PhD Studentship: Role of biochar in building climate smart-soils through improved soil functions

United Kingdom
Oct 23, 2017
Jan 09, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time

Biochar (produced by pyrolysis of plant biomass) is used as a soil amendment to increase soil carbon (C) stocks and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and therefore, has a central role in climate-smart soil management. The carbon sequestration potential of biochar in the UK is estimated to be 3.6 Mt CO2 a year using only wastes and residues. Biochar is also known to improve soil functions and crop yield, based on the scientific studies abroad including tropical and degraded soils. The main aim of the project to understand the extent to which these benefits can be achieved in the UK climate and soil conditions. With declining soil health known to be a key risk from climate change, combined with the need to reduce GHG emissions by 2050, such studies will form the basis for framing future farming policies and land management recommendations throughout the UK. The objectives are:

  • Monitor carbon & nitrogen forms and transformations, including GHG emissions (CO2 and N2O) in biochar amended soils
  • Quantify water retention and soil structural changes due to biochar amendments in parallel with changes in soil macrobiota (earthworms) and total microbial biomass
  • Assess the impacts of biochar amendments on plant growth and crop yield


Person description 

This interdisciplinary multi-institutional project involves supervisors from University of Sheffield, York and Royal Horticultural Society. The successful candidate will carry out both field and laboratory experiments involving different crop types, biochar types in different growing seasons. The project will ideally require a candidate who has either field or laboratory experience in soil work (e.g. a dissertation project). A background in environmental science or related subject is necessary. The candidate must be a committed, efficient, independent learner with a proven organisational and academic communication (oral and written) skills.


Funding Notes

Fully funded for a minimum of 3.5 years, studentships cover: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (at least £14,553 per annum for 2018-2019), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. Studentship(s) are available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. Students from EU countries who do not meet residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award.



This PhD project is part of the NERC funded Doctoral Training Partnership “ACCE” (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment ACCE is a partnership between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, York and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Selection process: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date, and successful applicants will be notified promptly. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview to take place at the University of Sheffield the w/c 12th February 2018.

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