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Capturing the agronomic, economic and carbon benefits of new clover varieties into a Carbon Profit Index

   School of Biological Sciences

  ,  Friday, July 29, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project aims:                   

To create a Carbon-Profit Index (CPI) comprising a new agronomic assessment protocol that reduces the carbon footprint (CF) of managed grass/clover swards while protecting the economic value (EV) and sustainability of grassland farming. 


Agriculture releases 35% of Ireland’s greenhouse gases (GHG), 95% of which is from livestock with a high methane component. The Paris Agreement 2000 on climate action sets Ireland’s target emissions reduction at 51% (2018 – 2030) and net-zero by 2050 (t0, 1990). However, DAFM’s Food Wise 2025 policy sets increased value targets of +85% exports, +70% agri-food sector and +65% primary production with 23,000 additional jobs. Hence this PhD’s challenge is to develop strategies and techniques that reduce excess enteric methane losses while enhancing the economic viability of the grassland-based ruminant sectors. White, red and sainfoin clovers have attributes supporting reduced nitrogen use, improved digestion efficiencies and reduced methane loss that are not being fully exploited by grassland farms.

Research Plan:               

Field-based experimentation will identify morphophysiological traits in clover that impact beneficially on plant-animal interactions to optimise CF/EV potential. This will involve both plant and animal studies to assess the efficiency of sward growth and grazing ingestion and optimise the balance between nitrogen use efficiency and enteric methane loss per unit of livestock product. Through proof-of-concept studies a CPI will be developed to quantify and rank the CF/EV potential of clover varieties, similar to the Teagasc Pasture Profit Index (PPI) for ryegrasses.  By quantifying the diversity among clover varieties, the CPI is expected to deliver changes in reseeding and sward management practices for individual farms, inform breeders of traits to improve for CF/EV gains and support Ireland in meeting its GHG targets.

Student Development: 

The successful student will join the research team at Teagasc Moorepark and receive training in a wide range of transferable skills.  These include field and laboratory research techniques, statistical analyses, scientific writing and presentation skills. The project also offers the opportunity for presenting the research to international conferences as well as local farmers, breeders and industry representatives. The student will gain highly sought-after expertise and knowledge in GHG mitigation towards a carbon-neutral agriculture.


A BSc 2.1 equivalent or better in Biological Sciences or a related subject. Knowledge and undergraduate or farm experience in grassland agronomy will be an advantage. The student will register for a PhD at Queen's University Belfast School of Biological Sciences and be based at Teagasc Moorepark, with training at Queen's.

Supervisors: Dr Caroline Meharg and Professor Andy Meharg (Queen's University School of Biological Sciences/Institute for Global Food Security), Professor Trevor Gilliland, and Drs Michael O'Donovan and Tomas Tubritt (Teagasc, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, County Cork).

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 4 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php

For informal discussion on the study or your suitability contact: Dr O’Donovan () or Professor Gilliland ().

Funding Notes

The successful applicant will be awarded a four-year, fully funded Teagasc Walsh studentship which includes a monthly stipend.
Applicants must qualify for "Home" fees at Queen's University Belfast:
- UK national and ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to September 2022;
- Non-UK national ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to September 2022, with settled status or indefinite leave to remain in the UK;
- Irish national resident in the Republic of Ireland (provisional - subject to publication of Northern Ireland Assembly student fees regulations).
For further information, please see: View Website

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