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  EASTBIO CASE - Forage particle physics for sustainable dairy farming

   PHD Opportunities

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  Prof J Newbold, Dr P Hargreaves  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


This 4-year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership in collaboration with Barenbrug. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover tuition fees at the UK rate, plus a stipend to support living costs.

The proportion of international students appointed through the EASTBIO DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI BBSRC. All students must meet the eligibility criteria as outlined in the UKRI guidance at UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions, esp. TGC 5.2 & Annex B. Please contact [Email Address Removed] if you are unsure of your fee status.

The Project

In pursuit of more sustainable, resilient, and regenerative agriculture, dairy farms are making more and more use of species-diverse grasslands, in which grasses are combined with forage legumes such as clovers, and herbs such as plantain and chicory. These mixed swards offer ‘win wins’ for the environment and food production, for example by saving both the cost and carbon footprint of inorganic fertiliser, or by combining improved crop resilience in the face of drought with greater insect biodiversity. Other benefits may include improved milk yield and composition, a lower burden of intestinal parasites, lower greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in soil carbon stocks.  

This project provides a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a leading international plant breeder and seed supplier (Barenbrug) and to participate in the process of knowledge exchange to drive improvements in farming practice. It is expected that project results will be translated into farming practice by Barenbrug in the form of new forage products and technical services.  The recruited student will be working on a topic of high relevance and interest to the dairy sector. During placements with Barenbrug, the student will learn the business processes of a leading agricultural supply industry and company, from R&D through product manufacturing to field technical support and marketing and sales. We anticipate an introductory month with Barenbrug UK in the first year, with at least one later placement spent partly with Barenbrug BV, exploring the international nature of the business (total placement time of at least 3 months).

An overall research objective is to design pastures that provide the optimum basket of these benefits. Utilisation of forages by dairy cows depends on their rates of ingestion, digestion and passage through the digestive tract. It’s well established that these rates depend on plant chemical composition (e.g. fibre, lignin) but the importance of the physical properties of plants (e.g. ease of mechanical particle size reduction of plant leaves and stems) has received less attention.

Using a platform of diverse grassland types (from pure perennial ryegrass to complex multispecies swards) at SRUC’s Barony campus and elsewhere, this project will (1) evaluate a number of existing and novel laboratory methods to quantify the ‘fragmentability’ of forage plant species and parts, (2) measure effects of forage mixes with different physical properties on feed intake, rumination, methane production and milk yield and composition in dairy cows, and (3) challenge existing models of rumen function to predict differences between forage mixes.

The student will be based at the SRUC Barony Campus close to Dumfries, in the dairy heartland of south-west Scotland. They will take part in an extensive training programme which will ensure competence to work at interdisciplinary interfaces. Supported by academic and technical staff, the student will design, implement and analyse laboratory and dairy cow nutrition experiments. The project will therefore deliver training across a broad range of analytical, laboratory, whole animal and data analyses experimental methods. 


Eligibility criteria are available on the EASTBIO how to apply webpage.

How to Apply

Please note that this project has an extended deadline (14 March), so disregard deadlines on the website and application form.

To apply for an EASTBIO PhD studentship, please follow the guidance on the EASTBIO how to apply webpage. EASTBIO can provide you with support for your application and details are available on the webpage.

Informal enquiries about the project and your application should be addressed to the project supervisor, Prof John Newbold - [Email Address Removed]

After you have approached the project supervisor and discussed your application with them, you should:

1) Download and complete the online EASTBIO Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey; the survey will automatically generate a Unique Number that you should copy and paste on the relevant section of your EASTBIO Application Form.

2) Download and fill in the EASTBIO Application Form. You can only apply for one EASTBIO PhD project.

3) Download and send the EASTBIO Reference Form to your two academic/professional referees, and ask them to submit the references directly to [Email Address Removed] by 14 March 2024

4) Submit your complete application, along with academic transcripts and certificates to [Email Address Removed] by 14 March 2024

If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed]

Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4) Food Sciences (15) Veterinary Sciences (35)

Funding Notes

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition and is funded by the BBSRC EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership and is open to students worldwide. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate, plus a stipend to support living costs and an annual research grant. The project's industrial partner is Barenbrug UK Ltd.

How good is research at SRUC - Scotland’s Rural College in Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Sciences?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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