, develops the environmental asset markets for carbon storage and biodiversity protection and harnesses the food potential of Australia's native flora.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Masters (Coursework), Universität Hohenheim

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Nitrogen pollution exceeds the safe planetary boundaries and has a terrible impact on the natural environment, such as the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Nitrogen pollution originates from wastes (such as manures and sewage) and the inefficient use of fertilisers in agricultural land. There is much opportunity to advance the circular nutrient economy by repurposing and re-designing fertilisers that better match crop demand and have a longer soil residence time than current products. This interdisciplinary project combines expertise in plants, soil, microbes and engineering.to address the pervasive problem of nutrient inefficiencies to boost crop production, climate change mitigation, and the economics of farming.

  • Grain legumes, such as chickpea, soy and mungbean, are essential elements of human nutrition as a protein substitute for meat and a healthy complement to a cereal-rich diet. Grain legumes also benefit other crops by generating nitrogen biologically and restocking soil N reserves, thereby supplementing synthetic N fertiliser. Despite the many benefits of legumes with superior values for humans and the environment, their production is limited by low and variable yields. We integrate research from molecular advances to agronomic outcomes, evaluating roots of grain legumes as the basis for resource-efficient and resilient future crops. Projects available at all project levels, co-supervised by government and industry.

  • Liverworts occupy some of the most inhospitable regions. They form part of biocrusts, the living cover of soils that protect from erosion and inputs nitrogen and carbon. Liverworts are often the main green plant in a biocrust matrix dominated by cyanobacteria and other microorganisms. The role of liverworts is not well established, although we find liverwort-rich and -poor biocrusts in different situations. The project will explore these amazing plants with resurrection capacity - and examine their role in nitrogen and carbon cycling in savannas and grasslands. Liverwort taxonomy will be explored in collaboration with experts from the Royal Botanical Gardens (Canberra), and the student will work alongside our biocrust team, connecting fundamental science and sustainable land uses.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Singh, Vijaya, Chauhan, Yashvir, Dalal, Ram and Schmidt, Susanne (2021). Chickpea. The Beans and the Peas: From Orphan to Mainstream Crops. (pp. 173-215) edited by Aditya Pratap and Sanjeev Gupta. Kidlington, United Kingdom: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-821450-3.00003-2

  • Schmidt, Susanne (2015). Foreword. Ecological Biochemistry: Environmental and Interspecies Interactions. (pp. XXI-XXI) Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH. doi: 10.1002/9783527686063.fmatter

  • Erisman, Jan Willem, Leach, Allison, Adams, Mark, Agboola, Julius I., Ahmetaj, Luan, Alard, Didier, Austin, Amy, Awodun, Moses A., Bareham, Simon, Bird, Theresa L., Bleeker, Albert, Bull, Keith, Cornell, Sarah E., Davidson, Eric, de Vries, Wim, Dias, Teresa, Emmett, Bridget, Goodale, Christine, Greaver, Tara, Haeuber, Rick, Harmens, Harry, Hicks, W. Kevin, Hogbom, Lars, Jarvis, Paul, Johansson, Matti, Russell, Zoe, McClean, Colin, Paton, Bill, Perez, Tibisay ... Whitfield, Clare P. (2014). Nitrogen deposition effects on ecosystem services and interactions with other pollutants and climate change. Nitrogen deposition, critical loads and biodiversity. (pp. 493-505) edited by Mark A. Sutton, Kate E. Mason, Lucy J. Sheppard, Harald Sverdrup, Richard Haeuber and W. Kevin Hicks. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer Netherlands. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7939-6_51

  • Robinson, Nicole, Vogt, Jessica, Lakshmanan, Prakash and Schmidt, Sussane (2013). Nitrogen physiology of sugarcane. Sugarcane: Physiology, Biochemistry, and Functional Biology. (pp. 169-195) edited by Paul H. Moore and Frederik C. Botha. Oxford United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons. doi: 10.1002/9781118771280.ch8

  • Paungfoo-Lonhienne, Chanyarat, Schmidt, Susanne, Webb, Richard I. and Lonhienne, Thierry G. A. (2013). Rhizophagy-a new dimension of plant-microbe interactions. Molecular Microbial Ecology of the Rhizosphere. (pp. 1199-1207) edited by Frans J. de Bruijn. Hoboken, NJ United States: Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781118297674.ch115

  • Ellis, J. C., Bellingham, P. J., Cameron, E. K., Croll, D. A., Kolb, G. S., Kueffer, C., Mittelhauser, G. H., Schmidt, S., Vidal, E. and Wait, D. A. (2011). Effects of seabirds on plant communities. Seabird Islands: Ecology, invasion and restoration. (pp. 177-211) edited by Christa Mulder, Wendy Anderson, David Towns and Peter Bellingham. New York, USA: Oxford Univ Press. doi: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199735693.003.0006

  • Mulder, C. P. H., Jones, H., Kameda, K., Palmborg, C., Schmidt, S., Ellis, J., Orrock, J. L., Wait, A., Wardle, D. A., Yang, L., Young, H., Croll, D. and Vidal, E. (2011). Impacts of seabirds on plant and soil properties. Seabird Islands: Ecology, invasion and restoration. (pp. 135-176) edited by Christa P. H. Mulder, Wendy B. Anderson, David R. Towns and Peter J. Bellingham. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199735693.003.0005

  • Stewart, G. and Schmidt, S. (1999). Evolution and ecology of plant mineral nutrition. Physiological plant ecology: The 39th Symposium of the British Ecological Society, held at the University of York, 7-9 September 1998. (pp. 91-114) edited by Malcolm C. Press, Julie D. Scholes and Martin G. Barker. UK: Blackwell Science.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

  • Bell, Mike J., Biggs, Jody, Brennan McKellar, L., Connellan, Julian, Di Bella, Lawrence, Dwyer, Rod, Empson, Marine, Garside, Alan J., Harvey, Tim, Kraak, Jeff, Lakshmanan, Prakash, Lamb, David W., Meier, Elizabeth, Moody, Phil, Muster, Tim, Palmer, Jeda, Robinson, Nicole, Robson, Andrew, Salter, Barry, Schroeder, Bernard, Silburn, Mark, Schmidt, Susanne, Skocaj, Danielle M., Stacey, Samuel, Stanley, John, Thorburn, Peter, Verburg, Kirsten, Walker, Charlie, Wang, Weijin and Wood, Andrew (2015). A review of nitrogen use efficiency in sugarcane. Sugar Research Australia Limited.

  • Rossato, L., Suzanne, R., Monteiro, Michael, Whittaker, M., Baumgartl, T., Doley, D., Pudmensky, A. and Schmidt, S. (2011). Soil remediation process. ZA201009100.

  • Rossato, Laurence Suzanne Rosa, Pudmenzky, Alexander, Doley, David, Monteiro, Michael, Whittaker, Michael and Schmidt, Susanne (2008). Soil remediation process. 20110182670.

  • Schmidt, Susanne (1996). ​​​​​​​Nitrogen relations in tropical and subtropical Australian plant communities. PhD Thesis, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi: 10.14264/5319c2d

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • 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

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Nitrogen pollution exceeds the safe planetary boundaries and has a terrible impact on the natural environment, such as the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Nitrogen pollution originates from wastes (such as manures and sewage) and the inefficient use of fertilisers in agricultural land. There is much opportunity to advance the circular nutrient economy by repurposing and re-designing fertilisers that better match crop demand and have a longer soil residence time than current products. This interdisciplinary project combines expertise in plants, soil, microbes and engineering.to address the pervasive problem of nutrient inefficiencies to boost crop production, climate change mitigation, and the economics of farming.

  • Grain legumes, such as chickpea, soy and mungbean, are essential elements of human nutrition as a protein substitute for meat and a healthy complement to a cereal-rich diet. Grain legumes also benefit other crops by generating nitrogen biologically and restocking soil N reserves, thereby supplementing synthetic N fertiliser. Despite the many benefits of legumes with superior values for humans and the environment, their production is limited by low and variable yields. We integrate research from molecular advances to agronomic outcomes, evaluating roots of grain legumes as the basis for resource-efficient and resilient future crops. Projects available at all project levels, co-supervised by government and industry.

  • Liverworts occupy some of the most inhospitable regions. They form part of biocrusts, the living cover of soils that protect from erosion and inputs nitrogen and carbon. Liverworts are often the main green plant in a biocrust matrix dominated by cyanobacteria and other microorganisms. The role of liverworts is not well established, although we find liverwort-rich and -poor biocrusts in different situations. The project will explore these amazing plants with resurrection capacity - and examine their role in nitrogen and carbon cycling in savannas and grasslands. Liverwort taxonomy will be explored in collaboration with experts from the Royal Botanical Gardens (Canberra), and the student will work alongside our biocrust team, connecting fundamental science and sustainable land uses.

  • Our Indigenous-led Australian Research Council-funded "A Deadly Solution: Towards an Indigenous-led bush food industry" has Indigenous communities in Queensland guide the expanding Australian bushfood industry to develop plants for new food and flavour products. Advancing economic opportunities for Australia's Traditional Owners to achieve cultural, health and environmental benefits, this interdisciplinary project facets include identifying bushfood plants, propagation, selecting ecotypes with desirable traits, restoring degraded land, and developing new production systems - from horticulture to wild harvest. Projects are available for students of all levels (undergraduate, Honours, postgraduate) and we encourage with Indigenous and non-indigenous students encouraged to apply. https://agriculture-food-sustainability.uq.edu.au/research/bushfoods

  • This project is a collaboration with the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Reserach Center in which the student will quantiify on-farm waste from crop production. This information will be used for the 'Cool Farm Tool work aimed at understanding the CO2 impacts of different farming practices for our key crops. The student will assess what should or could be harvested with focus on pea, potato and maize crops. We expect to use the WWF on-farm loss (see link above) including guidance with FAQ, video tutorials, a field worksheet for the in-field measurement componen. It is in beta version (yet fully to be developed) for testing and WWF USA are supportive of a pilot here in Australia. Locations of the research include Tasmania and Bathurst.

  • Cattle grazing in Australia's savannas has to be sustainable. Our project explores biocrusts, the living soil cover composed of biodiverse communities of microscopic organisms. Biocrusts fix carbon and nitrogen and are essential for maintaining soil fertility. This project will profile effective biocrust to develop methodologies to restore degraded landscapes. The project is part of a consortium of government and industry stakeholders. All levels of students are encouraged to apply.

  • We are developing next-generation fertilisers from waste, including compost and other recyclates. This has many benefits as next-generation fertilisers avoid landfill (where waste generates greenhouse gases), supplement or replace conventional fertilisers, which can be costly and damage the environment, and support soil health and farm profits. The project is supported by the Fight Food Waste CRC (https://fightfoodwastecrc.com.au/) and the organic waste recycling industry. Projects are available (lab, glasshouse, field, modelling) in collaboration with engineers, farmers and government in Australia and overseas.

  • We can mitigate climate change and restore degraded soils by replenishing carbon and organic matter through re-purposing carbon- and nutrient-rich organic wastes. This transdisciplinary project has plant and soil scientists working alongside waste engineers, government and industry partners in the Industry Transformation Training Centre for Biosolids. Candidates interested in researching biosolids - digested, heated or pyrolysed will identify safe and efficient ways for rebuilding soil carbon stores and delivering nutrients to plants. Projects available for all levels (undergraduate, Honours, postgraduate).

  • There is a lot of debate about farming systems that more efficiently use nutrients (fertilisers) to avoid high costs to farmers and the environment. Our research is testing a range of organic recyclates, including compost and microbial biomass as organic sources of fertilisers. This project will allow the student to set up experiments to test if food crops differ in nutritional value and taste when grown with organic vs. mineral fertiliser. Further, the student can compare purchased organic vs. conventional foods from supermarkets/markets for taste and food quality.

  • The student will collect on-farm data from farms including peas, potato and corn to quantify the harvest residue. The project is supported by the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre to advance understanding of the CO2 impact of different farming practices.

  • Soil and crop health are integral to high crop yields, yet degraded soils that have lost physical, chemical and biological function often reduce crop vigour and yield. We want to understand how compost can improve soils, and this project will test the changes in vital soil functions at an innovative sugarcane farm in NQLD that has been using compost for several years. Soil traits, nutrient supply, and yield are among the topics to explore in collaboration with economist, transportation engineer, and modeler. Projects are available for all levels (undergraduate, Honours, postgraduate. https://fightfoodwastecrc.com.au/)

  • Rare species in the Myrtaceae family occupy Queensland’s world-heritage listed Gondwanan rainforest. Many of these species are on the brink of extinction because myrtle rust is killing vulnerable species that are weakened by changing weather patterns. The protection status of the forest prevents the use of fungicides and alternatives are sought. Many of these plants naturally accumulate heavy metals, and an intriguing idea is if these metals could fend off myrtle rust. Our interdisciplinary team of experts in plant ecophysiology, pathology, rare plant ecology and propagation will support students carrying out field and laboratory research to test the interactions between heavy metal accumulation and tolerance to myrtle rust. Seedlings have been propagated by a local nursery and a scoping project at Honours level is now available.