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Managing plant diversity and soil-root-biota interactions for improved nutrient efficiency

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  • Full or part time
    Prof Olaf Schmidt
    Dr S Tracy
    Dr D Wall
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This exciting, fully funded PhD research project will investigate how to integrate plant diversity, biostimulants and interactions between soil, roots and soil biota into crop and grassland management in order to improve nutrient efficiency. State-of-the-art molecular techniques and X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning technology for non-destructive 3D imaging of the rhizosphere will be combined to increase our understanding of the effects of 1) plant diversty and management, and 2) application of biostimulants (microbial and non-microbial) on root architecture, soil-plant-microbiome interactions and associated nutrient cycling. The project will also quantify the long-questioned effects of slurry applications and slurry additives on soil biota (especially earthworms) and nutrient cycling.

The student will work with experienced researchers at the School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin (UCD), and the Environment, Soil and Land-use Department at Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, Wexford. The multi-disciplinary supervisory team has extensive experience and publications within the fields of soil biology, soil-plant interactions, root biology and nutrient cycling. The student will also interact with other students, researchers, technicians and advisors within the FaSTEN Project (Farm Sustainability Tools for Efficient Nutrient Management), a joint project between Teagasc, UCD and Waterford Institute of Technology. Project results will feed into soil management advice for farmers and policy makers for increasing nutrient use efficiency and reducing environmental nutrient losses from agricultural systems.

Applicants must have a primary degree (2.1 or better) in an appropriate discipline (e.g. agricultural science, environmental science, microbiology, ecology, biology). A Master’s degree and/or additional research experience (especially in soil science or microbiology) would be a distinctive advantage. The successful candidate will be self-motivated, curious, keen to learn, confident in critical thinking and prepared for extended periods of field work and laboratory work with modern analytical equipment. Candidates whose first degree was not taught through English must meet UCD’s Minimum English Language Requirements ( A driving licence is desirable.

This fully funded PhD studentship is a joint research project between UCD and Teagasc, Johnstown Castle. The student will work under the supervision of Prof. Olaf Schmidt and Dr. Saoirse Tracy at UCD, and Dr. Fiona Brennan at Teagasc. Periods of field and laboratory work as well as training will be undertaken at both UCD (Long Term Grazing Platform at Lyons Farm) and Teagasc. The student will be registered for a structured doctoral degree programme at UCD and the student’s research, training and development will be guided by a Research Studies Panel. The student will also complete a number of advanced PhD-level modules, courses and workshops tailored towards his/her/their training needs in soil biology, molecular techniques, statistical analysis, scientific writing etc, as well as transferable skills and professional training which will benefit his/her/their future career. This PhD position is expected to start on 1st May 2020.

Contact: Prof. Olaf Schmidt, School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland. Phone +353 (0)1 7167076. [Email Address Removed]

Submit an electronic copy of 1) your Curriculum Vitae (including names of two referees) and 2) a letter of motivation specific to this project to: Prof. [Email Address Removed].

Closing date: Friday 6th March 2020 (17.00 hours GMT)

Funding Notes

The studentship funding is €24,000 per year, for 4 years, which covers a tax-free stipend paid monthly and the university registration fees (€6,000 per year for EU citizens, including UK citizens).

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