Article

Prof. Dr. Florian Wichern, a distinguished figure in soil science and plant nutrition, has recently assumed the role of Editor-in-Chief for ‘Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems.’

Known for his engaging teaching methods in soil science, Dr. Wichern emphasizes practical relevance and the foundational role of soil science in agriculture. In his editorial role, he manages the quality and content of the journal, highlighting the importance of rigorous reviews and involving young scientists globally.

Dr. Wichern’s research focuses on nutrient cycling in agroecosystems, addressing issues such as nutrient circularity and soil carbon conservation. His integrative approach underscores the significance of nutrient management for economic and ecological efficiency. He encourages aspiring researchers to delve into topics with passion, perseverance, and network building.

Link to the Journal: Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems | Editors (springer.com)

Overall, Dr. Wichern’s contributions and editorial leadership aim to advance soil science, emphasizing diverse perspectives, regional nutrient cycling, and the crucial role of young researchers in shaping the future of the field.

Interview

The article as an abridged Interview:

Question 1:¬†“How do you manage to make complex soil science topics appealing to your students?”

Dr. Florian Wichern : “By trying to establish practical relevance in agriculture and thus clarifying to farmers that soil science is the foundation of agriculture, making the complex interconnections more understandable in terms of how they affect or function in agriculture. We conduct lectures, excursions, and laboratory courses to represent the areas of soil chemistry, physics, biology, and their interconnections. We cover both theoretical concepts, systems, empirical data, and the application to agricultural systems. There are other applications in the field of engineering with different fields for soil science, but our focus is on agriculture.”

Question 2:¬†“You’ve been the editor of ‘Nutrient Cycling in¬†Agroecosystems’¬†since January 1st. What do you think are the biggest challenges and rewards of leading such a scientific¬†journal?”

Dr. Florian Wichern : “Leading the journal also means shaping its scientific direction in the field of nutrient cycle management, a major topic in the EU, especially concerning the efficient use of limited resources like plant nutrients, notably phosphorus and nitrogen, which are limited due to fossil-based extraction. The journal is application-oriented but also requires a solid scientific basis for sustainable nutrient management systems. As an editor, I have the opportunity to influence the direction of science while also deepening my understanding of ongoing research. It’s a responsibility to discern which contributions are scientifically new and valuable.”

Question 3:¬†“Which aspect of research, in your opinion, has the greatest impact on the management of agroecosystems?”

Dr. Florian Wichern: “Managing nutrients is crucial since they can be the limiting or excess factor in agroecosystems. Improving nutrient efficiency and reducing input and losses makes the entire system more economically efficient, reducing ecological and social costs. This requires an integrated view in agriculture, considering nutrients in various compartments, which can only be viewed holistically as an agricultural scientist. Nutrient flows are indicators of what’s functioning well or poorly in agriculture.”

Question 4:¬†“Having taken on the editor role recently, how do you find the process compared to other scientific¬†journals?”

Dr. Florian Wichern: “The journal focuses on nutrient flows in agroecosystems and emphasizes relevant field studies over laboratory investigations. The traditional approach defines the types of studies we accept. Submitted studies undergo a rigorous quality check and peer-review process. As editors, we’re responsible for initial assessment and the decision-making post-review. It’s a detailed process to ensure quality and relevance, involving multiple rounds of reviews. About 50% of submissions are initially rejected for not meeting standards, and the rest undergo detailed evaluation. This process ensures the high quality of publications in the journal.”

Question 5:¬†“Scientific publications play a significant role in academic careers. What responsibilities do you feel as an editor?”

Dr. Florian Wichern: “We have a responsibility, especially towards young researchers, to provide quick feedback on the suitability of their articles for publication. The review process depends on the availability and willingness of scientists to act as reviewers, which is a challenge due to the expanding scope of science. We’re working on involving more young scientists and those from the global south, where nutrient issues differ, in the review process and editorial board. This approach enriches the journal with diverse perspectives and supports our focus on regional nutrient cycling and agricultural transformation.”

Question 6:¬†“What advice would you give to graduates of our Faculty of Life Sciences, especially those who want to make an impact in environmental research and soil science?”

Dr. Florian Wichern: ‚ÄěFrom a research perspective, there are many details yet to be uncovered. Diving into a topic for better understanding is the essence of research, but it requires a passion for detail and perseverance. It’s also crucial to build a network, connecting with various scientists through conferences, social media, and reading scientific articles. This not only enhances understanding but also improves communication of knowledge.”

Credits: Mr. Stephan Hanf, MA (HSRW)