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EASTBIO Knowledge and information in sustainable food production: farmers mental representation of soil health and the environment

   PHD Opportunities

  , , , Dr Toritseju Begho  Thursday, December 16, 2021  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In this PhD, you will investigate how information can influence decisions on sustainable food production in a case study on soil health in South Asia. Your results will help establish effective tools for sustainable soil management to improve livelihoods and the environment. You will gain academic and participatory practitioner skills while learning about soil health, food systems and sustainability.

How available information and advice is processed by individuals, including farmers, and how it influences their decisions depends greatly on the match between existing mental models and the information provided, and also on how and from whom they receive the advice. 

While soil is the primary resource for agriculture, one-fifth of soils have been degraded, with long-lasting consequences on livelihoods and the environment. Farmers’ soil management decisions are constrained by agronomic and economic opportunities and conditions. Within these constraints, however, the decisions result from interactions between values, mental constructs, knowledge, and the information they receive. Farmers adjust their management to soil conditions using tools spanning from visual and manual examination to computer based decision support. Industry, NGOs and governments aim to aid farmers with relevant information (e.g. the national programme of Soil Health Card in India). Deeper insights into how this information affects farmers’ actions can help to improve agricultural advisory services, leading to better livelihood and sustainability outcomes.

This PhD will address how farmers’ knowledge and the information they receive influences the sustainability of their management decisions, in particular regarding soil health and management. The outcomes of the PhD will inform the development of more effective tools and improved ways of information provision for sustainable soil management.

The PhD work will be linked to the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH), a 5-year partnership with over 30 research and 15 stakeholder institutions. You will benefit from the wide collaborative network in the Hub, including early career scientists and 15-20 PhD candidates.

This interdisciplinary research will use social science methods to explore agronomic decision-making. You will identify relevant research methods and design and conduct field data collection from farmers and other stakeholders. You will use a combination of observational methods and economic experiments. The fieldwork will take place in a SANH partner country. However, the plan is adaptable to the Covid-19 situation: in case in-person fieldwork will not be possible in South Asia, alternative arrangements are available, including phone interviews, the use of secondary data, or refocusing the work to the UK.

Application Process:

Please visit this page for full application instructions

1)     Download and complete the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey.

2)     Download and complete the EASTBIO Application Form.

3)     Submit both to SRUC, .

Completed applications must include the following documents:

-         Completed EASTBIO application form

-         2 References (to be completed on the EASTBIO Reference Form, also found on the EASTBIO website)

-         Academic Qualifications

-         Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey

Unfortunately due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications. Please make sure your application is complete by the 16th December 2021. Please ask your referees to submit your references directly to .

We anticipate that our first set of interviews will be held 7th – 11th February 2022 with awards made in the following week.

Funding Notes

This 4 year PhD project is part of a competition funded by EASTBIO BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership.
This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition (limited funding is available to provide international tuition fees). Please refer to UKRI website and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions for full eligibility criteria.

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