Kirkham Conferences

Kirkham Conference

2016 SSSA Kirkham Conference

The Root Zone: Soil Physics & Beyond
Sede Boqer campus Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, 10-14 April

2016 Sponsors


Attending the Conference?

  • Accommodation Information

The night of Sunday, April 10 at the Mashabim Inn (check in time is 2pm).The nights of Monday-Wednesday, April 11th-13th, 2016 at the Sede Boker hostel in a twin/double room to be shared with a conference participant (due to shortage of rooms no single rooms are possible), within walking distance of the conference venue.

  • Travel Plans & Visas

When making your travel plans, please bear in mind that there will be a Welcome event at the evening of Sunday, April 10. If booking a flight, and given a travel time of about 2hrs to the conference venue, you should preferably book a flight that arrives no later than 3pm on Sunday, to make it in time. For your departure, please consider that the conference ends at about 5pm on Thursday, April 14th, and again, for those booking a flight, given the travel time and the check-in requirements, you should aim at flights departing no earlier than 9:30pm on Thursday April 14.

While holders of EU or U.S. passports are exempt from entry visas to Israel, participants are requested to confirm that they do not need a visa and make their own visa arrangements if needed with the local Embassy or Consulate of the State Israel prior to their arrival. Please also check if any transit visas are required if traveling on an indirect flight. If necessary, we can supply you with an invitation letter, which may facilitate the visa process (and may further assist you during passport-control). However, bear in mind that processing time may take several weeks, so it is advisable to deal with this issue well in advance.

For any questions regarding flights or visas please contact Ms. Dorit Korine at .

Learn more about the Location>>


The symposium targets the root zone. The main objective of this symposium is to identify and prioritize knowledge gaps related to the various physical, biological and chemical aspects of water and nutrient flow, transport and uptake in this important region that is believed to control both agronomic production as well as environmental aspects related to water and agro-chemicals. The symposium will be a meeting point for researchers who study soil and roots from different disciplines and at different scales, seeking both pure scientific understanding of the processes as well as their application for the benefit of society. Special emphasis will be given to novel measurement and modeling tools at the various scales, to interdisciplinary research, and to the participation of young and mid-career graduate students and researchers.


In recent decades, available water for agricultural use has been decreasing considerably due to both competition over existing water and an apparent reduction in the overall availability. At the same time, the need for food production is constantly increasing. Therefore, increasing resource utilization efficiency is of great importance. Clearly, the root system and its interaction with the soil play a key role in water, nutrients and gas transport. Understanding these key processes will facilitate increased efficiency that will eventually lead to improved food production, and reduced waste of resources.

The root zone is the main terminal through which plants obtain their resources. It is considered the most important (and least understood) component in the soil-water-plant-atmosphere continuum. The rhizosphere, termed in 1904 by Lorenz Hiltner is the interfacial region between the soil and the plant, and together with the soil immediately around it they control the movement of water, nutrients and other commodities into the plant. The rhizosphere can be generally divided into three regions: the endorhizosphere, which is the inner most part and includes portions of the cortex and endodermis , the rhizoplane, that is the medial zone directly adjacent to the root including the root epidermis and mucilage, and the ectorhizosphere, the outermost zone, which extends from the rhizoplane out into the bulk soil. The physical, chemical, and biological functionality of the rhizosphere’s subsections and of the soil around them, and their measurements are necessary for understanding the rhizosphere’s functionality in its entirety.

Analyzing the root zone in terms of functionality, we identify several key processes and data requirements that must be addressed individually, and then mutually, in order to understand the root zone. These include: a) water flow in the vicinity near the roots and across the root interface (uptake); b) nutrient transport and uptake; c) root respiration and soil aeration; d) root morphologies and mechanics and their dynamics; e) non-invasive measurements at various scales; f) the rhizosphere heat regime; and g) the rhizosphere microbiome. In the following, we elaborate on each of these specific fields of interest, tentatively identifying several key questions for discussion.

2016 Kirkham Confirmed Conference Speakers:

  • Andrea Carminati - Georg-August University Goettingen
  • Mathieu Javaux - Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Teamrat Ghezzehei - University of California, Merced
  • Jan Vanderborght - Forschungszentrum Jülich IBG-3
  • Paul Hallett - University of Aberdeen
  • Shimon Rachmilevitch - Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
  • Hinanit Koltai - ARO, Volcani Center
  • Boris Rewald - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU)
  • Alain Pierret - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
  • Jirka Simunek – University of California, Riverside
  • Hans Lambers - The University of Western Australia
  • Tiina Roose - University of Southampton
  • Mary Firestone - University of California, Berkeley
  • Maciej Zwieniecki - University of California, Davis
  • Dror Minz - ARO, Volcani Center
  • Jonathan Lynch - Pennsylvania State University


2016 Steering Committee

2016 Organizing Committee


Kirkham Conference 2012

Exploring Frontiers in Soil Physics
The 2012 Kirkham Conference was held at the Wharerata Homestead of Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand over 28-30 November 2012. Invited speakers gave keynotes addresses on the contemporary soil physics’ themes of: up scaling, defining the effective properties of soils, relating structure to function, water repellency and unstable flows, plants and soil, microbial diversity and ecological economics. The theme for the 2012 Kirkham Conference was Exploring Frontiers in Soil Physics.

The 2012 Kirkham Conference was held at the Wharerata Homestead on the campus of Massey University, some 3 km from the city centre of Palmerston North, in the province of Manawatu in the lower half of the North Island of New Zealand.  Auckland is New Zealand’s major city at the top of the North Island of New Zealand, and most international flights arrive and depart from Auckland – although there are also good connections to the South Island via the international hub in Christchurch. Between both Christchurch and Auckland there are several return flights a day to Palmerston North, so access is easy.  Palmerston North’s airport is only about 3 km from the city centre.  Accommodation for conference attendees will be in the city centre.  In a geographic sense, Palmerston North looks a bit like Ames, Iowa, the university hometown of the Kirkhams – except for the backdrop of mountains, flowing rivers, and volcanoes!

Wharerata homestead was originally built in 1901 to a C.T. Natusch ( design for Mr Arthur Edward Russell, a successful farmer from the neighbouring province of Hawke’s Bay. ‘Whare’ (pronounced -forry) is Maori for house, and ‘rata’ (pronounced ra – ta) is Maori for red. Mr Russell was nicknamed "Rata" by local Maori - thanks to his prolific fiery red beard.  And when the time came to decide on a name for his new home in the Manawatu, Arthur decided on "Wharerata” – or ‘house of the red beard’! Gifted to Massey University in 1949, Wharerata was initially used simply as a lecture space, but it has now evolved into Manawatu’s premiere function centre. Further details are available from:

Why New Zealand?
The Kirkham Family has had a long-standing and vital connection with New Zealand, and the 2012 Kirkham Conference will commemorate these links. Don’s father, Francis Washington Kirkham, first visited New Zealand in March 1896 as a Mormon missionary.  He spent 3 years on missionary service in New Zealand and a photo below shows him, with his colleagues and local Maori, during this time. He returned for 6 months in 1916, during which he wrote the book “Kirkham’s Maori Grammar”, a grammatical treatise of the language of the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, the Maori. Maori people use the term tangata whenua (literally, "people of the land") to describe themselves in a way that emphasises their close relationship with a particular area of land and its soil. There is a close connection between the Kirkhams, New Zealand, and its soils. But there’s more …

Francis returned to New Zealand with his wife Marguerite in January 1962 and they spent 4 months Down-Under. Upon his death, in her write-up of Francis’s life, Marguerite wrote “One of the great loves of his life was the land of New Zealand and its people … [and during his 4-month visit in 1962] Francis gave over eighty talks to audiences during this short period, many of which were in the Maori language.”

Next, Don and Betty Kirkham visited New Zealand in February 1981 so that Don and Betty could attend the international conference at Massey University on Soils with Variable Charge. Then, Don and Betty’s daughter, Mary Beth Kirkham, a professor at Kansas State University, spent three sabbaticals in New Zealand; first in 1991, and then again in 1998 and 2005.  She worked with the Crown Research Institutes of Plant and Food Research, and Landcare Research. She has even enjoyed being a guest at Wharerata – the location for the 2012 Kirkham Conference. So New Zealand seems to be exactly the right place to hold the 2012 Kirkham Conference.

Kirkham Conference 2008

The 2008 Kirkham Conference was held 24-26 February 2008 at the University of California at Davis (UCD, in Davis, CA.  The theme of this conference was "Soil Physics – Research on the Frontiers of Earth’s Life Support System."

The Kirkham Conference honors the late Don Kirkham, Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Professor of Physics, and his wife Betty and is intended to be focused on critical issues in soil physics and hydrology. Ten distinguished speakers addressed unresolved soil-water questions.

The 2008 conference was sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America and the UCD Department of Land, Air and Water Resources.

For more information about this conference, visit the website maintained by University of Arizona.

Kirkham Conference 2004

The 2004 Kirkham Conference was held October 28 and 29, at Utah State University (USU) in Logan, UT, where Don Kirkham taught mathematics and physics. It was at Utah State University that Don met his wife, Betty, and became interested in soil physics.

Ten distinguished speakers addressed latest insights regarding physical and biological soil processes across different scales.

The 2004 conference is sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America, the USU Department of Plants, Soils and Biometeorology, and the USU Soil Physics Group

For more information about this conference, visit the website maintained by University of Arizona.

Kirkham Conference 2000

The first Kirkham Conference was held Nov. 2 and 3, 2000, at Iowa State University. The conference honors the late Don Kirkham, Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and professor of physics, and his wife Betty. It was sponsored by the Soil Science Society of America, the Iowa State Water Resources Research Institute and the Iowa State University Department of Agronomy.

This first Kirkham Conference focused on scale issues in soil and hydrology.

For more information about this conference, visit the website maintained by University of Arizona.