Agricultural accounts for 9% of the UK’s and 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The use of chemical-based pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides and the disruption of soils are substantial contributors these emissions. However, how the application of pesticides affects the soil microbial communities’ health and ecosystem function is unknown. This is a critical knowledge gap as soil microbes are involved in many essential soil functions, including nitrogen fixation and methanotropy. Alterations to the soil microbial communities (bacterial or fungal) because of pesticide applications may have a significant contribution to agricultural greenhouse emissions and needs to be quantified to better inform climate change models.
For this project, we will use the molluscicide, ferric phosphate, as a case study for quantifying the effects of pesticides on soil microbial communities. Ferric phosphate may affect microbial communities by being directly toxic or by EDTA chelating key micronutrients. The chelation of essential soil micronutrients by the EDTA in the ferric phosphate formulation is particularly of interest. EDTA could have deleterious effects on soil health, and processes therein, by affecting the soil microbial communities, which could subsequently affect crop yield and greenhouse gas emissions. Micronutrients are particularly susceptible to becoming biolimiting through their chelation by EDTA reducing their bioavailability and reducing key microbial soil services that depend on metalloenzymes (e.g., nitrogen fixation (Fe, and Mo) and methanotrophy (Cu, Fe, Mo)). The selected student will gain transferable skills, specifically working on a highly interdisciplinary team, soil characterization, calculating greenhouse gas fluxes, cutting-edge next generation sequencing, microbial community analysis and bioinformatics.
Essential: Some experience or knowledge of molecular microbiology. Desirable: Knowledge of inorganic analysis and methods for determining gas fluxes.
This project is part of the ONE Planet DTP. Find out more here: View Website