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“Characterisation of novel growth media for horticultural applications using non-invasive technologies”

   School of Agriculture & Food Science

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  Dr S Tracy, Prof Olaf Schmidt  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Peat is seen as an essential component in the production of plants and mushrooms in professional horticulture, due to its favourable physical, chemical and biological characteristics. However there is a pressing need to evaluate and develop alternatives which have a favourable environmental profile while also maintaining crop yield and quality. ‘Beyond Peat’ will assess current, available alternative growth and casing materials across five key sub-sectors of horticulture while also developing advanced growth media utilising new technologies to transform organic wastes into materials with favourable physical characteristics for plant and mushroom performance. Beyond Peat is a collaborative project funded by the Department of the Agriculture Food and the Marine under their competitive research fund, between Teagasc, University College Dublin (UCD) and 4 other partners to assess and develop alternative materials to reduce and replace peat usage in the production of plants and mushrooms. The aim of the project is to help the horticultural sector transition away from peat, with a view of identifying and testing sustainable and suitable alternative materials for plant production. This specific PhD project will characterise the most promising alternative materials’ physical properties and structure using X-ray CT scanning and conduct growth trials to evaluate their performance. In particular it will focus on understanding root growth responses to the physical material structure over time, and assess moisture-holding properties.

Team: The student will be based at UCD, with periods spent at Teagasc Research Centre in Ashtown, Dublin, and will be registered to the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science for a 4-year full-time structured PhD programme. This position will be a part of a larger cluster of 3 PhD students working on the project. The student will join an interdisciplinary team of researchers investigating sustainable horticultural production and can become Associate Member of the UCD Earth Institute Science (

Requirements: We are seeking a qualified, enthusiastic and highly motivated student for a 4-year PhD project. Applicants must have a First or upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree in an appropriate discipline (e.g. Agricultural Science, Plant Science, Soil Science, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Engineering), and an additional Master’s degree is highly desirable. The successful candidate should be highly self-motivated and be prepared to acquire the necessary skills for laboratory work, and to work on growth trials in glasshouses. Field and laboratory experimental and analytical skills and experience are highly desirable, although training will be provided. Candidates must hold a full UK/EU driving licence and be fluent in English, at a level that meets UCD minimum requirements. See following link

Award and Doctoral Training: The student will be registered for a structured doctoral degree programme at UCD and the student's research, training and development will be guided by a Research Studies Panel. The student will also complete a number of advanced PhD-level modules (30 ECTS), as well as professional training, which will benefit their future career. The scholarship funding includes a tax-free stipend (€18,000 p.a.) and University registration fees (€6,000 p.a.), and is tenable for 4 years. Applicants must qualify for the EU/UK fee rate, see eligibility checker here


Equality, diversity and inclusion: UCD is committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly regardless of gender, age, race, disability, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, civil status, family status, or membership of the travelling community (

Further Information/Application Procedure

The advisory team includes Dr. Saoirse Tracy and Prof. Olaf Schmidt in UCD, and Dr. Lael Walsh, Dr. Helen Grogan and Dr. Michael Gaffney in Teagasc. For further information contact: Dr. Saoirse Tracy, School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin or Dr. Michael Gaffney, Teagasc ([Email Address Removed]). To apply, submit an electronic copy of 1) your Curriculum Vitae (including names of two referees) and 2) a letter of motivation specific to this project to Dr. Saoirse Tracy: [Email Address Removed].

Closing date: Open until filled.

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