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EASTBIO The role of legumes in achieving net zero: reducing nitrogen losses and improving soil health


   PHD Opportunities

  Dr P Hoebe, , , , Dr Francois Dussart  Thursday, December 16, 2021  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Scottish Government has pledged to meet a net-zero target for GHG emissions in Scotland by 2045 and the UK government by 2050. However, current agricultural practices result in high nitrogen (N) losses through nitrate leaching and emissions of the greenhouse gas (GHG) nitrous oxide (N2O). Improved agricultural practices can prevent soil health depletion and excess synthetic N fertiliser application. Implementing legumes into the crop system to capture and utilise biological forms of N provides a nature-based solution contributing to net zero targets. Diverse plant species mixtures that include N-fixing legumes (e.g. red clover, black medic, lucerne) are currently being used in organic agriculture but further development in conventional agriculture is needed, particularly understanding N cycling and soil GHG release in diverse species mixtures vs. monocultures. Evidence-based studies which directly measure N transfer-processes across contrasting agricultural systems (cover crops, grass/legume mixtures, intercropping, herbal leys) are needed to better understand plant-soil interactions and their ability to be manipulated for optimising N use efficiency and reducing GHG emissions whilst maintaining crop productivity. 

An experimental programme will be developed to investigate grass-legume species diversity, composition and intercropping effects on N fixation, N pools, N uptake and ecological responses, such as soil health status and plant productivity. Implications for residue quality and incorporation will also be studied in terms of net-gains and losses for the following crop and wider legacy effects. The project will develop grass/legume management guidance for optimal N use efficiency utilizing existing experimental field sites linked with current mob grazing, carbon sequestration potential, GHG monitoring and future RESAS research activities. The student will be trained in a range of analytical techniques (e.g. continuous flow analysis, gas chromatography, isotope ratio mass spectrometry, genetic techniques/analyses) to explore N pools, GHG emissions and soil microbial community diversity. These would provide detailed information about plant-soil N interactions which is vital for development of relationships that will be incorporated into dynamic deterministic models to improve the predictions of N cycling.

Collectively supervisors on this project have extensive PhD supervision experience (at lead and co-supervisor levels on a range of interdisciplinary topics). The lead supervisor is responsible for identifying training needs through active communication with the student and awareness of the student’s background and relevant experience. To ensure excellent training of the selected PhD student, the student’s progress and training needs are monitored throughout the PhD programme.

Application Process:

Please visit this page for full application instructions http://www.eastscotbiodtp.ac.uk/how-apply-0

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 from 18 February.


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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