Livestock Integration in Grain and Oilseed Cropping Systems for Soil Health: Ph.D. opportunity in Plant Sciences or Soil Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan:

Project summary: There is considerable interest in improving soil health and using agricultural soils for carbon sequestration. Soil organic matter (SOM) is an integral part of the concept of soil health and has many benefits, including soil moisture retention, improved nutrient cycling and crop productivity. Building SOM can therefore help Prairie crop producers improve yields, particularly in dry years and improve overall resiliency of the cropping system.

However, increasing SOM in dryland agriculture is challenging, and there are concerns that environmental practices recommended in more humid environment may come at the cost of reduced yields in semi-arid growing areas. In addition, a recent meta-analysis has suggested that perennials and/or livestock integration might be necessary to increase SOM in cropping systems (King and Blesh, 2018). However, we would like to question whether perennials and livestock are absolutely necessary:

Do producers really have to put land into pastures with livestock for years in order to build soil health? Could similar benefits be achieved without livestock grazing? Or, on the contrary, are most of the benefits coming from the livestock grazing, so that perhaps similar benefits might be achieved with annual forages included once or twice in a 4-year crop rotation, or even from grazing crop residues in a diversified grain-oilseed-pulse crop rotation? We are searching for an enthusiastic and hands-on PhD graduate student to contribute to this project.

The successful candidate will be supervised by the WGRF Research Chair in Integrated Agronomy, Dr. Maryse Bourgault. A guaranteed stipend of $25,000 – $28,000 for four years will be provided, and students are encouraged to apply for the many scholarships available.


The graduate researcher will lead the implementation of the experiment, data analysis and writing of scientific papers. Among other duties, the graduate researcher will:

  • Plan operations and logistics for the implementation of the field trial, including preparing for planting, weed control, grazing operations, and coordinating with research technician to obtain supplies and labor at the appropriate time
  • Collect soil samples and plant samples according to scientific protocols
  • Write rationale, methods, results and interpretation for scientific (i.e. your thesis) and nonscientific audiences
  • Help with the general maintenance of research equipment, field and laboratory
  • Help supervise undergraduate student helpers
  • Assist the Chair with collaborations and extension activities
  • Support other field research projects as required
  • Attend and complete the required coursework for the PhD program, as discussed with committee members and supervisor.

Requirements: Candidates must have a MSc degree, or complete its requirements before admission, in agronomy, soil science, crop science, agroecology, or other related disciplines. Candidates must show leadership and collaborative skills, a strong work ethics and proficiency in English (see below the statement necessary in the application).

Travel to the field experiment (to Clavet, SK, about 30 mins away from main campus by car) will be necessary, and extended hours and/or overnight may be necessary occasionally for timely completion of field work or extension activities. In addition, lifting up to 60 lbs may be required.

Application process:

Please submit a complete application package by email to  with the subject line: “Application for Crop-Livestock Integration PhD position”. The application package needs to include:

  1. A cover letter explaining your motivation to apply for this position, research experience and
  2. career goals
  3. A CV
  4. Unofficial transcript, showing progress or completion of MSc degree. An official transcript will be
  5. necessary for admission if successful
  6. A statement addressing each and every one of the following selection criteria.

We strongly encourage providing separate paragraphs for each criteria, and including specific examples of experiences, actions or behaviors to demonstrate skills and abilities.

  • Education in relevant discipline
  • Technical skills in plant and soil sciences, including statistical analyses
  • Demonstrated ability to use Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, etc)
  • Demonstrated ability to follow written and verbal instructions
  • Demonstrated communication skills for farmer and/or scientific audiences
  • Demonstrated ability to foster relationships with people of diverse backgrounds
  • Ability to drive and possess a valid driver’s license

Please note that these documents are needed to apply for the position and are separate from the application to the U of S graduate admission.

Application packages that do not include all materials will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed. Preference will be given to a candidate that is able to start in September 2023. The committee will continue reviewing applications until a suitable candidate is found.

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