PhD Subject Area: Soil science and Research Title: Restructuring soil for improved health and resilience.

Research Description: Globally, soils have become degraded at alarming rates in recent decades. Restoring and maintaining the health of our soils is an urgent priority to improve food security and mitigate the consequences of climate change. Soil structure is increasingly being recognized as a key property affecting a soil’s health and improvements in structure have been shown to help reverse the impacts of soil degradation.

This research could support improvements in soil function on over 100 million hectares of land globally. Natural mineral fertilizers differ from traditional fertilizers in composition and behavior. A key unanswered question is does adding natural minerals as a crop nutrient to soil offer soil structure benefits which could offer downstream benefits for soil health and crop production.

In this project, the student will develop a comprehensive understanding of how natural minerals interact with soil to change soil structural properties, especially soil porosity and aggregation. Soil structure is a crucial soil property as it provides the network of pore space through which all soil physical, chemical, and biological processes take place. In the first experiments, the student will set up laboratory experiments in which X-ray Computed Tomography imaging will be used to visualize and measure soil structural development.

The aim is to demonstrate if multi-functional natural minerals consistently improve a soil’s structure across a range of spatial and temporal scales and in contrasting environmental conditions e.g. soil type, crop type. The second stage of experiments would aim to confirm laboratory results at the field scale.

The studentship will be based within the group at the University of Nottingham’s world-leading Hounsfield Facility at Sutton Bonington and involve collaboration with scientists at a global mineral supplier where there will be potential placement opportunities.

The student will undertake a range of field and laboratory-based experiments where full training (as a beginner) will be provided opportunities to gain key skills across a wide range of interdisciplinary areas including in soil physics/mechanics, X-ray CT imaging and plant-soil interactions. The student will also benefit from the training courses offered by the University of Nottingham Graduate School.

Keyword Search: soil science, soil health, climate change, Award Start Date: 01/10/2023 Duration of Award: 42 m

Terms and Conditions: This studentship covers the tuition fee for UK or INTERNATIONAL applicants and a tax-free stipend based on current UKRI rates (c. £18k p.a.). Applicant Qualification Requirements: Min 2.1 in relevant science degree

Applicant Qualification Requirements: Min. 2.1 degree in relevant science

How to Apply: Please email your CV and covering letter (including names of 2 referees) to  Closing Date: 10/07/2023 Supervisor: Sacha Mooney

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