QUADRAT DTP: Making rice more sustainable through alternate wetting and drying

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr D R Nayak, Dr P Williams  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.

Rice contributes about 10.1% of agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emission globally. Methane (CH4) from flooded rice is the major GHG, while nitrous oxide (N2O) provides the second highest contribution to GHGs from rice based cropping systems. When a rice field is flooded, anaerobic conditions favour CH4 emissions, meaning that 8% of global anthropogenic CH4 emissions come from flooded rice fields1. However, rice also presents a great opportunity to reduce GHG emissions by management of the conditions of flooding. Alternate wetting and drying (AWD), if implemented correctly, can reduce CH4 emissions by up to 97% without any penalties in yield with a saving in water of almost 40%; N2O emissions may be increased, but these can be minimised with careful fertilizer management. Even though AWD has been identified to have great potential to reduce GHG emissions, it has not been widely used as rice is traditionally grown mainly under flooded conditions. In addition, if not implemented correctly AWD can reduce yield. However, with good management, there are great potential benefits to farmers in reducing the need for water, so reducing costs of electricity for pumping water and reducing depletion of the ground water, which is a widespread problem in the Northern states of India2.

Tilda rice works with suppliers from all over the world, but their major suppliers are in Northern India and Pakistan. Tilda aims to grow their rice as sustainably as possible. Therefore, they have been trying to encourage their farmers to implement AWD to measure the impact of AWD on grain quality and water saving. They are keen to understand the impact of AWD on GHG emissions, how to manage AWD to reduce overall GHG emissions and provide better livelihood to their suppliers. In addition, AWD can reduce accumulation in arsenic in rice by 41-68% compared to rice grown with continuous flooding (CF)3.

The objectives of the proposed work are therefore to:

  1. Measure GHG emissions and other associated parameters from CF and AWD rice fields in the Tilda supplier chain in Northern India.
  2. Estimate water saving, financial benefits and grain arsenic and cadmium content in both CF and AWD fields.
  3. Use process-based models to simulate and project emissions associated with AWD so that Tilda can estimate the global benefits of AWD to farmers and the environment.

Candidate Background:

Essential: Degree in a natural science subject

Desirable: Ability in numerical analysis; experience in field research

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 Dr Dali Nayak ([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]
Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4) 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.


1. United Nations Environment Programme and Climate and Clean Air Coalition (2021). Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.
2. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/food/fears-for-farming-groundwater-plummets-northern-india/
3. Li, C., Carrijo, D.R., Nakayama, Y., Linquist, B.A., Green, P.G., Parikh, S.J., 2019. Impact of Alternate Wetting and Drying Irrigation on Arsenic Uptake and Speciation in Flooded Rice Systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 272, 188–198. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2018.11.009

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