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Building Climate-Smart Soils

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 09, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Biochar (produced by pyrolysis of biomass) is used as a soil amendment to increase soil carbon (C) stocks and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and therefore, has a central role in climate-smart soil management. The carbon sequestration potential of biochar in the UK is estimated to be 3.6 Mt CO2 a year using only wastes and residues. Please see a recent BBC report highlighting the importance of biochar here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45967215
Biochar is also known to improve soil functions and crop yield, based on scientific studies abroad including tropical and degraded soils. The main aim of the project is to understand the extent to which these benefits can be achieved in the UK climate and soil conditions. With declining soil health known to be a key risk from climate change, combined with the need to reduce GHG emissions by 2050, such studies will form the basis for framing future farming policies and land management recommendations throughout the UK. The objectives are:
•Monitor C and macronutrient (N and P) transformations, including GHG emissions (CO2 and N2O) in biochar-amended soils. This will involve wet laboratory analyses and novel imaging techniques at Diamond Light Source.
•Quantify water retention and soil structural changes due to biochar amendments in parallel with changes in soil macrobiota (earthworms) and total microbial biomass
•Assess the impacts of biochar amendments on plant growth and crop yield
Person description: This interdisciplinary multi-institutional project involves supervisors from the University of Sheffield and York. The successful candidate will carry out both field and laboratory experiments using different biochar types. The project will ideally require a motivated candidate with soil/environmental science or another related background. The candidate must be a committed, efficient, an independent learner with good organisational and academic communication (oral and written) skills.

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentships cover: (i) a stipend at the UKRI rate (at least £14,777 per annum for 2019-2020), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees. Studentship(s) are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements.
This PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE” (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment View Website. ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York, CEH, and NHM.
Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of Sheffield the w/c 11th February 2019.

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