5th International Symposium on Soil Organic Matter, Göttingen, Germany, September 20-25th
A whole week of soil organic matter! While many Europeans commented that it was a long way to come for a conference, the nine Australians lucky enough to attend SOM2015 all agreed that we found it thoroughly worthwhile. On the pre-conference field trip, Brian Wilson, Samantha Grover and a dozen other scientists visited peatlands under a range of agricultural uses and had fun flitting back and forth across the former border between East and West Germany. Schnapps tasting at a former convent ended the day but set the scene for the conference proper, which featured different local beers during the poster sessions every evening. Lynne Macdonald, Mark Farrell, Gaelle Ng, Tom Baker, BP Singh, Bhawana Bhatta and Jessica Ernakovich joined Brian Wilson and Samantha Grover to present a wide range of the SOM research from Australia. Outputs from the National Soil Carbon Program were abundant. The Australian contingent joined delegates from more than 50 countries, who presented 161 talks over four days, selected from more than 600 submitted abstracts. The bar was set high, with opening keynote addresses from Rattan Lal and Johan Six. All agreed that this high standard was maintained and the coffee (and beer) breaks were abuzz with animated conversation. Dr Grover’s talk on the effects of lime on the mineralisation of soil organic matter attracted considerable interest and connections were established with two authorities in this area. Ongoing research on peat soils was also strengthened by the first face-to-face meeting between Samantha Grover and Anna Normand, a PhD student from the University of Florida whom Dr Grover co-supervises. The next conference baton was passed on to Jennifer Dungait from Rothamstead Research, which will host the 6th SOM symposium in 2017. A post-conference workshop on SOM fractionation will result in a comparative trial of fractionation methods from laboratories around the world, with Lynne Macdonald accepting the trial soils to contribute CSIRO’s methodology to the study.
After the conference Samantha visited Dr Cordula Vogel and Professor Karsten Kalbitz at Dresden Technical University and gave a splendid talk to their Soil Science and Site Ecology group. Potential collaborations were discussed, a joint project proposal drafted and relationships between the two groups were even further strengthened. The valuable contribution from the Plant Nutrition Trust was well acknowledged in all presentations and it helped to attract matching funding from La Trobe University.
Samantha Grover and Brian Wilson with colleagues at a remnant of the fence dividing East and West Germany on the SOM2015 pre-conference field trip.