Future Perspectives

Sacha J. Mooney*, Stephan Peth, Richard J. Heck, Iain M. Young

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The adoption of X-ray CT imaging to the soil sciences has initiated a step-change in our understanding of how the design and complexity of the physical architecture of the soil porous network influences and regulates some of the most important soil functions, including water storage and flow, diffusion of gases, microbial behaviour and more. It has been well-appreciated, for decades, that soil structure is a vitally important soil property, but without an effective and rapid means to quantitatively assess it in 3-D, as it exists in the field, and how it changes dynamically over time, has been a too-frequently disregarded factor, often excluded from transport models and simplified excessively in the laboratory. Hounsfield’s contribution to the development of X-ray CT in the 1970s (now over 50 years ago), best known for saving millions of lives each year through medical diagnostics, continues to support scientific advancement across a vast range of disciplines, especially those in the material and engineering sciences. However, one might argue that soil, the most complex biomaterial on Earth, has been among those disciplines to benefit the most. Soil, with its highly complex yet fragile structure, that varies across many spatial and temporal scales, host to tremendous biodiversity, and upon which we are so dependent on for our food, our water, as well as the crucial role it has to play in mitigating the future changing climate, has long been considered something of a ‘black box’ when it comes to its structure. The ability to visualise the size, shape and connection of the microscopic pore structures (operating across multi scales), along with other soil material such as organic matter and those organisms that exist in soil such as roots and fauna, represents a huge advance in our current and future scientific capabilities. The key of course is to link such information to function. While in this book we provide a synthesis of the progress the community has made over the last c. 40 years, the next 40 years is likely to surpass these in terms of advancing our understanding of soil form and function. Considering the key chapter themes in this book, we here offer a future perspective on how we perceive the research fields may advance, highlighting where bottlenecks exist, where collective community action is needed and where greater interdisciplinary collaboration is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationX-ray Imaging of the Soil Porous Architecture
PublisherSpringer International Publishing AG
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9783031121760
ISBN (Print)9783031121753
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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