Deep Frontier

  • Challenging one last frontier: Understanding and improving deep rooting 

Enhance food production in a sustainable way

How are we going to feed the world now and in the future? A profound change of the global food and agricultural system is needed, if we are to nourish today’s 795 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050 (source: FAO).

Most of the valuable arable land in the world is already in use and for various reasons we cannot expand agricultural land into new areas. We therefore have to think differently. The Deep Frontier project is addressing this challenge and is moving into areas where science has hardly gone before.

While current agricultural cropping systems have limited exploitation of water and nutrients below 1 meters of soil depth, some plant species can grow much deeper root systems. Crops with deeper roots can allow us to exploit unused nutrients and water from deep soil layers hereby increase the sustainability of cropping systems. Deep Frontier intend to develop such systems and to study their resource use, biological effects and carbon sequestration in soil layers down to 5 meters depth.

Unique research facilities 
During the initial stages of the project, Deep Frontier has established unique research facilities at the research station Højbakkegaard located about 25 km west of Copenhagen, Denmark. 

The Deep Frontier project is funded by the Villum Foundation and is carried out by:

Latest news from Deep Frontier

Deep Roots – connect Denmark with Australia - Read more

Trends in Plant Science - Review: Digging Deeper for Agricultural Resources, the Value of Deep Rooting Read more  


Leading root researchers gathered in Copenhagen


The Deep Frontier project recently hosted an international workshop that summoned some of the leading root experts from around the world.  Read more

Deep roots help crops to survive - but not necessarily to thrive

When a drought hits, there is often still water in the deeper soil. If crops have deep roots, they can access this water. Chicory is such a crop, and it takes up substantial amounts of water from the deep soil. However not enough to escape a drought.

PhD defence: Organic carbon mineralization and microbiology in subsoil

Zhi Liang has examined the fate of organic carbon inputs in deep soil ecosystems. This included laboratory studies of the carbon sequestration potential from deep-roted crops in relation to root chemical composition, soil nutrient availability, and microbial physiology.


Root litter chemistry and soil nutrient availability affect subsoil carbon turnover


Carbon (C) turnover in subsoil was studied by Zhi Liang, PhD student of the Deep Frontier project. The results presents a framework for enhanced subsoil C stock through a deep-rooted cropping system as related to root nitrogen (N) and lignin contents, soil N availability, and microbial activity. 


Go in-depth with deep roots on 'The Day of the Roots', 4 June 2018 (in Danish)

What is going on in the deep soil layers? How do crops response to water stress? Do plants get water and nutrition from the deep soil layers? Do deep roots affect the soils’ microorganisms? And how can we utilise plants with deep roots in agriculture? Get answers to these questions when the Robusta project invites everyone interested to Rodens Dag in Taastrup, Denmark (in Danish).

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Follow Deep Frontier and other research projects related to growth and functions of deep-roots and their benefits for agricultural system on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The social media channels are set up as a joint activity by Copenhagen University.

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