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Influence of Plant Genetic Diversity on Biological Nitrification Inhibition

  • Full or part time
    Dr C Gubry-Rangin
    Prof J Prosser
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Nitrification is a crucial step of the nitrogen cycle as it oxidises ammonia into nitrate. This has important economic and environmental consequences, with important loss of nitrogen fertiliser, nitrate leaching into groundwater soil and nitrous oxide production. Synthetic nitrification inhibitors are available to farmers, but their application incur additional financial costs, which farmers with less resources afford with difficulty. Another approach to solve this nitrogen use efficiency dilemma is to use the natural nitrification inhibition compounds produced by plants, such as the Brachiolactone produced by Brachiaria (Subbarao et al., 2009). Since the discovery of biological nitrification inhibition mechanism, a range of compounds produced by a range of plants were inferred to be nitrification inhibition factors. However, these factors were mainly tested using a bacterial ammonia oxidiser bioluminescence strain, Nitrosomonas europaea, while this strain is not an ideal representative strain for terrestrial ecosystems such as agricultural soils. Indeed, the majority of the ammonia oxidisers in soil affiliate to Nitrosospira bacterial genus and to the archaeal ammonia oxidiser (Aigle et al., 2019). Ammonia oxidation in soil is dominated by Nitrosospira in N-fertilised soils (Hink et al., 2018) and by ammonia oxidising archaea in acidic soils (Gubry-Rangin et al., 2011) and in unfertilised soils (Hink et al., 2018). However, the effects of the BNI factors produced by plants is unknown on these two groups of microbes. This project aims to test the BNI effect from a diversity of plants on a range of archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidiser strains which have been isolated in pure culture. Efficiency of these inhibitors will also be assessed against natural microbial community using soil microcosms. Finally, greenhouse trials with various plant/soil combinations will be used to estimate the nitrification inhibition as well as the specific microbial genetic community inhibited.
This PhD studentship will involve and provide required training in microbial cultivation, greenhouse plant growth, microbial community analysis using high-throughput sequencing and statistical analysis. The student will join a dynamic group with an international reputation on nitrification.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is only open to sponsored students and those who have their own funding. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding.

To submit an application please visit View Website
-State the name of the lead supervisor on your application
-State the name of the project when asked for a studentship title

Please note that we will not proceed with applications that have not stated their funding source.


Aigle A, Prosser JI, Gubry-Rangin C. 2019. The application of high-throughput sequencing technology to analysis of amoA phylogeny and environmental niche specialisation of terrestrial bacterial ammonia-oxidisers. Environmental Microbiome 14 (1), 3

Gubry-Rangin C, Hai B, Quince C, Engel M, Thomson BC, James P, Schloter S, Griffiths RI, Prosser JI, Nicol GW. 2011. Niche specialization of terrestrial archaeal ammonia oxidizers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108 (52), 21206-21211

Hink L, Gubry-Rangin C, Nicol GW, Prosser JI. 2018. The consequences of niche and physiological differentiation of archaeal and bacterial ammonia oxidisers for nitrous oxide emissions. The ISME journal 12 (4), 1084

Subbarao GV, Nakahara K, Hurtado MP, Ono H, Moreta DE, Salcedo AF, Yoshihashi AT, Ishikawa T, Ishitani M, Ohnishi-Kameyama M, Yoshida M, Rondon M, Rao IM, Lascano CE, Berry WL, Ito O. 2009. Evidence for biological nitrification inhibition in Brachiaria pastures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(41):17302-17307.

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