PhD in Plant Soil Interactions

University of Sheffield

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

Project Description

Modern agriculture relies on high inputs of reactive nitrogen fertiliser produced by the Haber-Bosch process. This has implications for the sustainability of agriculture through both the emission of greenhouse gases from the energy intensive nature of this process and downstream loss of the applied nitrogen as the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide through denitrification and nitrification. This in-field loss represents a significant proportion of total greenhouse gas emissions and is recalcitrant with an estimated 10% reduction possible through currently available changes in agricultural practice.

Mycorrhizal status has been demonstrated to affect emissions of nitrous oxide with higher colonisation resulting in reduced emission. However, it has also been established that mycorrhizal colonisation is impeded in modern agriculture. There is a need therefore to understand both how colonisation can be improved and the mechanisms that drive reduced emissions from mycorrhizal systems.

In this project we aim to explore these mechanisms through a combination of plant based experiments linked to stable isotope and molecular ecological techniques. The combination of techniques likely to be applied will place the applicant in an excellent position for a career in the increasing field of soil ecology where applied to the generation of more sustainable agricultural systems as well as answering fundamental questions required to help drive this critical area forward. Informal enquiries to [email protected].

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll 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.

Funding Information

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. Applications from students with an interest in plant or soil science and/or agricultural sustainability are especially welcome.

To apply for this PhD, please use the following application link: