Dr Lydia Smith

Dr Lydia Smith
Project lead - Centre for High Carbon Capture Cropping
+44 (0) 1223 342242 / +44 (0) 7809 086766

Research interests

Lydia Smith has over 35 years of applied farmer-facing work especially in novel/underutilised crops and their impact on soil health and microbial interactions. She has engaged with wide-ranging research related to the impact on soil health and farming efficiency, most recently leading development of farmer-focussed approaches to enhancing soil health through cropping choices; especially those associated with carbon-capture and deep rooting characters.

A plant ecologist by training, especially soil-plant microbial interactions and reclamation of land to agricultural use, Dr Smith has extensive experience in the application of ecological principles to the farming environment. Lydia has a particular interest in diversification of farm species and has sought to foster interactions between academics and business, especially in the East of England. Following periods lecturing in soil/environmental science at the University of Luton and in reclamation science on M.Sc. courses at the University of East London, Lydia joined NIAB in 1997 and established the Novel and Non-Food Crops area.

Collaborative work at NIAB across many projects led to initiation of NIAB Innovation Farm in 2011 by Lydia, providing farmers and stakeholders a source of information relating to advances in genetics, botany and agronomy of new crop species. This led to the establishment of the Eastern Agritech Innovation Hub in 2015, specialising in the utilisation or re-valorisation of waste products and co-products. 

Lydia is currently project lead for the Centre for High Carbon Capture Cropping.

Research projects

Centre for High Carbon Capture Cropping (CHCx3)
Duration: 4 years 
Partners: 21 Partners from research industry and NGOs
Funders: Defra/ IUK

Dwarfing pepper and cucumber for vertical indoor farming
Duration: 3 years 
Partners: Agritech Innovations Ltd; University of Essex; AbbeyView Produce Ltd
Funder: BBSRC

Hemp Excellence Project
Duration: 2 years 
Partners: Ashby Farms Kent Ltd
Funder: IUK

Expired Fire Extinguisher Powder Recycling - Experimental Development Project
Duration: 2 years
Partners: Phoscycle Ltd
Funder: SMART - IUK

Agricultural Sustainability by Monitoring with Affordable Re-usable TouchScreens (Project Agri-SMARTs)
Duration: 1.5 years
Partners:  University of Cambridge 
Funder: BBSRC

Pelagia Sea2Soil Field analysis
Duration: 2 years
Partners: Pelagia
Funder: Pelagia

PhD Project Net zero wheat varieties (Eda Knights)
Duration: 4 years 
Partners: Sainsbury Ltd; University of Nottingham

NIAB-Cambridge University Press Journal; Plant Genetic Resources
Duration: Long term contract 
Partners: Cambridge University Press Journal
Funders: Cambridge University Press Journal


• Smith L.M.J 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 2014 2015, 2016 2017, 2018, 2019 2020; NIAB innovation Farm Visitors guide(s) (Dissemination document for visitors & workshop events)

• Mora-Ortiz, M., Smith, L.M.J.; Koelliker, R.; Skot, L. (2016) Characterization of novel SSR markers in diverse sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) germplasm; BMC Genetics.

• Mueller Harvey I. et al (2019) Benefits of condensed tannins in forage legumes fed to ruminants: importance of structure, concentration and diet composition, Crop Science 59: doi 861–885 10.2135/cropsci2017.06.0369

• Mora-Ortiz,M, & Smith L. M.J. (2018) Onobrychis viciifolia; Comprehensive literature review of its history, etymology, taxonomy, genetics, agronomy and botany. Pl. Gen. Res., 16, (5) 403-18.

• Knight, S. et al (2022) Review of opportunities for diversifying UK agriculture through investment in underutilised crops – Report for Defra project CH0224 

• Smith, L.M.J. (2022). A Case study for Cultivation and Use of Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum) Within the UK Farmed Environment. Literature review for Defra Project CH0224

• Smith LMJ and Knight S. 2023 Industrial Hemp Cultivation in the UK A Case Study on Farming Potential for Cannabis sativa L. and Utilisation in a Range of Products

Full publications list at ResearchGate 

X: @innovationfarm1