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Identifying strategies for carbon-efficient commercial farming in the UK - Priestley Doctoral Scholarships

Project Description

The University of Leeds is building a stakeholder coalition to create a series of farmlets, areas of land at the University farm of 1-2Ha, each of which will be managed according to a different farming system, but with common methodologies of sensing and reporting. Each farmlet will be able to display each part of a 4 year rotation every year. Replication will be provided by links to offsite farms managed according to these systems. The systems will vary in ways which will impact their carbon footprint and resilience to extreme weather. The systems will embrace business as usual, smart agri-tech, building soil carbon through rotations, and permaculture, that is likely to include agro-forestry. Each of the farmlets will be monitored in environment, agronomic and financial terms in great detail.
The student will develop models based on data from these and other farming system studies to evaluate their degree of carbon efficiency and resilience, in the context of other aspects of sustainability (not least yield) which in turn will be fed back to stakeholders. The student will be expected to build a carbon budget for each farming system, that includes carbon sequestration into the soil, greenhouse gas fluxes, energy use associated with the different systems, and estimated energy costs of the associated supply chain. The student will also develop and apply process-based models of crop production for each system under different scenarios of changing weather and climate, using high-resolution short- and long-term climate projections. These tasks will require more data than will be available from this particular study and so will exploit comparative data from other farming system studies in Europe.
The student will be required to share findings with stakeholders, some of whom will be involved on the studentship management team. This sharing may entail additional analysis of the costs and benefits of different farming systems using, e.g. carbon prices and / or additional payments to enable commercial carbon-efficient arable farming in the UK.
This research will enable a unique comparison of different farming systems using the same metrics, and so will enable for the first time a full analysis of the performance and resilience of different farming systems with respect to changing weather patterns, and the need to control net carbon emissions. The fact that the experimental platform is co-designed and managed with key stakeholders in the agricultural industry gives a guaranteed path to rapid impact. The work brings together the sustainable agriculture work in the School of Biology, which is largely UK and Europe based, with the climate smart agriculture modelling based in the School of Earth and Environment.
The successful candidate will be able to develop models of carbon dynamics from field data, and to be able to interpret their major results to the stakeholder community.

Funding Notes

3 year studentship, subject to satisfactory progress, to include tuition fees (£4,400 for 2018/19), tax-free stipend (£14,777 for 2018/19), and research training and support grant of £750 for 3 years.
Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 hons at Undergraduate level or above, in a relevant subject. If English is not your first language, please see our language requirements View Website
Please apply online View Website

Please include supervisor name and project title. A research proposal is not required. Please upload a CV and transcripts.


The Priestley International Centre for Climate brings together researchers cross-campus to deliver excellent research to underpin robust and timely climate solutions. Leeds has outstanding reputation for climate related research with more than 170 experts and 110 PhD researchers and an active research grant portfolio of over £70m. The Priestley Centre supports a range of events, activities and opportunities to foster exciting interdisciplinary collaborations including our Climate Exchange seminar series and public engagement events [http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/events/], Piers Sellers Prizes [http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/opportunities/piers-sellers-prize/], Priestley Society [http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/the-priestley-society/], and Priestley Climate Scholars [http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/opportunities/climate-scholars/]. Find out more at http://climate.leeds.ac.uk/.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

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

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