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BARIToNE Project 10 - AGRARIAN - stAcking aGRoecological innovAtions foR sustaInable bArley production

   School of Life Sciences

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  Dr A Karley, Dr Alexandra Morel, Dr C Hawes, Dr Ronald Daalmans  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Principal Industrial Supervisor – Dr. Ronald Daalmans, Chivas Brothers Ltd

Principal Academic Supervisors – Dr. Alison Karley, James Hutton Institute (JHI), Dr Alexandra Morel, University of Dundee

Additional Supervisors – Dr. Cathy Hawes, James Hutton Institute

This project will be based at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie and the appointed student will registered at the University of Dundee as the degree awarding institution.

A four-year funded PhD studentship starting in October 2022 is offered jointly between the James Hutton Institute and Chivas Brothers to improve the sustainability of barley production. Agriculture contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity losses and unsustainable natural resource use, and Scotland has committed to ambitious targets for reversing these trends in a green recovery phase. There is an urgent need for evidence of the agronomic practices, particularly including intercropping, that collectively deliver optimised environmental performance while maintaining grain processing quality.

The studentship will first review agronomic practices, including intercropping, variety choice, soil cultivation, nutrient management, uncropped areas and precision technologies, to identify combinations most likely to give robust improvements in environmental performance and reduced carbon footprint of barley production (fewer inputs; better nutrient retention; enhanced soil carbon and biodiversity). Promising interventions will be tested for their effects on barley yield, malting quality and environmental performance in multi-variety low-input trials at sites with contrasting pedoclimatic conditions, allowing quantitative comparison of the outcomes of each practice. Alongside this, Scottish barley growers will be consulted to identify the barriers to, and opportunities for, wider uptake of alternative practices. The practices showing the best outcomes for barley production, malting quality and environmental performance will be ‘stacked’ in larger-scale on-farm trials testing their ability to minimise trade-offs and optimise sustainability targets, set against long-term trends at Hutton’s Centre for Sustainable Cropping. Best-practice guidelines with supporting evidence will be co-developed with farmers and agronomists for knowledge transfer.

The project provides excellent opportunities for training in multi-disciplinary skills and techniques spanning agroecology, crop physiology, social research, experiment design, statistical analysis, and knowledge translation that will be highly attractive to future employers. The project will suit candidates with an agriculture/agroecology background interested in working with stakeholders to solve sustainability challenges facing the barley industry. Placements at Chivas Brothers will provide invaluable insights into the practicalities of processing grain for malt and spirits, and an important link to barley growers supplying the whisky industry.

The studentship is offered jointly between the James Hutton Institute and Chivas Brothers, funded by the BARIToNE Collaborative Training Partnership. Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a high-class Honours degree (equivalent to 2:1 or above) and/or an excellent postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject. Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with Alison Karley ([Email Address Removed]) or Cathy Hawes ([Email Address Removed]), providing a CV and explaining why this project is of interest to you.

How to Apply

Please visit the main BARIToNE programme page for more details

Funding Notes

Studentship will cover a full UKRI stipend (currently £15,609/annum) tuition fees, training and travel budget. Part-time study is an option (please indicate on your application) and we offer enhanced support to individuals with primary care responsibilities or disabilities.
Applications are welcome from all nationalities, however the proportion of international students appointed through the BARIToNE CTP is capped at 30% (see the Training Grant T&C's for more information). Applicants are expected to hold (about to achieve) at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or demonstrable equivalent experience) in a relevant subject (e.g. Biology, Genetics, Plant Sciences, Ecology, Soil Science, Computer Sciences etc.).


1. Hawes, C., Iannetta, P.P.M., Squire, G.R. (2021) Agroecological practices for whole-system sustainability. CAB Reviews 16, 5.
2. Weih M, Karley AJ, Newton AC, Kiær LP, Scherber C, Rubiales D, Adam E, Ajal J, Brandmeier J, Pappagallo S, Villegas-Fernández A, Reckling M, Tavoletti S. 2021. Grain Yield Stability of Cereal-Legume Intercrops Is Greater Than Sole Crops in More Productive Conditions. Agriculture 11, 255.
3. Brandmeier J, Reininghaus H, Pappagallo S, Karley AJ, Kiær LP, Scherber C. 2021. Intercropping in high input agriculture supports arthropod diversity without risking significant yield losses. Basic and Applied Ecology 53, 26-38,
4. Brooker R, George T, Homulle Z, Karley A, Newton A, Pakeman R, Schöb, C. 2021. Facilitation and Biodiversity Ecosystem Function (BEF) relationships in crop production systems and their role in sustainable farming. Journal of Ecology 109 (5), 2054-2067
5. Hawes C, Young MW, Banks G, Begg G, Christie A, Iannetta PPM, Karley AJ, Squire GR. 2019. Whole-Systems analysis of environmental and economic sustainability in arable cropping systems: a case study. Agronomy 9, 438. doi:10.3390/agronomy9080438
6. Hawes, C, Alexander, C., Begg, G., Iannetta, P.P.M., Karley, A.J., Squire, G.R., Young, M. (2018). Plant responses to an integrated cropping system designed to maintain yield whilst enhancing soil properties and biodiversity. Agronomy 8, 229. doi:10.3390/agronomy8100229
7. Hawes C, Begg GS, Iannetta PPM, Karley AJ, Squire GR. 2016. A whole-systems approach for assessing measures to improve arable ecosystem sustainability. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability 2(12): e01252. doi: 10.1002/ehs2.1252
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