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  Rebuilding soil quality and crop performance in arable farming by herbal leys

   School of Biosciences

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  Prof J Leake  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Soil degradation is a major global threat to agricultural sustainability. Intensively cultivated arable soils that have been used to grow annual crops for decades often suffer from low organic matter content and weak structure and depleted populations of soil organisms. This leads to the soil being susceptible to slumping, compaction and impeded drainage- often causing surface flooding after prolonged or intensive rainfall events- and results in poor crop growth. Prior to the use of chemical fertilizers soil fertility was regenerated using rotational grasslands containing legumes such as clovers. These provide an evergreen cover of soil and supports a larger carbon input via roots than annual grain and seed crops which have been bred to maximize yield, but also improve soil structure.

We have ongoing trials across a number of UK farms comparing species-rich herbal leys with traditional grass-clover leys for their effects on soil properties and soil biology- such as earthworm populations, and there are a number of important questions to be addressed such as how deep the different leys root, their effects on soil structure and biology, effects on mycorrhiza and how the leys influence the performance of subsequent crops after soil quality improvement.

Science Graduate School

As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you will get access to training opportunities of the Science Graduate School designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You will be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more.

Agriculture (1) Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13)

Funding Notes

Applicants will need to obtain funding to cover tuition fees and living expenses. The applicant should have, or expect to gain at least an upper second class degree, or equivalent overseas qualification, in a relevant subject.

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