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How does rising atmospheric CO2 change the productivity of crops and trees?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Professor Colin Osborne, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

New research in the lab investigates how plant growth is controlled by the supply of carbon from photosynthesis (source strength) verses the demand for carbon in growing tissues (sink strength). This control is important for crop and tree responses to the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2.

We have developed a theoretical approach to bring together differing perspectives on plant source-sink interactions, which combines past work on source activity, allocation and sink development. This has important implications for future crop production and forest carbon sequestration.

Rising CO2 stimulates photosynthesis, with the potential to fertilise crop production. Our research has investigated how the grain yield of wild cereals was fertilised by CO2 15,000 years ago. We have also looked at how the CO2-fertilisation of growth in modern crops is limited by sink development. I welcome applications from prospective PhD students who want to build on this work by looking at how crop domestication and breeding have changed source-sink interactions and the CO2-fertilization response.

CO2-fertilisation is also potentially important for trees. However, carbon storage in forests only increases over long timescales if trees are able to use the extra carbon in wood growth. Since the world’s forests currently absorb about a quarter of human CO2 emissions, the control of growth by sources and sinks has major implications for climate change. I also welcome applications from prospective PhD students who would like to study the processes that control carbon sequestration by trees.

We are a welcoming, international lab group. Students will gain experience in a broad range of skills in plant and crop sciences, with access to state-of-the-art controlled environment growth facilities, equipment for non-invasive measurements of photosynthesis and growth (gas exchange analysis, spectroscopy, growth phenotyping), and metabolite analyses (chromatography, mass spectrometry). The work could include lab and field studies.

You can find further information about our lab’s work and publications at http://osbornelab.group.shef.ac.uk.

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/sgs to learn more.

Funding Notes

The applicant will need to find funding to cover tuition fees and living expenses

The applicant should have, or expect to gain at least an upper second class degree, or equivalent overseas qualification, in a relevant subject

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