QUADRAT DTP: Assessment of the environmental impacts of producing oat milk instead of cow’s milk in the UK

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof Pete Smith, Prof N Scollan  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This fully funded, 42-month PhD project is part of the QUADRAT Doctoral Training Partnership.

Over the last 5 years, there has been a rapid increase in the amount of oat milk purchased in the UK, now making up 50% of milk alternatives and worth £146.8 million. For many people, oat milk is used to replace cow’s milk and is often preferred for its environmental benefits due to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with dairy production. The ultimate outcome of this change in consumer choice will be to reduce the number of dairy cows, and so also the production of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. Much of the oat milk drunk in the UK is currently imported, so the UK is exporting its potential greenhouse gas emission reductions, and also any associated environmental trade-offs. To better understand the wider implications of converting to oat milk, increased production of oats within the UK should be considered. The aim of the current project is to examine the impact of producing oat milk instead of cow’s milk within the UK, estimating the potential for oat milk production in different areas and assessing the impact that conversion from cow’s milk might have on land use, fertilizer use, the carbon stocks of soils, water use and greenhouse gas emissions relative to the nutrition provided.

The project will:

  1. Examine trends in oat milk consumption in the UK, quantifying the oats needed and estimating the projected requirements for oats over the next 10 years. This will account for feedbacks in the system due to reductions in the use of oats as animal feeds.
  2. Compile a spatially explicit database of the potential yields of oats across the UK. This will draw on soils and climate databases as well as existing trials on oats and, farming records and bioclimatic envelope modelling for current and future climate.
  3. Develop possible land use scenarios for producing the oats required to meet the existing and projected demand. Different scenarios will be developed, specifying different environmental, farming and land use aspirations through sets of rules; for example whether areas currently under grassland can be used to grow oats.
  4. Estimate changes in fertiliser use, water use, soil carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the different scenarios using a combination of dynamic simulation models and recommended management practices.
  5. Assess changes in the nutritional benefits associated with a hectare of land of producing dairy or oat milk in different regions across the UK.


Candidate Background:

Candidates should have, or expect to achieve, a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Masters level.

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team.

Informal enquiries are encouraged, please contact Professor Peter Smith ([Email Address Removed]) for further information.



  • Please visit this page for full application information: How To Apply – QUADRAT
  • Please send your completed application form, along with academic transcripts to [Email Address Removed]
  • Please ensure that two written references from your referees are submitted. It is your responsibility to ensure these are provided, as we will not request references on your behalf.
  • Unfortunately, due to workload constraints, we cannot consider incomplete applications.
  • CV's submitted directly through a FindAPhD enquiry WILL NOT be considered.
  • If you require any additional assistance in submitting your application or have any queries about the application process, please don't hesitate to contact us at [Email Address Removed].uk
Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13) Food Sciences (15) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

This opportunity is open to UK and International students (The proportion of international students appointed through the QUADRAT DTP is capped at 30% by UKRI NERC).
Funding covers:
• A monthly stipend for accommodation and living costs, based on UKRI rates (£18,622 for the 23/24 academic year. Stipend rates for the 24/25 academic year have not been set yet)
• Tuition Fees
• Research and training costs
QUADRAT DTP does not provide funding to cover visa and associated healthcare surcharges for international students.

Where will I study?

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