Historical findings

Investigations on the nitrogen (N) cycle started with Justus Liebig when he discovered that plants would pick up N in form of “Salpeter”. Interestingly, Justus Liebig did not know anything about microbial processes in soil, because this was only discovered after his death by the two French scientist Gayon and Dupetit in 1882 who showed that reduction of nitrate (NO3-) could lead to gaseous N emissions. Since then the conditions, the microbial processes and microbial players in the soil responsible for denitrification have been studied by numerous researchers.

The University in Giessen where Justus Liebig made all his groundbreaking discoveries has been the focal point for denitrification research in Germany for several decades. It was the late Prof. Dr. J.C.G. Ottow who organised the last big denitrification conference, almost to the day, 30 years ago. This “International Workshop on Denitrification in Soil, Rhizosphere and Acquifer” was held in Giessen just before the German unification in March 17 - 19, 1989.

Interestingly, the topics addressed throughout that workshop sounded quite similar to what we will discuss during our current “Tracing denitrification” conference.

We like to share our historical findings with you, please find the documents for download below


Proceedings from 1989

Technical Program Workshop

Prof. Ottow (deutsch)

Prof. Ottow (english)