John Mcdonagh


  • 1.21A ZICER Building

Personal profile

Academic Background

Originally trained as a botanist (BSc Botany, University of Bristol 1987), I worked in botany for a couple of years before doing a MSc. in tropical soil fertility management (Imperial College, University of Kent 1988) and then a PhD in tropical agronomy looking at the use of legumes in rice and maize based systems in northeast Thailand and southern Sumatra (PhD 1993, University of London).

I am an associate professor in the School of International Development, having joined in 1997.



I am an associate professor Natural Resources and Environment sector of the School of International Development.



I have been involved in tropical land management research and training since 1989. I spent three years employed at Wye College (part of Imperial College London) on research looking at the contribution of legumes to rice and maize based farming systems in Thailand and Indonesia. I then lived and worked in Madagascar for two years partly working on botanical surveys but also on community based land management projects around some of the large protected areas on the island. From 1995-1997 I was employed by the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen (KVL, now part of Copenhagen University) as an Associate Professor on an interdisciplinary research project, funded by DANIDA, looking at sustainable agriculture and livelihoods in Iringa Region in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. I joined the School of International Development at UEA in 1997.

Key Research Interests

Tropical soil fertility management, sustainable farming systems; nutrient and water balance studies. Tanzania, Madagascar, Namibia, Thailand.

Research Groups: Land Resources

Research Activities

My research interests centre around land and soil management and assessment, tropical farming systems and agriculture extension service delivery. I have most recently been involved in research funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) developing online tools for the assessment of ecosystem carbon and also in DFID- funded research looking at the relevance of biochar to farming systems and livelihoods in Ghana and China. Recent work has included the development of tools and approaches for the assessment of land degradation in drylands (GEF-funded FAO LADA project).

Much of my training and long-term research interests have been in soil fertility management in tropical cropping systems. I have worked on these topics with collaborators in Thailand, Indonesia, Namibia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, China, Kyrgyzstan, Argentina and Tunisia.

Areas of Expertise

Tropical agriculture; extension and education in agriculture, farming-based livelihoods, soil and land management.

Teaching Interests

In addition to my research and training interests I have taught widely in natural resources management, methods and field course modules in the school.

I am interested in supervising undergraduate and post graduate dissertation students in the broad areas of agriculture, food, natural resources management, land resources, energy.

I have supervised a number of PhD students working in my areas of interest and am keen to supervise other research students in these areas.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 15 - Life on Land