PhD - Feed the Crop not the Soil: A New Strategy for Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Phosphorus use in Agriculture

Bangor University - School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship in the biochemistry and physiology of phosphorus uptake by plants within the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography at Bangor University, UK. The studentship is funded by the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS II) ( in collaboration with Headland Agrochemicals Ltd. It will cover tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend at the standard RCUK rate (around £14,000 per year), as well as a travel budget for workshops and conference attendance. The studentship is available immediately.

Applicants should hold a first or upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related discipline area (plant physiology, crop agronomy, soil science, formulation technology). Please note that to be eligible, applicants need to be resident in the convergence area of Wales (West Wales and the Valleys) on registration, and must have the right to work in the region on qualification. Please submit a CV (max 2 pages) together with a covering letter to Prof Paul Withers at by 17:00 on 31 October 2016.

Project outline:

The inefficient use of phosphorus in the food chain is a threat to future food, bioenergy and water security. One option to improve phosphorus utilization by agricultural crops is the application of foliar phosphate to augment soil P supply and optimize crop yield as a more efficient alternative to applying much larger amounts of granular fertilisers to the soil. Although historically regarded as a poor substitute for granular fertilizers, foliar products are increasingly recognised as a means to fine-tune more sustainable nutrient management on the farm and improve the yield and nutritional quality of a range of crops.

This project will investigate how foliar P products can be better utilized by crops to improve P use efficiency and reduce the environmental damage associated with the production and application of granular inorganic P fertilizers. There are two main research themes: 1) to understand the absorption and translocation of foliar phosphorus in the plant, and 2) use this knowledge to quantify and improve the effectiveness of foliar phosphorus products. It is anticipated that the research will lead to the development of novel formulations for commercial exploitation.

The project will be undertaken in collaboration with Headland Agrochemicals Ltd who market a range of foliar products, and the Biocomposites Centre at Bangor University, who have key facilities to explore product development.

Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS) is a pan-Wales higher level skills initiative led by Bangor University on behalf of the HE sector in Wales. It is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.

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