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Integrated crop-ruminant livestock systems as a strategy to increase nutrient circularity and promote sustainability in the context of climate change

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof S Huws, Dr T Yan, Prof C Creevey  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Using multi-species swards to reduce methane emissions in ruminants

The global agri-food sector will have to face the challenge of satisfying the food demand of 3 billion more people by 2050 in a sustainable, healthy, and equitable way. In the UK, the population is projected to exceed 74 million by 2050, from about 67.8 million today. Such increased food demand is often associated with increased required land, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) inputs along with unintended emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) and losses of N and P to the environment. In this context, current agricultural and livestock production must adapt to achieve sustainable intensification as a means to reach global food security. Management decisions of agricultural systems will determine the potential to achieve the global food demand, mitigate environmental pollution, and increase resiliency as climate change occurs. One key process of agricultural intensification is the integration of crops and ruminant livestock systems (ICRLS), which seems a solution for human-edible food production while preserving the environment and increasing nutrient circularity. Although specialisation of crop and livestock systems could provide socio-economic benefits, they may lead to greater externalisation of environmental costs. Conversely, ICRLS consider a range of resource-saving practices that aim to achieve acceptable profits and high and sustained production levels, while minimising the negative effects of intensive farming and preserving the environment.

This studentship is linked to a FACCE JPI project (ACRONYM: INTEGRITY) and will address the gaps in knowledge regarding impacts of the integration to fully understand the mechanisms that reduce GHG emissions and/or increase soil C sequestration and nutrient (i.e. C, N) use efficiency in mixed crop-ruminant production systems. In essence the studentship will evaluate the effects of feeding multi-species swards on ruminant growth parameters and methane emissions whilst evaluating nutrient capture within soil. The effects of multi-species swards on the rumen microbiome will also be evaluated as a mechanism to understand effects on production and/or methane outputs from the ruminant. These interventions will be specifically designed for each situation and will be evaluated experimentally to quantify their impact, not only through direct and specific effects but also in a broad sense addressing the circularity within the agricultural systems by different modelling tools. Nine countries from three continents (America, Europe, and Oceania) are involved in the INTEGRITY project, allowing the student an extensive network for discussion and networking. The studentship will provide skills in Animal Science, Soil Science, Microbiology and Computational Biology, sought after skills for a career in Science.

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Duration: 3 years

How to apply: Applications must be submitted via:

Skills/experience required: A minimum of a 2.1 BSc in Agriculture, Animal Science, Microbiology or an aligned discipline. An MSc in an aligned discipline would also be an advantage.

Funding Notes

Applicants must qualify for "Home" fees at Queen's University Belfast:
- UK national and ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to September 2022;
- Non-UK national ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to September 2022, with settled status or indefinite leave to remain in the UK;
- Irish national resident in the Republic of Ireland (provisional - subject to publication of Northern Ireland Assembly student fees regulations).
For further information, please see:

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