Nicholas Humphries

Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

PhD student


Nicholas graduated from The Royal Agricultural University with a BSc Agriculture (Sustainable Soil Management), 1 st Class Honours in 2013, and is currently a part of the White Rose Research BIOSAS project working toward his PhD.

Prior to starting his PhD Nicholas worked in industry as an agricultural consultant for Intelligent Precision Farming (IPF), managing up to 30,000 hectares of UK farmland and progressing to Trials Manager. Nicholas has several industry qualifications, including being a fully qualified FACTS fertiliser

Nicholas’ research is focused on assessing the response of agricultural soils to amendments of secondary treated sewage sludge biosolids and flooding events. The increasing use of biosolids as an agricultural input and source of crop nutrients, coupled with an increasingly unpredictable climate,could pose an increased pollution risk.

Understanding how the soil-crop system utilises and stabilises biosolid applications and then how this system responds to flood events is the focus of this project. Through monitoring the effects on crop response, soil microbial populations and soil geochemistry a complete picture can be developed of the interactions in the whole soil system, to discern how best to approach future management decisions and minimise pollution risks.

Supervised by Prof Doug Stewart at University of Leeds and Prof Steve Thornton at University of Sheffield the PhD is a truly cross-disciplinary undertaking, combining agriculture and soil science with the expertise and deeper analysis methods afforded by an engineering approach and methodology. Lab experiments based at Leeds will study soil processes in a controlled environment whilst representing real world agricultural conditions.

Analytical approaches available at Leeds and Sheffield will enable a comprehensive picture to be developed of how the whole soil environment reacts to biosolid amendments and extreme weather.